The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

02 August 2007

Meet fellow peacemakers in their homes

Are you internationally minded and committed to world peace? If so, you can travel the world and stay with local people, or invite travellers from abroad to share your home for a night or two.

Servas means "serve" in Esperanto. Servas encourages people to meet up with others on the Servas network when they are travelling. Servas has a network of 13,000 hosts and travellers all of whom are interested in helping build a world of peace, goodwill, understanding and mutual tolerance. This is how the scheme works.

If you would like to offer hospitality to travellers of any race and culture, you can become a Servas host.

If you are a traveller and want to stay with Servas hosts when you are travelling, apply to become a Servas traveller. To apply, get in touch with your local contact person – who will interview you, and then approve you. Servas travellers are of every race, creed and nationality.

Servas hosts provide a bed for two nights (or longer, but only at the host's invitation) and usually invite the traveller to share in the evening meal. The host is not expected to provide transport for the traveller, although some may want to show the traveller places of interest in the host’s community.

The host will ask to see the traveler’s Letter of Introduction to make sure it is up to date, and keep a record of travellers' name(s) and address(es) in a Visitor Book.

The host should explain the 'rules of the house' to the traveler, and set aside some time to talk with a traveller. The host is free to decline a request for accommodation if involves inconvenience to the host.

Hosts not able to provide overnight accommodation can join as Day Hosts. A Day Host will find a convenient time to meet the traveller, may provide information or a guided tour, or a work-place visit, a meal, or just find time for a chat.

As a host, your name will appear in your country's Host List, which is published each year. Hosts normally re-register each year so the List is kept up to date.

To be a traveller, you must be 18 years or over. Your interviewer will check that you are responsible, open minded and likely to be a good member of Servas. When approved, you will be given a Letter of Introduction which is your Servas 'passport' and is valid for one year.

Host Lists are provided for the countries a traveller will be visiting. A deposit is required for Host Lists, and this is refunded when the lists are returned together with a travel report. If a Host List cannot be provided for a particular country, the traveller will be given the address and telephone number of the contact in that country from whom a list can be obtained. Host Lists are private documents for members only, and should be returned at the end of a trip so that they are available for other travellers.

The traveller will show this Letter of Introduction on arrival at the host's home.

The traveller should always ask before using a host's phone, and should pay for all calls.

At the end of a trip, the traveller should write a short report for the Servas National Secretary, listing the hosts they have stayed with, and giving useful advice to other travellers. [contributed by Kay M Cleish]

Or would you prefer to spend some time working on an organic farm?
Doing nothing this weekend? Want some fresh air and to do something useful. Then check out World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (it used to be called Working Weekends on Organic Farms):

Sue Coppard, the Founder of Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms describes how WWOOF came into being: I grew up on the outskirts of East Croydon, running around in the Shirley Hills, and then we moved to Hove, where my brother and I used to stay with my aunt and uncle on their farm near Uxbridge. I remember picking wildflowers, building dams in streams, sliding down haystacks and generally running wild.

In 1971, I was living in London and working as a secretary at Resurgence magazine, having a wonderful time - London in the 70s was very swinging - but I desperately missed being able to get out to the countryside. I thought that if I offered to help out on a farm, they would let me stay.

And then I thought it might be lonely on my own, but maybe other people would want to do it, too. I mentioned it to a journalist I knew, who put me in touch with John Davy, the vice-principal of Emerson College, where they study bio-dynamic agriculture. He asked the people running the college farm, who were sceptical - they didn't really want townies playing about in the countryside - but they agreed.

I put a small ad in Time Out, and 15 people answered. Two of them went down with me and the farm managers made us do what is known as housework: clearing encroaching brambles and cleaning out ditches. It was idyllic. By the end of the weekend, the farm managers said we could come back whenever we wanted.

Soon, the organisation got so big it began to dominate my life. I took a back seat and with other people in charge it has gone from strength to strength. Since 1971, 43 different countries have become involved, including Australia, China, America, Ghana, Finland and Hawaii. I'm staggered at what has happened, but immensely proud too.

After her year backpacking abroad, Sue rejoined the WWOOF Organisers. And as WWOOF grew, so did the tasks involved. The team proliferated: Troubleshooter, Exhibitions Organiser, Meetings Organiser, Regional Organisers, helping overseas WWOOFs get started, Newsletter Editor, and compiling the Fix-It-Yourself List for direct contact with hosts (WWOOF began with Scheduled Weekends only), etc.etc. There were also Projects such as the (indestructible) tea towel, exhibition posters, sturdy WWOOF aprons, and the 'WWOOF Directory of Organisations and Training in the UK Organic Movement' - the first such directory, which sold to officialdom and a wide and varied public.

WWOOF continues to grow flexibly and organically because so many people have given - and give - their expertise, hard work and inspiration. Promoting worldwide friendships and support, spreading valuable knowledge, helping people find a more fulfilling life, championing the environment - indeed the Planet, meeting wonderful individuals, and simply making people happy because they can have contact with Nature: WWOOF contributes a very positive influence wherever it spreads.
[from The Guardian, 7.3.06]


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