• What is Servas?

    What is the mission of Servas?

    US Servas is a non-profit membership organization fostering understanding of cultural diversity through a global person-to-person network promoting a more just and peaceful world.
    US Servas achieves its mission by providing approved US travelers with opportunities to be guests of Servas hosts around the world and offering visitors to the US a chance to learn more about the United States through homestays with US hosts.


    United States Servas, Inc. is a non-profit, non-governmental, interracial, and interfaith organization. US Servas is a branch of Servas International, the global coordinating body, incorporated in Switzerland. US Servas is a United Nations Non-Governmental Organization accredited by the United Nations Department of Public Information.

    How does Servas work?

    Servas International is a worldwide hospitality network created and maintained by dedicated peacemakers around the world. After World War II, a core group of international students and “peace-builder” families devised a system where those traveling in pursuit of cultural education or peace work could stay in hosts’ homes for two nights. As the network grew, volunteers began circulating lists of participating households more regularly. Travelers who make use of this system convey their gratitude to hosts, not with money, but in honor, trust and service. Now travelers and hosts sign up for membership through Servas in their country of residence or through Servas international. Once approved for membership, travelers can access host lists in over 130 Servas countries.


    Servas members recognize the importance of personal relationships and the inherent worth of all people as well as the value of cultural differences. By fostering open person-to-person experiences between travelers and hosts, artificial barriers can be removed, lasting friendships can develop and social responsibility is encouraged. Servas is a way to unite those who believe that peace is possible, once these differences are explored on a personal level. Members accomplish these goals by opening their homes and hearts—welcoming approved Servas visitors for short homestays in the cause of peace.


    Members of the Servas “family” cover the diverse spectrum of people around the world. They may be working class, affluent, or facing larger problems, such as economic depression, severe environmental degradation, extreme poverty, or even violent conflicts. Visitors are invited to share in the home life and community of their hosts, to share their concerns on social and international problems, and to learn about one another’s interests and pursuits, all in the context of mutual respect. Servas is a special way of seeing the world: as a place where there are no strangers—only friends you have yet to meet.

    How can joining Servas spread peace?

    Servas members seek viable non-violent solutions for resolving conflicts on every scale, from the international arena to our own homes and communities. Servas visits can play a vital role in bringing harmony to a troubled world by helping people explore different cultural perspectives and ways of life. In the context of the ancient guest-host relationship, our members invite outsiders to share in their daily lives during brief homestay visits. It is on this person-to-person level that Servas seeks to foster change. Hospitality and cultural education are our weapons against the spread of misconceptions and intolerance, which often leads to mistrust, antagonism and war. Friendship, understanding, empathy and tolerance are the building blocks of peace.

    What is the history of Servas?

    The organization was conceived in 1948 by a small group of pacifists, representing several peace organizations in Birmingham, England, who were joined by an American conscientious objector to war, Bob Luitweiler. While a student at one of Denmark’s well known folk schools (Askov Hojskole), Bob studied cooperative communities and alternative methods for settling disputes. The founders were deeply committed to social justice and the prevention of another tragic World War II holocaust. They believed it was possible to build stronger foundations for world peace by helping concerned people meet and learn from one another.


    This informal group formed a small Peacebuilders team, which later became the coordinating body of the European program. Volunteers were first found in countries of northwestern Europe who gathered lists of people who could offer free hospitality to approved foreign travelers. In grassroots fashion, staffed completely by the voluntary efforts of concerned people, the movement spread. It was hoped that, by traveling in an “open door” style, people would work together to develop new intercultural and service programs in their home communities. These relationships and the local projects they spawned would in turn become the building blocks of a more just and compassionate world.
     

    Read more: Servas History

  • Membership

    How can I get involved?

    One may join either as a host (overnight and/or day host), a traveler, or both. Travel and host memberships last for one year and can be renewed annually. Hosts welcome travelers from all over the world, and can also visit other hosts in the United States. Travelers are able to contact hosts in more than 115 Servas countries.

    However, it is not necessary to be a current host or traveler to be involved with Servas. By creating an online US Servas account, and filling out your contact information, you will become a member of Servas and will be added to the US Servas email list. You’ll receive notifications about Servas events and gatherings in your local area, which often include potlucks, meet-ups and other group activities. You’ll also be invited to attend national Servas events, like the annual national conference. Find out more about programs available for Servas members at (link: programs).

    You can also support the mission of Servas as a donor or volunteer; contact the office for more information about these opportunities.

    All members receive newsletters from US Servas and Servas International, as well as periodic mailings about national and international conferences, local Servas gatherings, and other events. US members may also become voting members of the organization and participate in annual elections of our volunteer Board of Directors.

    As a member of Servas, you stand for peace; for cross-cultural and pan-religious friendship and understanding; you stand for responsible traveling and hosting as a global good; and you stand for the promotion of social justice.”

    Who can be a member of Servas?

    Membership is open to all who support the ideals and aims of Servas. Prospective hosts and travelers must have a broad identification with the goals of Servas, a keen sense of responsibility, and integrity. All US Servas members must sign a non-discrimination pledge, subscribing to the goals of Servas.

    Servas was originally established with the goal of eradicating war and the social conflicts leading to war. Although Servas has pacifist roots, it has always welcomed anyone with a commitment to peace, recognizing that there are many avenues to achieving this objective. Recognizing that military personnel also sacrifice in the cause of peace, past and current members of the military are welcome.

    Servas flourishes precisely because of the rainbow of differences among us. By understanding and exploring these differences on a personal level, we learn more about ourselves and the world. Servas accepts people from all walks of life who agree with our philosophy and sign the US Servas pledge:

    “I/We understand and subscribe to the goals of Servas, which are to promote peace, the unity of mankind, and mutual understanding of the cultures, outlooks, and problems of the people of the world and we will accept Servas travelers of any race, creed, sexual orientation, or nationality, and seek to have a meaningful visit with them. I understand that Host Lists are to be used only by approved Servas members for their intended purpose. Using the Lists for any other purpose (e. g. as a mailing list) is ground for the immediate termination of Servas membership and possible litigation.”

    How do I become a member?

    If you are a current resident of the United States (or a citizen of the United States residing in another country) you are welcome to join United States Servas. If you are a resident or a citizen of another country, you can join Servas through the Servas partner organization in your own country or through Servas International. For more information or to find your country’s Servas organization, go to servas. org.

    To become a new member of US Servas:

    1. Create a Servas account and fill out the member application by clicking “Create, update or renew your Servas profiles.” You will need to complete steps 1-5 by filling out your contact information, host information (optional) and traveler information (optional). Register a new account.

    2. Request an interview. Find the interviewer nearest to you on Step 6 by clicking “Find an interviewer” and typing your zip code or city into the search bar. Choose an interviewer from the list and click “request an interview.” You will hear back from the interviewer via email. If there are no interviewers in your area, please contact the office for assistance.

    3. Prepare for your interview. Gather two letters of recommendation. Note: these are not professional letters of recommendation; they can be completed by anyone who knows you well who can speak to your ability to be a respectful guest in someone’s home and/or a good host. A sample letter of recommendation form can be downloaded from step 7: upload letters of recommendation. You can further prepare for your interview by reading the  Traveler FAQ and the Host FAQ.

    4. Meet the interviewer. All of our travelers and hosts are required to complete the interview process and encouraged to meet with an interviewer in person, when possible.

    5. Complete your application. Upon approval from your interviewer, log back into your account and complete the application by finishing the final steps of “Create, update or renew your Servas profiles.” Travelers will be asked to pay a membership fee, and hosts will be asked to make an optional host donation. Your membership will not be complete until you finish these steps.

    6. Enjoy your Servas membership! Hosts will be added to the United States host list, which they can access from the Hosts menu of the main menu bar. Travelers can request host lists from their account homepage.

     

    If you are having trouble navigating the application process, please refer to our in-depth guide: PDF icon How to Create or Renew your Travel and Host Profiles or contact the office for further help.

     

  • Organization

    What is the structure of Servas?

    United States Servas, Inc. was incorporated in 1963 and has its headquarters in Arcata, California. A national Board of Directors, which meets quarterly, insures that the activities of US Servas are in accordance with its goals and bylaws. The US Board also coordinates national committees, membership policies, conducts long range planning, and cooperates with other service organizations. It communicates with Servas International and other national groups for exchange of information about hosts and travelers and news of mutual interest. Servas International is composed of national committees (branches or chapters) and their individual members. In each country with ten or more hosts, Servas is organized around a volunteer national secretary who works alone or develops a working committee responsible for establishing local membership policies and procedures. The main governing body of Servas International is the General Assembly, which meets face-to-face every three years at an international conference to which each national branch is entitled to send one delegate plus observers. The Servas International general secretary, president and treasurer are elected by this body along with two other officers to form an Executive Committee (Exco), charged with carrying out decisions made by the Assembly between meetings. Also elected by the General Assembly are the peace and social justice secretary, host list officer and newsletter editor(s). Exco then appoints three chief representatives to the United Nations to be based in New York, Geneva and Vienna, an official archivist, and other officers, called area coordinators, to serve as representatives of various geographical regions.

    How is Servas supported financially?

    All over the world, dedicated peace-minded volunteers form the backbone of this grassroots organization. In the US, hundreds of volunteers handle most of the day to day work, serving as area representatives, interviewers, board members, and as members of national working committees. A small national office staff are our only paid employees.

    US Servas’ primary source of income is from member contributions. Travelers pay an annual membership fee. Participation in the Host and Day Host Programs is free, though hosts are asked to make a voluntary contribution annually. These fees and other donations help offset the administrative costs of processing membership applications, producing and distributing host lists and newsletters, convening local gatherings, and other activities. Donations from other sources are welcomed.

    US Servas is exempt from Federal Income Tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is incorporated under the Laws of the State of New York. Contributions to US Servas are tax-deductible. The Certificate of Incorporation, bylaws and audited annual financial reports of the organization are available upon request.

    Servas membership fees and policies vary from country to country. US Servas bases its fees on the expected costs for administrative expenses and its financial commitment to Servas International. In most cases, each country is expected to pay Servas International for the stamps affixed to every international traveler’s Letter of Introduction. This provides the international organization with a small budget which minimally covers overhead expenses.

    PDF icon US Servas 2016 Financial Statements Review

    What is the relationship between Servas and the United Nations?

    Servas is committed to the United Nations and its goal of world peace. In 1998, US Servas became a Nongovernmental Organization accredited by the Department of Public Information. Since 1973, Servas International has served as a United Nations NGO associated with DPI and also has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. This association provides our members with direct access to the world organization and its constituent bodies. In these roles, Servas has the opportunity to address UN committees, suggest agenda items, and request circulation of views. US and International Servas representatives work at the UN to review issues from a global community perspective and originate and support efforts to achieve a more effective world organization.