U. S. Servas

promoting world peace one conversation at a time…


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International Cultural Faire

For the past 10 years, United States Servas sponsors an information table at the annual University of California Berkeley International House Cultural Faire which takes place for visitors, new students and parents, alumnae and visitors  on the University of California’s (Berkeley Campus) CAL DAY  . There are two floors of the International House dedicated to cultural dances and music, food and informational tables.This year the Polish Consulate was the sponsor of the event. In the past the Peace Corps, Rotary International and other consulates were some of the sponsors.
This year the Servas informational table was located between to the Swiss Consulate table and the UN UNA table. The San Francisco Bay area Servas members and friends were invited to staff the Servas booth. The US Servas BOX ( on loan from the Servas Office) provided the basic Servas informational materials, the colorful Servas brochures , Servas business cards, sample host lists, sample Servas forms and an international list of the number of hosts in each country . The BOX which was designed for such occasions  was supplemented by a locally designed Servas Banner “Travel the World as a Guest of Servas” , 2 maps – one of the world, the other of the US States , 2 sample LOIs of 2 of my college Servas guests – one Domestic, this year a Servas Campus Connection Florida student named Togzan from Kazakhstan and the other a dental student with an International LOI from Servas Ukraine. There is a sign-up list for those who want to attend a local Servas Events. Eight (8) signed up for invitations which are sent electronically by event organizer and interviewer Susan Ovington.
The 60th Servas  Anniversary mini table Poster created by Servas host, Wernher Krutein, with a globe of faces young and old, different races and some in ethnic dress entitled “Servas, Travel the World, Experience the Culture” “Peace Through Cross Cultural Homestays”  which  lists  over 100 Servas Countries was a definite magnet for Faire goers.  The first thing that the viewers want to know is my country on this list or are the countries where I want to visit on the list.
Because there are so many informational tables, the wandering Servas volunteers visit other tables to learn about the sponsors and introduce Servas to them with Servas business cards. For those interested in traveling, the volunteer refers to the “Servas International Host List  Statistics 2013” (provided by the office which they carry with them) which tells how many hosts there were in each country that the potential traveler is interested in visiting. This list of statistics is a powerful tool  for those staffing the information table as well as the wandering Servas volunteers experiencing the faire and ethnic foods and drinks.
At the April 7, 2013 Servas Potluck at the home of Enid Pollack in Oakland,  there were about 30 present ( of which  9 were new to Servas)  Volunteers were recruited to staff the Servas Table at the  April 20,2013 UCB Cultural Faire,.  Each volunteer signed up for 2-hour shifts. I want to thank volunteers Barry Burgess, Enid Pollock, Tom Coroneos, Patricia Schaffarczyk, and Peter Baluk.
Peter and his son  met Togzan and me at the San Francisco Ocean Beach.  Peter wondered how I could meet someone from Kazakhstan.  He was interested in learning more about Servas and its international host system. He said he would be  interested in attending a Servas Potluck. He was invited and did come to the next Potluck across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland.There he met many Servas members and  learned more about Servas before volunteering to staff the UCB Servas Booth while not yet a  Servas member himself. He loved his I House experience with so many Polish foods and programs being himself a Polish refugee whose family fled to/settled in England where he was raised. He certainly was an excellent promoter of Servas.
Servas working events are a wonderful way to build friendship among Servas and non-Servas volunteers.
Photos from ihouse stlz
Mary Jane Mikuriya, Northern California Regional Servas Coordinator
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Earth Day Peace Project

Another Peace Project completed!

Celebrating Earth Day 2013 was a success for the U.S. Servas Staff. A small group of us gathered to clean up our town’s plaza and streets. Our main goal was to pick us as many cigarette butts as we could, as well as any other garbage that we found. Over a short time we each filled up our trash bags with all sorts of trash that was mostly hidden from view. Interesting found objects included:

1 Plastic Snake

2 Children’s Socks (mismatched)

1 Lemon

1 Lime

Various Beer and Liquor Containers

& Lots of Cigarette Butts

We were surprised at the amount of cigarette butts laying around our streets which are  generally kept  clean by our towns people. It just goes to show how litter can go unnoticed and then cause environmental toxicity down the line. For more information about the dangers of toxic litter such as cigarette butts (which don’t biodegrade) please visit http://www.legacyforhealth.org/our-issues/cigarettes-and-the-environment/help-us-stop-toxic-litter

Here are some photos from the project. We would love to hear of any Peace Projects you our fellow Servas members are involved with; let us know!

Amy and Rachel!april 2013 5april 2013 7


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April Peace Project: Toxic Litter Cleanup

We have decided on our April Peace Project and want you to join us!

On Sunday April 21st, the day before Earth Day 2013, the U.S. Servas Office is  going to host a Toxic Litter Cleanup in our town of Arcata in order to clean up our environment, give back to mother Earth, and raise awareness about one of the most common forms of litter in the United States: cigarette butts.

Inspired by Legacy For Health, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and their campaign called “Rethink Butts” we hope to collect and properly dispose of as many cigarette butts as we can in and around our town. Rethink Butts aims to help stop toxic litter and educate the public about the dangers of tobacco waste on the environment, and on human and animal health. We hope to do the same and encourage you to organize a cigarette butt clean up in your area or simply become more conscious of the number of cigarette butts around you.

Below are some thought-provoking quotations from Rethink Butts’ literature:

  • “In an increasingly health and environmentally conscious world, cigarette butts remain one of the only socially acceptable forms of littering left.”
  • “And they’re the number one littered item on US roadways and the number one item found on beaches and in waterways worldwide.”
  • “On Earth Day, April 22nd, more than a billion people in 180 countries around the world will commit to promoting environmental action.”
  • “Tobacco litter clean-up is a substantial cost to cities each year.”
  • Tobacco “filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate which is technically biodegradable under ‘ideal’ conditions, but in practice does not biodegrade when tossed on the street or on a beach. Even under ideal conditions, cigarette filters can take years to breakdown, merely breaking up into small particles of toxic waste.”
  • “Cigarette butts are toxic to people and animals” because of the hundreds of chemicals found in cigarettes.

For more information you can go to Rethinkbutts.org to download a fact sheet, a toolkit for promoting awareness in your area, see the PSA video, and have access to many more sources of information about cigarettes and the environment.

We will keep you posted about the meeting time and place for our April 21st Toxic Litter Cleanup, and hope to have you join us! 🙂


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Inspiration from Servas Malawi

A week into April and we at the U.S. Servas Office are busy brainstorming ideas for our upcoming peace projects.

We have recently been inspired by Servas Malawi’s accomplishments at networking, community service, and spreading peace. Over the last year, Servas Malawi has been working with 6 NGOs over the past year, they have created their own SYLE-volunteer programs, and given regular blood donations. If you are interested in traveling to Africa consider staying with a host in Malawi; they are very excited about having people visit from all over the world. 

We will keep you posted on our next peace projects! Go visit Malawi!


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Rita Golden Gelman’s Trip to all 50 States to Promote Gap Years for High School Graduates

One of our most dedicated Servas members, Rita Golden Gelman, is planning a cross-country trip in the near future along with like-minded nomads. She and her friends are “planning a 50-state tour of the U.S. to speak to schools, have meetings with leaders, and get as much publicity as possible….online, in print,  and on TV and radio….about the value of a Gap Year and international travel in general.”  Rita says one of their “strategies is to get local communities to raise money for Gap Year scholarships in their schools.”

As a long time member of Servas, Rita will be informally spreading the word about Servas on the tour as well. We will keep you updated about their journey on our blog in the future.

In the meantime if you are interested in learning more about Gap Years for you or your loved ones the American Gap Association is a great place to start.

Also, check out Rita’s website to get more information about her life as a nomad, her journeys with Servas, and her books.

Happy Travels!