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Events & Networking with other Servas Members

Did you enjoy attending a Servas event or gathering? Did you expand your Servas network, get new information, learn something new. Members enjoy reading reports about attending Servas Events and Gatherings. Tell us about your experiences at a Servas Event or Gathering.

Send us your Event reports here.

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  • November 26, 2023 12:07 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of Conference around peace pole at close of the conferenceThe 2023 National US Servas conference was held at Frost Valley YMCA Camp in Claryville, NY from October 6 to 8th. Here is a link to more than sixty of the best photos taken by several members. Each photo is captioned with the names of people in it and other pertinent information.  Photo thumbnails are presented in an array of sixty per page. Hover our photo over any thumbnail to see the caption. Click on any photo to see a full sized view. You can navigate your way through the photos clicking the Previous or Next choices near the top left of your screen, or by clicking All Album Photos.

    Photos were submitted by Julie Emory, Tech Team; Bill Magargal, Conference Chair; Jim Leask, Servas Canada; Teresa Crockett, SLC Conference Chair; Marguerite Hills, SI Development Team; and others.

  • November 20, 2023 2:05 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Servas France member, Céline Boute, with US members Dave Lippman and David LevingstonLetter from Céline Boute - Servas France 

    In early October, I had the chance to attend the US SERVAS 2023 Conference in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. It was a fabulous event. I am very happy that I attended it.  (photo by Céline Boute - Céline with US Members Dave Lippman and David Levingston)

    Servas is an international network of travelers and hosts with 16,000 members in 120 countries on five continents with a mission of "Peace and Understanding through Hosting and Traveling.” Servas is a Non-Governmental Organization created in 1949 to promote peace and help people displaced by the war to return to their villages and homesIt has had consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1973, as well as 14 representatives in New York, Geneva, and Vienna. It is a community of people sharing the same core values and DNA-- #travel #peace #exchange #diversity#culturaldifferences #curiosity #understanding.  

    Being a Servas traveler is an invitation to slow down your travel pace, take the time to really meet new people in new places and share local experiences off the beaten path. Servas is affordable and available to anyone sharing the organization’s philosophy. As a Servas traveler you have an opportunity to stay with a Servas host for two nights and days and enjoy the richness of sharing their lives. 

    As a 10-year Servas member, I am very grateful to have been able to join the annual US conference. I met new people and renewed my acquaintance with some Americans I had welcomed in Bordeaux a few years ago. There were so many things to enjoy! Early morning yoga sessionsworkshops, protest songs with Dave Lippman, and overall, three days of harmony and understanding.  A huge bravo to Bill Magargal for organizing a most amazing conference and a thank you to him and Marie Spodek for the invitation. When the impact of world travel is highly, and legitimately questioned, Servas is an organization that can mitigate the impact of travel... travel small, visit villages, skip the mob scenes at major tourist destinations. Anyone can join! If you would like more information, go to usservas.orgCome visit us in France!  

    Longue vie à la France! Vive les EtatsUnis ! 

    Céline Boute, Lormont, France 

  • October 25, 2023 12:29 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    by Bill Magargal

    Keynote Speaker Chief Mann was a real inspiration to our conference attendees. He began his talk by describing life growing up in a socially and economically disadvantaged community, the daily indignities other students at school inflicted, and how difficult life was for him as a boy and young man. He shared some of the history of his people, "Keepers of the Pass," one of the few Munsee Lenape Eastern indigenous peoples remaining on their ancestral land.  

    Chief Mann described the tribe's recent struggles with rare cancers and birth defects caused by the toxic land ceded to them about 20 years ago on what has since been labeled by the EPA as the Ringwood Mines Superfund site. It turns out that a contractor for Ford Motor Company dumped huge amounts of highly toxic paint sludge there during the 60s and 70s. Ford and the EPA have taken some steps to remove the contaminated soil, but the larger problem is that the entire regional aquifer is now contaminated with toxins. 

    Clearly, the Ramapough and other indigenous peoples in the area have gotten a raw deal for centuries. What was amazing to our attendees was how Chief Mann has been able to get past the poverty, indignities, and daily struggles in his life to become an effective leader of his community. His words to us showed no malice, and in fact he reminded us that we "all need to embrace our humility, our humanness, our desire to live in peace." 

    After his presentation, Chief Mann and his delightful life partner and wife, Mikie Picaro, met with people in the hallway answering questions for more than an hour. Anyone interested in learning more about the Lunaape (or better yet who would like to make a donation) can visit the Ramapough Culture and Land Foundation website. 

  • September 16, 2023 8:14 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of the Colorado picnic attendeesby Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh 

    Colorado Servas held a picnic on Sunday, August 6th at the Lakewood, Colorado home of Servas Super Host, Interviewer, and new friend, Lani Vigil. Approximately 19 people attended. Some who were not members came, too. They had learned of Servas and the picnic from our website so came to see what Servas was all about! We hope they will join us! Everyone contributed a delicious dish for the spread or a bottle of wine for the community sangria.  

    After lunch, Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, US Servas Board Secretary from Nebraska, gave an overview of what is happening at US Servas, the upcoming new  Friends membership, information about running for the Board, the four branches of US Servas, Servas Youth Language Experience (SYLE), volunteer opportunities (thanks to the two people who expressed interest!), the October Conference in New York, and buying SWAG - a 2023  conference tee shirt --from our Events site to promote Servas! 

    We encourage every community to host a local Servas event of some type! There is a link to Local Events Support on our website. Servas Members can set up their event on our website and get the word out to members in their neck of the woods! 

  • September 16, 2023 7:45 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of a Frost Valley yurt with yaks PhotoShopped inThe conference promises to be a great one. As of September 14, we have 74 attendees registered including four international members, three non-members, three brand-new members, and several Servas International dignitaries.  

    Yurt Update - It turns out that many attendees like the idea of staying in a yurt. Last week we toured the venue and had our first visit to the yurts. They are nestled in a beautiful camp-like setting with a bubbling brook running by them. As far as we know there are no yaks foraging in the area, but the yurts are indeed authentic camping yurts. Here is a two-minute video of the yurts. 

    Call for Help - We can use a bit of specialized help from a few attendees. First, we need someone willing to help with audio/visual set-up and troubleshooting. Second, we need help videotaping some of the key presentations; someone who can bring a tripod-mounted video camera with viewfinder so that we can easily record sessions ... not just a static camera. It would be great if there were a few volunteers to operate the camera in shifts so that one person isn't glued to it for the whole conference. 

    Bring Scrapbooks - We just received a scrapbook from Pat Ryan (long-time Alaska member) that has wonderful pages of her Servas Hosts and Travelers. We will display Pat's book and would love it if other attendees could bring their scrapbooks or other memorabilia to share.  We will have a table set aside for doing so.

  • August 08, 2023 2:11 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Now is the time to register as the conference discount ends August 31, after which the attendance fee increases to $199. As of August 8 we have 53 attendees signed up. Here is a link to the attendees list.

    The Ride-Share and NYC  Hosting webpages are now up on the website. The rideShare list currently has 11 drivers and 10 ride requests. Members (only) can access the ride-share list from the Conference Transit webpage. Members must be signed in to access the list.

  • July 07, 2023 7:58 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Saturday Night - Fun & Relaxing Activities 

    Saturday morning and afternoon are packed with presentations and workshops, but Saturday evening will be a chance to relax and get to know other attendees. One option is to sit around a campfire or in one of the lodges’ sitting rooms enjoying your favorite BYO beverage. We suspect that member, Dave Lippman, might lead one of the campfires into song (see article). Some members would like to do storytelling. Who knows, it will be fun no matter what.  

    For stargazers, NYC member, Jon Corrado, is bringing Large Binoculars and will lead a stargazing event. As Jon notes, stargazing is a bit like fishing... “It depends on the weather, phase of the moon, and patience.” The camp is in a fairly wide valley surrounded by mountains that shield most ambient light, so it is a good place for this. Bring a telescope or binoculars if you have them. 

    NYC Pre/Post Conference Hosting 

    screen-shot from Lodging page showing Google map of NYC areaThe Conference Lodging page now has a link to a list of New York City metropolitan area Servas hosts. It is accessible to members only, so you must be signed into US Servas to access the list. The list includes the Host's names and contact information. The page includes a functional Google map of the NYC region to determine where a particular host is located.  

    Attendee-travelers should present their hosts with a copy of their LOI unless they are already well known to one another. We recommend LOIs for all people wanting to visit a US Servas host. LOIs are included in your membership. If you do not presently have a valid LOI, all you need to do is log in to your International Servas account and complete your traveler information. Here is a link to the Member Help & FAQs page where you can learn how to do this.  If you have never been a traveler before, you can add that status by using the US Servas CONTACT US form and request traveler status. 

    Other Lodging Notes 

    Contrary to earlier versions of the lodging webpage, yurts Now Include bedding, linens, and towels, and thus are now priced at $25 for the two-night stay.  

    How to Get to the Conference 

    Although the conference venue is in the Catskill Mountains, it is only about 2-1/2 hours from Central Manhattan. If you are driving, your GPS app will get you to the venue just fine (search for Frost Valley YMCA Camp). Many attendees have asked "What is the best airport to use?" The answer is, "Wherever you get the best deal." There is also a way to get there by public bus. Visit the Conference Transit webpage for information  on airports, bus schedules, ride sharing and more. 

    Order Extra Conference T-shirts

    Some members want T-shirts, but are unable to attend the conference. You can click this link to Order T-shirts. You can order multiple sizes and quantities, and there are various delivery options. The shirts are high-quality, forest green,  Gildan Tees with the design is shown below

  • June 09, 2023 5:40 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Our national conference in October is being held in a gorgeous location with great facilities. That’s the good news. The downside is, there is no way to get there by public transportation. So, if you are driving to the conference, or renting a car at one of the regional airports, please offer a lift to members who need a ride. There is a section on the registration form where you can indicate your willingness to give a lift to someone who might not have a car, or is older, and feels it is inappropriate for them to drive a long distance. Many living in New York City do not even own a car. Not only will you be doing a mitzvah, but you will also be making a new friend.

  • June 08, 2023 5:24 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    graphic is a screen-shot of the Conference Event pageThe 2023 National Conference website pages are now online, and the registration form is ready to go. Before you register, we suggest you check out the lodging and transit pages to fully understand the options on the registration form. Near the top of each page is a row of blue buttons with which to navigate your way to the various pages. The transit page is particularly for members traveling to the region as it shows options for navigating in and around NYC.

    PROGRAM - Shows the program schedule of speakers, workshops, activities, etc. 
    VENUE - Contains maps of the campus and hiking trails, and descriptions of the dining hall and meeting hall. 
    LODGING - Describes the lodging options available on campus, as well as nearby camping alternatives.  
    PRESENTERS - Includes presenter photos, bios, and description of what they will share.  
    TRANSIT - Shows nearby airports and public transit options for getting into and out of NYC, and to the conference location. It also describes the ride-share option on the registration form. 
    REGION - Shows destinations you might want to visit in NYC, the Catskills, and Finger Lakes region of New York. 

    As you will see, we have a full program. Yet there are breaks between sessions as well as a few chat and meet workshops including Mindful Stitching and Fly Tying. The evenings will be relaxing as well with music and song on Friday evening, and bonfire, stargazing on Saturday.

    Adult beverages ARE allowed in the lodges, around the campfires, and our conference building, Geyer Hall, so bring your own beverage. 

  • May 04, 2023 11:36 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of people at conference table with Welcome Servas signBy Bill Magargal 

    Great News! During their retreat in San Diego the US Servas board accepted the conference committee's recommendations and approved a large subsidy to support the 2023 National Conference to be held in Upstate NY, October 6-8. This means that we can offer a low conference fee of only $149 for all attendees who register before September 1, ($199 thereafter). The fee includes six meals; dinner on Friday Oct.6, through lunch on Sunday the 8th, handouts, and all regular sessions. Two-night lodging costs will range from none to $85 per person, depending on the accommodation they choose, i.e., none, yurt, cabin, or lodge. 

    This change from previous policy reflects the board's desire to hold a well-attended, exciting, fun, and informative conference where members and potential members can gather to celebrate, meet other members, make new friends, and reenergize their commitment to Servas ideals. Perhaps board member, Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, sums it up best with her comment during the meetings: 

    “I think when we are talking about the benefits of being a member- the ability of US Servas by being an all-volunteer run organization with less administrative expenses and therefore able to subsidize member's attendance at a national conference is a BIG Benefit!” 

    The conference team is now assembling a great program of speakers, workshops, breakout sessions, and entertainment including:  

    • Chief Vincent Mann - Reassembling the Munsee Lunaape Nation. 

    • Rabbi Chuck Diamond - Healing from the Antisemitic Terrorist Attack that killed eleven congregants at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. 

    • Screening of The Seeds of Vandanya Shiva followed by discussion. 

    • Evening of folk music, ballads, and protest songs featuring local artists Little Sparrow, and US Servas member, Dave Lippman (see article). 

    • Workshops include interviewer training, using the US Servas website, using the international Servas Online website, a mindful stitching gathering, and more. 

    Other activities in the planning stage include a Saturday evening contra dance, peace pole installation, and a workshop on gender identity. We are also hopeful that Chief Mann and the Frost Valley YMCA Camp can work out details for holding a regional powwow to coincide with our conference. We are well underway for a fabulous conference. The conference website should be up and running by mid-June. 

    Frost Valley - Dining Hall

    Geyer Hall - Main Conference Room

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