SERVAS IS an international cooperative network of hosts and travelers, begun in 1948, helping to build world peace, understanding and goodwill through personal contacts with people from cultures all around the world. It was set up as a cultural, non-profit, non-governmental, interracial and interfaith organization, and it is recognized as one of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The name SERVAS, an Esperanto word meaning "to serve," was chosen to exemplify the spirit of international mutual service which characterizes the movement toward peace.
SERVAS now has hosts in about 90 countries across 6 continents with approximately 3,000 travelers being approved world wide each year who make around 12,000 home visits. Over the years, SERVAS has developed simple yet effective procedures that enable all this visiting to go smoothly. Both hosts and travelers have to be approved through their regional SERVAS group before they can be part of the network. Travelers receive a directory of hosts that gives a short profile of each host family (interests, languages spoken, special requirements, etc.) for each country they will be visiting. They are expected to contact in advance the hosts they would like to stay with, and then spend 2 nights unless asked to stay longer. There is no exchange of money (except for specific expenses like long distance phone calls). Hosts are expected to share meals and to provide simple accommodations. Both hosts and travelers are expected to take the time to get to know each other.
SERVAS is supported through volunteers and donations from travelers, hosts and supporters. For further information about becoming a host or traveler, write to: U.S. SERVAS COMMITTEE, Inc., 11 John St., Room 406, New York, NY 10038, and they will put you in touch with a SERVAS representative near you.