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.
1. Mr. Bob Luitweiler one of the initiators of SERVAS visited Mr. Harivallabh Parikh (popularly known as “BHAI”) in 1951 and asked BHAI to start SERVAS chapter in India.
1951-52 was the beginning of SERVAS in India under the presidentship of BHAI and for 50 long years i.e. till 2001 he served as National Secretary (President) of INDIA SERVAS (Ref: Seeds of SERVAS – Bob Luitweiler). During his tenure – started in 1951-52 with 75 open door hosts and 6 Gandhian Organisations.
During 1951-58 BHAI succeeded in arranging sufficient hosts all over INDIA with printed SERVAS INDIA hostlist.
2. In 1962, First National Conference of SERVAS INDIA was held at Anand Niketan Ashram Rangpur where 65 SERVAS members from 16 States of INDIA attended.
In 1966, Indian SERVAS group attended SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference in TOKYO(Japan) and toured Japan for 26 days. Before this SERVAS group from USA visited BHAIJI under the leadership of Ms.Reva King and held detailed discussions.
2nd National Conference of Indian SERVAS was successfully held at Rangpur in 1968 where 80 hosts attended the Conference.
3. 1969 being Gandhi’s centenary year, a group of 36 SERVAS AUSTRIA members came to take part in INDIA. They were headed by Mr. Kurt Schmidt (the then SERVAS secretary).In 1970, BHAI attended SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference in Vienna-Austria. At the same time there was another international peace conference in VIENNA which BHAIJI attended followed by visits to Denmark, England, USA and Canada at the request of SERVAS hosts and others who had been to BHAIJI’s Rangpur Ashram earlier.
4. A Group of 22 USA SERVAS travellers visited India in 1971. Indian SERVAS had arranged their entire journey and the group was very happy with the arrangements.
5. In 1973, BHAI was invited by Community Aid Abroad and Freedom Hunger Movement, Australia. BHAIJI spent 1 month and met several Australian homes and made people interested in SERVAS. This was followed by a group of 19 USA SERVAS travellers visiting India again and BHAIJI attending SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference in LOS ANGELES, USAin 1976.
6. In the SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference held at Denmark in 1978, BHAIJI had taken a group of Indian Hosts where they all made a request to allow SERVAS INDIA to host the subsequent International Conference which was duly accepted by all.
7. Finally in 1980-81, SERVAS INDIA hosted the International Conference held at Rangpur Ashram –the head quarters of SERVAS INDIA.
8. BHAIJI then attended an International Conference in Israel in 1983, with Mr.Nagendra Patel, Mr. Ramsinh Rathwa and Mr.Suman. This was followed by their visits to various SERVAS Hosts in Italy and Denmark too.
9. In 1985, being an International Youth Year, Indian SERVAS conducted 100 Youth Camps across India.
10. BHAIJI then attended the SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference held in ROME – Italy in 1986. After his visit to ROME when BHAIJI returned, a meeting of 25000 youth was held at Gujarat India (it was the biggest youth camp ever held in India till then). For 10 days the participants worked for TREE PLANTATION Program to protect the environment.
11. In April 1991, Indian SERVAS conducted a tour with 25 participants for 30days under the leadership of BHAIJI.
12. During 1990 to May 1992, 567 foreign travellers visited BHAIJI at his ashram. Majority of them being from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and many more.
13. BHAIJI was elected SERVAS INTERNATIONAL PEACE SECRETARY at the International SERVAS Conference in 1992.
14. BHAIJI attended SERVAS INTERNATIONAL Conference held in BANGKOK - Thailand along with his grandson Mr. Tapan Joshi in 2001 where he received award for Outstanding Performance in SERVAS.
15. BHAIJI was National Secretary of SERVAS INDIA for 50years and then after stepping down he remains Honourary President. His son in law – Mr.Nagendra Patel was elected as his successor. Before stepping down, BHAIJI extended SERVAS reach to countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Srilanka.