James Dorsey and Alison Bing are this year’s Keynote speakers. Check out the full list of conference speakers below!
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 18travel 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, 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 that nearly cost our lives, work in the mine fields of Cambodia, and finally go on a baboon hunt in Tanzania with hunter/gatherers who used him as bait.
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 30days, and trusting a camel to guide her. She has survived to tell tales for BBC, NBC, NPR, Telegraph, Guardian, 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.
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 avery 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 2014independent 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.
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
Carlos Cartagena is an artist living in San Francisco who works in painting, print mking, installiations, and mixed media. In 2009, he founded a cultural project in his San Francisco studio, No Right Turn Studio, hoping to fill a gap in our Latin American community. Art can be used as commentary on social problems and even as resistance to the forces that create those problems or fail to address them. Political turmoil, economic greed and environmental deterioration have caused incredible human suffering in many parts of the world. The migrations seen today in many parts of the world are results of these social problems. Migration can be seen as a positive act of those who are migrating of their own accord, but often communities are displaced entirely against their will. As an artist, Carlos Cartagena wishes to share the stories of those who are most vulnerable and to provide an artistic platform for them to be heard and understood. Carlos Cartagena creates work with and about refugees, ultimately creating understanding, through which we can begin to think of compassionate solutions and begin to walk the path of transcendence.
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 three books on Gandhi and non-violence, forty-eight research papers published in journals both in India and around the world, and almost one hundred 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. And it is more than a creed for personal interaction. Gandhi applied non-violence not only to individuals but also at the social, economic, political and cultural level. He showed us how to use it to build a safer world.
Nancy Petranto has been involved with AFS-USA since her summer abroad to Bangkok Thailand in 1970. She is currently one of three AFS Support Coordinators in the Bay Area, assisting AFS Liaisons who support international exchange students and their host families. In the past, Nancy has hosted four exchange students; subsequently, she visited three of them and their natural families in their home countries, as well as returning twice to visit her own host family in Thailand. She is a retired attorney and lives with her family in Novato, CA.
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.
AFS-USA has a vast nationwide alumni network — former youth participants who are now adults. 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.
Nancy and Robert Mitchell have been members of both Servas and Friendship Force for many years, and both have served on the Servas Board of Directors. They have taken more than 15 journeys with Friendship Force, including a specialized journey to bring medical and school supplies to Myanmar. They are currently co-vice presidents of the Greater Milwaukee Friendship Force Club. 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.” This organization was called Friendship Force. Friendship Force 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 learn what Friendship Force has to offer you — and the world.
Carol and Rick will show photos and talk about Task Force on the Americas, founded in 1985 to support refugees coming from Central America. They will discuss how they connect with activists and community organizers in a variety of countries, including Honduras, Venezuela, Uruguay, Haiti and Mexico; the political and social forces at play; what they have witnessed; and how they follow up afterward.
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.
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
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, a current Board member of US Servas and Treasurer of Servas International, 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 group 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
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.