James Dorsey and Alison Bing are this year’s Keynote speakers. Check out the full list of conference speakers below! (times are subject to change)
Extreme Expeditions (Saturday morning)
James Michael Dorsey is an explorer and award-winning author who has traveled extensively in 48 countries. He has spent the past two decades researching remote cultures around the world. His books include Baboons for Lunch and Vanishing Tales From Ancient Trails. His stories have appeared in 18 travel anthologies, and he has won 17 Solas Awards. He is a contributor to Best Travel Writing (volumes 10 and 11) and Lonely Planet Literary Anthology as well as The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, BBC Wildlife, BBC Travel, Natural History and other magazines. He is a retired fellow of the Explorers Club and former director of the Adventurers Club. In his presentation, “Extreme Expeditions”, Dorsey will take us across the Sahara of Mali with Tuareg nomads, visit a remote volcano in the Ethiopian dessert with a team of NASA scientists, to workers in the mine fields of Cambodia, and finally on a baboon hunt in Tanzania with hunter/gatherers who used him as bait.
Travel for Positive Impact: A Packing Checklist for Thoughtful Travelers (Sunday afternoon)
Alison Bing has filled 53 Lonely Planet travel guidebooks with road-tested recommendations, leaving out some adventures that didn’t make the cut — including accepting dinner invitations from cults, researching 200 wineries in 30 days, and trusting a camel to guide her. She has survived to tell tales for the BBC, NBC, NPR, Telegraph, The Guardian, The New York Times and sundry other global outlets. Travel has also inspired her work with pioneering nonprofits worldwide, including American Documentary Inc., Ethiopian Midwives Association, Fair Trade USA, Frontline/WORLD, National Education Association, and the National Park Service. Bing will speak on the positive effect travel and travelers can have on the world. She will lead discussion of questions such as: when you’re a stranger in a strange place, what’s your role in local social change? and with only a limited time in a destination, how do you forge bonds that last beyond your visit? In this talk, we’ll explore five contributions thoughtful travelers bring with them to make every trip more meaningful — consider it your spiritual packing checklist.
Stories from 35 years of Travel and 40 years of Peace Building on the 70th anniversary of Servas (Friday evening)
Jan Passion has been a member of Servas since 1984 when he traveled around the world on Semester at Sea. He has coordinated delegations for the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Jan has served on the faculty of CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures) Program. Jan will share his experiences as a Peace Builder and Servas traveler. In Sri Lanka he worked with the Nonviolent Peaceforce, helping civilians protect other civilians without using violence, and in 2015, he helped launch Servas Rwanda. www. JanPassion.org
Bob Lutweiler and the Founding of Servas (Saturday)
As Servas celebrates its 70th anniversary, we look back to the propitious moment of its founding. When conscientious objector Bob Luitweiler boarded a ship bound for Oslo in
June of 1948, he had no idea his quest for information would start a worldwide
peace movement. Follow in Bob’s footsteps as he travels through postwar
Europe, India, and Israel looking for answers to questions like, “What are the
root causes of injustice, alienation, and prejudice that lead to war?” and
ultimately asks people around the globe to open their doors to complete
strangers (and recent enemies) to establish what will become the Servas we
This presentation is by LA-based Servas member, and children’s book writer, Colleen Paeff. Several Servas members who knew Bob have agreed to share their memories and insights in this session.
American Field Service (AFS): Peace Through Intercultural Understanding (Saturday)
Nancy Petranto has been involved with AFS-USA since her summer abroad to Bangkok Thailand in 1970. She is currently one of 3 AFS Support Coordinators in the Bay Area, assisting AFS Liaisons who support international exchange students and their host families. In her presentation, Nancy will be assisted by Davide Pu, an active AFS volunteer who was an exchange student in high school, and who was the 2019 recipient of the AFS-USA Emerging Leader Award.
AFS (American Field Service) has been a leader in international education since 1947, working toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities. AFS honors the legacy of its founders—volunteer WWI and WWII American Field Service ambulance drivers—who emerged from the wars with a bold mission: to help prevent future conflict by promoting educational and cross-cultural exchanges. AFS places international high school students from over 80 countries with host families in the US, while sending US high school students and adults abroad to over 50 countries to participate in a variety of educational programs. The possibility of forging a partnership between AFS and Servas, two organizations with similar values and interests, seems evident. Help us explore this possibility both at the session and at our mealtime discussion table.
Workshop for Current and Prospective Interviewers (Saturday)
The presenters will discuss the importance of interviewing and how it makes Servas unique. They will demonstrate features of the US Servas website that are important for interviewers. The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and share interviewing ideas.
Art as Resistance: Migrants and Their Stories (Saturday)
Art can be used to signal social problems or as resistance to the forces that create those problems and then try to make them invisible. Political turmoil, economic greed and environmental deterioration have caused incredible human suffering in many parts of the world. The migrations observed today in many parts of the world are the result of these social problems. Migration is usually a positive act for those who migrate of their own free will, but often entire communities are forcibly displaced. As an artist, I want to share the stories of those who are most vulnerable and give them an artistic platform to be heard and understood. I propose artistic projects with refugees, or migrants in transit to create a sensitivity to the human pain that causes displacement and thus, through which we can find compassionate solutions so that everyone can find their own way to transcendence.
Coming Soon to Your Screen: The New Way to Find Hosts Through Servas International (Saturday)
Mary Jane Mikuriya, a former US Servas Board member, served as US Servas Peace Secretary for 19 years. Currently the Northern California Regional Advisor, she is a longtime Servas traveler and host and she has attended many General Assemblies of Servas International. Radha Radhakrishna is a current Board member of US Servas and Treasurer of Servas International, and is also co-chair of the US Servas Tech Committee. He is helping to coordinate the integration of the US Servas Host List with the new Servas International online system. Because of his teaching responsibilities at Columbia University School of Business, he will participate via videoconference.
US Servas is only one out of over 120 national Servas groups around the world. Learn how we fit in and how easy it soon will be to search for hosts on the International Servas Online system. A new way of authorizing LOIs electronically is also in the works. Come glimpse the near future.
Where is Servas Going in a Digital World?
In a highly saturated digital market, Servas needs to adapt quickly to a new market of users. Servas is about meaningful personal connections but much of the Servas experience begins online. We can see a future where that part of the process, too, is wonderful. Tys will talk about the vision of Servas and Raleigh will weigh in on the design of the nitty gritty details. Together, they will tackle a big question: what does the future look like for Servas?
Raleigh LaCombe is a user experience designer living in Los Angeles. For several years she has helped young Servas members planning SYLEs for a few years, and she did a SYLE herself to learn Hindi in India! In 2019, Raleigh was elected to the Servas Board of Directors.
Tys Sniffen, a Servas member since 2003, has hosted dozens of travelers in San Francisco and in the woods of Santa Cruz. He has decades of experience working in non-profits and 13 years in web project management. (This presentation immediately follows Radha & Mary Jane’s “New Ways to Find Hosts thru Servas Intl” presentation)
Explore, Understand and Serve: Friendship Force International (Saturday)
In the 1970s, encouraged by President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, an organization was formed to send private citizens to foreign lands to “connect with new cultures … across the barriers that separate us.” The travelers were called Friendship Ambassadors and the organization was called Friendship Force. It has grown to include over 15,000 members in 60 countries who travel in groups on journeys that include family homestays usually lasting four to seven days. While many of the journeys are general explorations of a city or a region, others have a more specialized focus such as health and wellness, outdoor adventure, art or a humanitarian mission.
While Servas and FF operate differently, they have much in common. If you enjoy travel and reaching across cultural barriers you’ll will want to join Nancy and Robert to find out how a closer relationship between the two organizations could benefit both, and to learn what Friendship Force has to offer you — and the world.
Introducing “Just Views,” a Documentary & Discussion Program that Wants You! (Saturday afternoon)
See how some Servas members screen engaging films to inform and prompt audience discussion — an easy yet powerful way to provide edutainment to surrounding communities and attract members to Servas. Servas-relevant critical issues are explored through civil multillogue. Includes a screening of The Racial Wealth Gap.
Invite Gandhian Nonviolence into Your Daily Life and Your Travels (Saturday)
Dr. Geeta Mehta, former head of the Department of Philosophy at M. D. College in India, trekked during the land-gift movement with Acharya Vinoba Bhave, the spiritual heir of Mahatma Gandhi. She has written 3 books on Gandhi and non-violence, 48 research papers published in journals both in India and around the world, and almost 100 newspaper and magazine articles for the general public. She has been a Servas traveler and host since 1983, and she was the Servas India Peace Secretary from 2004-2011.
Gandhi considered non-violence to be a general rule for human relations, a commandment to exercise full compassion. Active non-violence can be brought into our daily lives whether we are at home or traveling, whether we are interacting with friends and colleagues we have known for years, or people from another culture we are meeting for the first time. Gandhi applied non-violence not only to individuals, but also at the social, economic, political and cultural level.
Native Americans in Marin County and the North Bay area (Saturday evening)
Sky Road Webb is a descendant of the Tamal’ko - Tomales Bay Miwok, the band of Coast Miwok Native Americans who originate in present day West Marin and the Point Reyes Peninsula. He served in the Navy for 12 years, and is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. He is the President of the Marin American Indian Alliance based in San Rafael, CA — a non-profit formed in 1968 to support all Native Americans in Marin County and the North Bay area. He teaches traditional crafts and trades skills at DQ University, a Tribal College in Davis. He is a very active member of his local community; he volunteers at Kule Loklo, the Coast Miwok Demonstration Village of Point Reyes National Seashore, he is a Training and Technical Assistant Consultant for Tribes and Tribal organizations, and he instructs Tribal Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) at Rancherias and Reservations throughout California. He appeared in the award-winning 2014 independent documentary, “The Invisible Peak,” about the restoration project of Mount Tamalpais. Sky Road composes and performs original songs in Tamal’ko, his native language and tells “First-People” stories of the adventures of Old Man Coyote, Deer, Bear, Raven and the spirits that lived in the time before humans.
Ehren Tool and his cups that promote war awareness (Saturday evening)
Ceramicist Ehren Tool makes cups that depict the “bleak madness and false glories” of war. His work is in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, and was featured in The New York Times Magazine on May 2, 2019. Tool experienced the horrors of war firsthand in the US Marine Corps, and after his millitary service he devoted himself to the service of peace. He gives away his cups in exchange for a conversation about war and peace, and the hope that you will start future conversations with others. He will display his work at the back of the hall during the Saturday evening entertainment, and you will have an opportunity to converse with him individually or in small groups.
Viewing Restorative Justice Through A Diversity of Lenses (Sunday morning)
Fatimeh Khan, a Bay Area native, attended San Francisco State University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Africana Studies. She is currently finishing her master’s degree in education, with a concentration in equity and social justice. Fatimeh has worked with re-entry programs, helping to ease the transition for returning citizens coming home, and as a circle keeper, facilitating groups of pre-adjudicated youth. She currently serves as the Healing Justice Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.
This session will examine the various elements of Restorative Justice, how they look in a variety of cultures, and how past practices an inform our future. We will see how indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands, Canada and the US have practiced Restorative Justice as a way of life, and how it was used to mediate conflicts in the community. Finally, we will look at various ways Restorative Justice is being practiced now.
Optional Restorative Justice Activity (separate session): Restorative Justice is a new term but an old practice. In our follow-up activity, we will sit in a circle and examine the ways we practice elements of Restorative Justice in our own lives. Best for those who have attended the first session or have some knowlege of Restorative Justice.
Peace, Love and Servas: Why Travel With Us? (Sunday morning)
Join two seasoned travelers as they compare Servas with a variety of travel organizations and platforms including CouchSurfing, Hostelling International, Workaway, and WWOOF. What distinguishes Servas from the rest? How are the missions, visions, and aims of Servas and those of other travel organizations similar and different? Can Servas learn anything from them? During the Q&A, the presenters will invite audience members to share their own experiences and views.
Experience “Servas Experiences,” a new program of activities for local Servas groups (Sunday morning)
Servas Experiences is a new program intended to strengthen local Servas communities by arranging enjoyable group activities while introducing Servas to friends and raising funds for the organization — often culminating in a group meal! In 2018-29, a successful pilot project launched in California and the program is now set to go nationwide. You, too, can lead a Servas Experience — no special skills required! Come to learn about the Experiences we’ve already had, and the many forms it can take.
Bio: David Schwartz and Paige LaCombe are on the US Servas Board of Directors. Paige is the Servas International Peace Secretary and David is the US Servas Peace Secretary. Paige is an elementary school teacher while David is a children’s book author and presenter to children at schools around the world.
Make Connections with “Making Connections,” a new international program of extended homestays (Sunday morning)
National Servas organizations worldwide are offering extended-stay programs. Not only can travelers visit hosts for up to a month, but they immerse themselves in some aspect their host country’s rich culture. Come to learn more and help make this exciting new program a reality in the USA.
Chris-Ann Lauria has been a member of Servas for 10 years. Initially she was a traveler & host and later became an interviewer, board member, and the US liaison for Making Connections. She currently works as a nurse practitioner in Minneapolis, MN and is an advocate for quality healthcare for all. In her free time she enjoys hiking, biking, paddle boarding, and making kombucha. Her goal for the Making Connections program is to provide another opportunity for Servas members around the world to show unity for a culture of peace.
*This presentation is sharing the room with Servas Experiences, and will directly follow it.
Task Force on the Americas: Solidarity with Social Justice Movements in Latin America and the Caribbean (Sunday morning)
For over 30 years Task Force on the Americas has been sending people-to-people delegations to connect with activists and community organizers in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The presenters will talk about (and show photos of) TFA’s delegations. They will discuss the root causes of the migration crisis and how US foreign policy has contributed to the current crisis.
Carol Costa is a retired instructor of English as a Second Language living in Fairfax, Marin County and is an active board member of TFA. She has participated in delegations to Mexico in support of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, the teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, and migrants on the US/Mexican border. Rick Sterling is current board president of TFA. His interest with Latin America and the Third World began in 1969 when he spent 5 months hitch-hiking through Mexico and Central America. Rick writes on international issues for Global Research, Dissident Voice, Mint Press News, TruePublica and RT.
(SYLE) Let’s Learn about Servas Language Experiences! (Sunday)
Have you heard of the Servas program called SYLE (Servas Youth Language Experience)? Young Servas members from all over the world are immersing themselves in new languages through the Servas network. Hear first hand from a participant, and about how SYLE happens behind the scenes.
Bio: Raleigh LaCombe is a user experience designer living in Los Angeles. For several years she has helped young Servas members planning SYLEs for a few years, and she did a SYLE herself to learn Hindi in India. In 2019, Raleigh was elected to the Servas Board of Directors.
Creating Peace Together — Servas at the U. N. (Sunday morning)
Many Servas members do not know that Servas is affiliated with the United Nations in New York, Switzerland, and Vienna. We will explain why and how. We will introduce the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and talk about how Servas partners with NGOs to build a just and peaceful world.