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If you've communicated with the New York office in recent weeks, you may have been surprised to hear a new voice on the other end of the conversation. Here's a summary of what has been transpiring and an introduction to our present staff.

Patrice Samara resigned in October as our executive director. With year-end financial and statistical reports due, the host renewal campaign, the 2006 host directory to print, and the precarious limbo created by eventual eviction and building takeover by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the board decided that this was not the time to hire and train a new Executive Director. The Board agreed to engage our board chair, Gilbert Sherr, as the interim director consultant until the office can be settled and/or the move from John Street is completed.

Other new staff members include Michelle Roberts and Amy Greenwood (a New York City traveler who has just returned from a year spent abroad). Carole Wagner (host & traveler, and a veteran of the office for 12.5 years) continues in her capacity as office manager. Helga Smith (longtime host & traveler) has also agreed to come to the office one day per week as a volunteer and also to work on assignments from home.

Our former executive director, Jon Moseley, has also been engaged as a consultant to help train and guide new staff members. Lara Fisher, the director before Jon, remains as a volunteer resource for our staff. So the office is stable and operating well during these times of change but you might hear a new voice on the telephone.

We are seriously considering relocating the office away from New York City to save on office expenses.  The ideal location would be to find a college campus that could supply office space and offer its students as part of a work/study program. Members who know of a college campus that would be interested should contact us immediately at info@usservas.org.

The 2004 annual report is now completed and available upon request for members. Contact the office if you would them to send you a copy.

Annual US SERVAS Conference
This meeting will occur in late Summer or early Fall either in the Northeast or Midwest area of the US. Announcement will come out in next newsletter. If your area is interested in holding the next annual meeting or a regional conference, please let Gilbert know in the office.

Joint Conference With Mexico, June 2-4
US SERVAS will join SERVAS MEXICO for a bi-national conference on June 2, 3, & 4, 2006 in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Cuernavaca is about 60 kms from Mexico City and is called "the eternal spring city" because of its weather (19 degrees Celsius {66 degrees Fahrenheit} all year round). For updates on conference information refer to our website www.usservas.org. If you would like to volunteer to help with the conference planning, contact Grant Barnes at gbarnesesq@aol.com.

Northern California Regional Meeting, May 19-21
A Northern California regional meeting will be held from May 19-21 amid the Redwoods of Humboldt County. It is open to all Servas members. Contact Phyllis and Daryl Chinn at Phyllis@humboldt.edu for more information.

Servas International General Assembly, April 2-8
Servas International will hold its General Assembly in Latina, Italy from April 2 to 8. Several Board members plan to attend. Mary Jane Mikuriya will report back to us in a future newsletter.

Servas Youth Conference Report, January 2006
In January, 80 Servas members attended the Servas Youth conference in Bariloche, Argentina. International Coordinator for Servas Youth, Pablo Chefuni, reports that the gathering was energetic. To learn more about what is being done by other countries to combat the graying of Servas, information can be obtained from the website www.youthservas.org. A more detailed summary will appear in a future newsletter.

Have you renewed your membership for 2006? Please send in your application renewing your membership ASAP.

The 2006 Host directory is in its final stages of gathering information. We have already heard from 77% of the 2005 hosts. Your generous tax-deductable donations have been deeply appreciated. Hosts must register NOW to be added to the 2006 Host Directory.

Travelers, please keep your letters current and avoid the last minute rush before a trip. You can also avoid the need to have another interview. The Board has agreed to make it easier for you to renew. If you were interviewed in 2005, keep your LOI (letter of introduction) active by renewing it within 30 days of your LOI's expiration date; you will NOT need to be re-interviewed in 2006!

Just fill out a new LOI and send in your $85 per traveler payment and the office will put a 2006 stamp on your application. If you want to renew early, you will have a new letter valid 365 days past the date that your current 2005 letter expires.

NEW Two Year Traveler Letter
The Board has just approved a Two Year LOI. When you are interviewed in 2006, you can invest in a 2 year membership for only $150 per traveler. (This is a discount of $20 over 2 single year memberships). Have your interviewer contact the office for more details.

Fast Track LOI
If you are in a hurry to begin your Servas journey, your interviewer can have your package expedited if you are willing to pay additional fees. The extra fee that we charge for this service depends on how many host lists you request & if you want your travel package delivered the next morning or afternoon. If you are NOT sending your overnight request by an overnight delivery service, please make sure that the outside of your envelope has the word EXPEDITE clearly on the outside of it.

Contributors, your generous annual donations keep our dues low and our traveler fees from increasing. We want to thank all of our 2006 members.

Volunteers across the country have been entering the data into our database over the last month and are in their final stages. We want to thank the following dedicated volunteers who have graciously been typing your information into the 2006 directory: Janina Casper, Daryl Chinn, Amy Greenwood, Eileen Hatcher, Rory Lynch, Robert Moran, David Newman, Susan Slogoff, Helga Smith, and Ellyn Weir. (See below for ways you can get involved).

SERVAS is a volunteer based organization where our members decide on the services and the community that we can offer our members. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer and get involved. You can do this in your own home and with as few or as many hours as you are willing to dedicate.

What is your talent? How much time are you willing to give per month or on a one time project? We have many programs and services that we would like to offer but we are limited by your commitment to get involved. Won't you please help SERVAS grow and offer our membership more? We are also looking for a volunteer coordinator if that is one of your talents.

If you are willing to make a difference in this organization please write to us at info@usservas.org. Put in the subject line: Wanting to volunteer. Let us know in your email what your special talent is and how much time you can dedicate to a project. We will get back to you with some special projects that fit your talents and available time commitment.

Please remember that our volunteer organization will only be as strong as your willingness to get involved.

AIDSfreeAFRICA Servas member, Dr. Rolande R. Hodel, traveled to Africa with the hope of helping to fight the continent's spread of AIDS. She contacted a man named Uche in Cameroon who is in the process of helping to build a factory which will provide life-saving drugs. Money is needed to train Africans in management skills, so they can help their people without outside assistance. If you are interested in AIDSfreeAFRICA, Dr. Hodel can be contacted at RRHodel@aol.com for more information concerning this endeavor. The website is www.aidsfreeafrica.org.

Share a Home in France
Longtime Servas member Maureen Burns will be renting a large home in Southern France this spring to use as a base for hosting and traveling. If you're interested in sharing in this adventure, contact Maureen at maureenmortenson@hotmail.com or call her (706) 769-3176 for more information.

On her travel report form, Bernadine Paull, U.S. traveler to France relates this story: “We gave a workshop at our host's home. The subject was all forms of natural healing. Gaston's relative had been wearing a full leg brace for fifteen years and walked with a cane. In forty-five minutes, using simple stretches and two soft lasers, she took off her brace and walked around the room.” You never know what good things may happen when Servas brings people together.

Julie Cassidy-Rosine shares,
“Being a Servas member is getting the real taste of the culture you are visiting. Everyone and their activities are so diverse. I experienced tennis, dinner with friends, a religious video discussion group; I went to salsa lessons and watched a haikido martial arts class. To members and new travelers: Just remember not to expect anything, but always be grateful for what you receive, and learn as much as you can about the culture that you're in and the nice people who are opening their homes to you.”

Sarah Slover and Alex Funk embarked on a bicycle tour through France and one month, eight host families, and 700 miles later, they are hooked on the idea of bike travel with Servas. Hosts in France were well distributed, and they were able to find more available hosts than they could visit. All eight hosts had not hosted Servas travelers within the past year. Highlights included drinking apple liquor, discussing sustainable agriculture into the late night, and then going out to a French dinner. Once, they were resting on a canal in Rennes when someone returning home from work realized that they must be the Servas guests he was expecting. Sarah and Alex happily conclude, “Servas made our trip.”

In an isolated village in Central Asia, a story teller had volunteer mourners make a circle around a large black cloth that has white squares on it and some words written in the local language and the word AMERIKA. The very tall black cloth was held upright. All of a sudden, two individuals with arms outstretched in capes covering them, looking like airplanes, smashed into the towering cloth that collapsed in a pile. The planes crumpled onto the black pile and mourners wailed, and a big brown dust covered the pile of screaming bodies. This is how villagers 11,000 miles from New York living without tall buildings, without windows, without electricity learned about the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center catastrophe. This was captured in a video made by Orzo Sharipova. He and his sister, Muborak, were guests of San Francisco host, Mary Jane Mikuriya. Muborak's letter of introduction says, “I enjoy very much Servas peace building hospitality. Being very thankful and amazed, I would like to promote excellent Servas ideas of Peace, dialogue of cultures to my part of the world.”

Our newsletter is seeking stories of your Servas travels. Please send them to Rob Allekotte at robabet@aol.com.

If you are not receiving the email newsletters and would like to please email the New York office. On the the Subject line please indicate that you want to SUBSCRIBE to the E-Newsletter.

Thank you!

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