World travelling peacebuilders visit Significant Seams

Last week a friendly ‘delegation’ from Servas International, who had just attended the Servas Britain Annual Gathering held in Okehampton, visited Significant Seams near Crediton to learn more about our founder’s artistic practice and the organisation’s community building and arts for mental health work.

Servas – a United Nations associated NGO – is an international, non-profit, non-governmental federation of national Servas groups, encompassing an international network of hosts and travelers. The purpose of the network is to help build world peace, goodwill and understanding by providing opportunities for personal contacts among people of different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities.

Nine people from all around Great Britain, including Wales, London, and North Yorkshire, from a varied set of backgrounds: medicine, farming, catering, the arts shared homemade date and ginger cake (made by one of the visitors) and talked about eco dyes, arts for health, trends in education, and the decades long friendships made via travelling with an intention for connection with people from varied life experiences.

The idea of Servas grew from a group of people calling themselves “Peacebuilders” in 1949 in Denmark. After the devastation of World War II, American conscientious objector Bob Luitweiler and his friends in Europe and the United States were deeply concerned about the state of the world and decided to work together for world peace.

With the aim of working actively for peace and social justice, with other peace movements they came up with the idea of a work-study travel system that made it possible for people of various nations to travel in a more thoughtful way, by visiting the homes of hosts offering hospitality.

Servas developed from the network set up to achieve these aims, reaching out to people who shared the same goals and who were ready to offer free hospitality for like-minded people. Within a few years the movement had taken root in a number of countries, with people willing to open their doors to others travelling within the network.

At the first international meeting in 1952, the network was renamed Servas, meaning “we serve” in Esperanto, a language invented in the 19th century to be a kind of “world language”. Twenty years later, in 1972 Servas International was set up, with its registered office in Switzerland. The organization has an executive committee of international officers and regional coordinators elected at international Servas conferences. The United Nations put Servas International on its list of associated non-governmental organizations in 1973.