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Notes from the Board

News and Reports from the US Servas Board of Directors. The Board  is working to effectively and efficiently support members connecting with others as travelers and hosts as well as with the larger community.

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  • October 22, 2022 12:43 PM | Richard Weaver (Administrator)

    Richard Weaver

    The Board of US Servas is made up of volunteers who spend many hours each week in meetings and doing the work of the organization. In this world that seems to operate more and more virtually, it is good to periodically get together face-to-face and have longer conversations than is possible in a business meeting. The US Servas Board gathered for a retreat on October 13th in Salt Lake City, just before the Annual Conference.  All current active board members and two of the newly elected board members were present, either in the room or via Zoom.

    In addition to seeing each other, often for the first time in person, the agenda was two-fold: 1) foster excellent communication and relationships, and 2) evaluate the new branch structure that was formally adopted in April.

    Richard Weaver, a board member, led the first discussion.  He provided a different way to look at communication. He provided new vocabulary for board members to think about in their efforts to communicate effectively with each other and with Servas members. He then turned to conflict, which he defined as “expressions of differences.” The board wishes to foster a variety of ideas and opinions about the key issues and opportunities facing US Servas. Expressing these differences is critical to the board being successful in its responsibility. Effectively managing these conflicts can be a challenge but leads to much richer outcomes for US Servas. The morning concluded with a discussion about trust. Richard presented a model of trust that includes different types of trust and how to recognize the type of trust issue that might arise. Such awareness allows for specific action steps rather than simply saying, “We have a trust issue here!” The overall outcome for the morning was helping board members have new ways of thinking about communication, conflict, and trust plus tools for moving forward more effectively.

    After lunch, Shyla Esko Bare, a board member, led a discussion about our new branch structure.  This structure was formally adopted in April and was a significant restructuring of how US Servas operates.  The new structure, dividing the organization into five functional branches, reflected many lessons learned from the first year (2021) operating as an all-volunteer organization. It was proposed in January and went through many refinements before being adopted. The board was pleased with the new approach but did not believe it had gotten it perfectly on the first try. This afternoon was the chance to make a six-month progress report.

    The basic idea of the branch structure was to associate a variety of related teams, formerly known as committees, within particular branches.  Each branch would have one to three board members providing oversight and coordination with other branches. Everyone, at all levels, would be volunteers.

    Shyla led the board in identifying successes in each branch. The oversight board members provided their thoughts first for their branch and then other board members added their positive evaluations. There were many successes for each of the branches. The basic tasks are getting done much more efficiently and completely than in the previous year. The flip charts created for this task were shared with the participants in the Salt Lake City Conference. Then attention was shifted to identifying areas where improvements can be made.  Fortunately, these were shorter lists than in the first task but several areas of importance were identified. Some action steps were identified to address them.  Since this was a retreat rather than a formal board meeting, no official action could be taken. The suggestions will be considered by the board and the other issues placed on the agenda for future board meetings.

    The board agreed to keep examining the new branch structure and continue to take action to refine it. Feedback from members is important to this process. We all want a structure that fully supports the mission of Servas and provides meaningful and rewarding volunteer experiences for Servas members.

    We concluded the retreat after 8 intense hours with a sense of being on the same page and feeling very positive about working together. We are proud to be board members of US Servas and all want to do our best for the membership.

  • September 20, 2022 7:25 AM | Anonymous

    -Arnie Rowland

    One of the building blocks of Servas is getting to know people and building community. We travel, we engage in cultural exchange, and yet we often don’t have many opportunities to get to know similarly minded people close to home. In order to help better build our communities, we are kicking off a new Local Event Support process to encourage US Servas members to know other members living nearby.

    The Local Event Support process includes:

    •  Posting Local Event details on the US Servas Events Calendar, and
    • Sending announcement emails to members in a designated local area.

    Any US Servas member will be able to propose a Local Event simply by submitting a request on the US Servas web site, and selecting one of the designated Local areas. The Events Support Team of volunteers will then validate the Event details, verify that the Event meets the guidelines, post the Event on the Events Calendar, and schedule two (2) announcements to be emailed to members in that Local area.

    What makes that possible is that we have reviewed where our members are located, and determined that there are over 25 metro areas with a good number of members within a 50 mile radius. Those members have now been tagged. Additionally, all members can now manage their own tagged areas, perhaps joining more than one Local area, or even withdrawing. We will now be able to easily send emails to members in the designated areas.

    Wait! Did you ‘guidelines’? What does that mean?

    Guidelines mean that Events are:

    • Consistent with the Mission and Purposes of US Servas as stated in the Bylaws.
    • Open to US Servas Members and Servas members from other countries.
    • Optionally open to the public.
    • Free to attend; there may be reasonable and optional  cost sharing for venue and supplies.
    • Will not ask for donations for any cause or project.

    Don’t wait. Schedule your gathering for the fall now. Picnics while the weather is still cooperating, potlucks, hikes, museum adventures, movie or theatre outings and discussions, outdoor activities. The type of gathering is up to you!

    Act now! Be the first kid on your block to have your very own ‘Local Event’. Servas members are waiting …

    Register your Local Event here.

  • September 13, 2022 8:04 AM | Anonymous

    -Arnie Rowland

    Reflecting back upon my own experience, and in talking with other Servas Members, it seems reasonable to conclude that most of us joined Servas because we truly wanted to meet other people, Of course, most travelers don’t have to join Servas to meet other people. They can easily meet the staff at the hostels and hotels, the servers at the bars and restaurants, the tour guides, and they can quite often meet other Americans at the resorts. So why join Servas?

    Servas Travelers know that there is a different quality of experience to be enjoyed from meeting people who’s livelihood is not dependent upon catering to the tourist trade. Servas Travelers find deep life affirming value in cultural exchange.  As Servas members travel and meet others, we truly want to learn about their lives, their families, their dreams and aspirations, and their cultures. Servas members want more than the superficial tourist experience.

    A wonderful thing about Servas members. We are not just takers, but we are also givers. We believe in and treasure the concept of exchange in cultural exchange. For some of us, it may not have always been that way. I admit that when I joined Servas oh so long ago, the idea of having complete strangers come and stay in my home was totally bonkers. But after meeting so many people that opened their doors, opened their homes and families, and opened their hearts to me, I was forever changed. Servas members are not strangers, but members of our very large extended family.

    Maybe we all don’t have time, or space, to be an overnight Host. Family, or personal, considerations, or the limitations of our home may not allow us to provide lodging for Travelers at that moment. Being a Day Host allows each of us to fully embrace the service in Servas. If a second cousin that I’ve never met were to be passing through town, most likely I’d find time, an hour -or a few, to meet and chat. Just who is this member of my extended family? We may never see each other again, but for a brief moment in time, we talk, we laugh, we share bits of our lives. We are family.

    So exactly what does a ‘Day Host’ do?

    A Day Host knows what it is like to be a visitor in a new place. The anxiety, confusion, uncertainty of arriving someplace new without any idea of what to expect. A Day Host may at times meet Travelers for coffee,  lunch, or dinner - chatting and exchanging the essence of who we are. A Day Host may offer tips and suggestions about what to see, where to go, and what to do. A Day Host is like that distant cousin -someone with an unspoken bond that welcomes you into their life for a brief moment. A Day Host may coordinate with local Hosts and offer to supplement a Traveler’s experience when the Host is busy with work and family.

    Even when traveling within one’s on country, there are vast cultural differences to be explored. Consider contacting a Day Host during your next trip to visit family and get a different perspective of the area.

    I encourage you to embrace being a Day Host, to become a cultural ambassador. Share brief vignettes of your lives, share your tips about the area around you, share your special places off the beaten path -share an hour -or several. A Day Host is about caring and sharing, about service to others. And that’s the essence of Servas.

    Does your membership Status include ‘Day Host’?

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