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