Annual Message from National Secretary (2016)

Dear Servas members:

As an anthropologist, I love to share and listen to stories. With mass migration of tens of thousands of people over the past couple of years I think of the many stories to be told by these war-torn weary travellers. Westward-bound families walking from Syria and Afghanistan; thousands of Africans attempting long and dangerous crossings over empty Mediterranean seas, only to await border processing on European islands bursting their coastal seams with the constant flow of human migrants. We focus on the tragedy of departure, leaving one’s home for overcrowded tented refugee camps, originally conceived as temporary shelters but now blossoming permanent cities where children are born, health care is basic, and economies are created. These exhaustive treks carrying one’s belongings stuffed into a single knapsack must be painfully hard and arduous. We should focus on the arrival of these persistent souls to our homeland. For newcomers entering Canada brings many storied gifts: of cultural traditions to be shared, of languages to be learned, of a drive unmatched and tested through their travels, and of a commitment to actively participate as new Canadians.

I think of Canada’s commitment to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees, and to those friends, neighbours, and strangers working together to collect the minimum $30,000 to support a single family for their first year. We strive to be a nation that welcomes newcomers, but our past failures have led to several government apologies. As with any history, we learn from our errors in hopes of building a more positive future. When you open your door to a Servas traveller or you yourself are welcomed by a Servas host share these stories of departures, adventures, arrivals, and futures. Recognize that wherever we are from, we all wish for the same: love of family and friends, peaceful relations, good health, opportunity, and freedom to enjoy these gifts. Global peace involves public engagement and dialogue about and with each other. Respect, cultural tolerance, and making an effort to understand another’s culture; these are the ideals of Anthropology and, with my understanding, of Servas. Because of these shared ideals, Servas’ purpose and aims warms and invigorates my anthropological spirit. I believe passionately in the importance and promotion of (inter) national travel and intercultural dialogue through my own travel experiences, and my involvement in orienting and working with Canadian university students participating in the Madaba Plains Project archaeological dig in Jordan, or in the shared teaching of Canadian university students in Kenya and Uganda through the Study in Africa programme.

My vision for Servas Canada is to build on these intercultural communications by:
• nurturing ongoing dialogue between hosts and travellers through shared stories;
• bringing an awareness of Servas’ mandate of (inter)national peace and goodwill;
• encouraging communications through the Servas Canada website, social media and the e-newsletter;
• assisting members, especially youth, to share in the global Servas community through an efficient online access and registration process;
• promoting Servas travel and language exchange opportunities;
• targeting Servas outreach to new communities such as campus connections; and
• most basically, supporting member involvement in Servas Canada activities.

As National Secretary, I hope to bring to Servas Canada a readiness to listen and act on ideas, and a leadership to the community that supports “how things work”[1] recognizing that there is always room for growth and improvement. I look forward to working with an involved Board of Directors and non-Board officers who share a passion for Servas, and of hearing from Servas Canada members. We are, after all, one world.

[1] The Tao of Leadership by John Heider 1988.

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