In 1948 an American conscientious objector, Bob Luitweiler, and a group of friends met at a folk school in Denmark and set up an organisation called ‘Peacebuilders.’ Their idea was to work for peace, to make contact with other peace movements, and to create a work-study-travel programme so young people could ‘learn the ways of peace.’ They set up a network of people who shared these goals and who would give free hospitality for like-minded people.
Within a few years the movement had taken root in a number of countries. Lists of people willing to open their doors to people travelling within the network, and the responsibilities of both host and traveller, were being circulated. Working committees had been set up, and Britain, Germany and the US had enlisted large numbers of hosts. At the first international meeting in Germany in 1952 it was decided to change the name to Servas meaning “We Serve” in Esperanto. In 1973, The United Nations placed Servas on its roster of non-governmental organisations .
Since its beginnings, Servas has expanded to include more than a hundred countries. Each Servas country is an independent, volunteer organisation which sets its own criteria for approving hosts and travellers, for deciding fees and for publishing their own host lists. At regular international meetings common goals and problems are discussed. Servas has kept to its goal of striving for world peace by providing the opportunities for people of all cultures, races, and backgrounds to meet and share with others their mutual concerns.