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.
Read Bob Luitweiler's own story about the early days of Servas in The Seeds of Servas