US Servas was founded in 1948 by Bob Luitweiler, a conscientious objector who believed it was possible to build stronger foundations for world peace by helping people to meet and learn from each other in their own homes. For years, many had been cut off by political and military barriers. A devastating war had also created many psychological and economic obstacles.
Volunteers were first found in countries of northwestern Europe who gathered lists of people who could offer free hospitality to approved foreign travelers. It was hoped that, by traveling in the open-door style, people would build links between groups and individuals seeking a peaceful and just society. A group of leaders from several pacifist organizations in England gave sound roots to the hospitality system, which was known by several names: Peacebuilders, Work-Study-Travel, and Open Doors. Meanwhile a woman in California, Grandma Esther Harlan, developed by correspondence only, an extensive list of American hosts. The name Servas (which means “we serve (peace)” in Esperanto) was adopted at the first international meeting in 1952 to denote the spirit of international mutual service in the cause of peace that characterizes this movement. Today, with hosts in more than 125 countries, Servas has become a global program of over 14,000 member hosts and thousands of travelers. Volunteer national committees have compiled lists of hosts in countries with every form of government and provided bridges of understanding between people of every profession and persuasion. Servas has never rejected anyone because of non-pacifist ideologies, and US Servas has been recognized since 1998 as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that builds world peace, goodwill and understanding, officially approved with consultive status the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI). It is also registered in the United States as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.
Here you can read Bob Luitweller’s own story about the earliest days of Servas Seeds_of_Servas.pdf
Bob Luitweiler Team Handbook (2007) PeaceBuilder’s Teams.pdf