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Title TVind Statement by Professor Alan Somerset
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A statement by Professor Alan Somerset, University of Western Ontario, drafted for wide circulation within the academic community in Canada, the USA and Britain and also sent to the Canadian Association of University Teachers: I am writing about an organization with many faces, many identities; the most familiar ones are: IICD ( International Institute for Co-operation and Development ), HPP ( Humana People-to-People ), and Planet Aid. If any of these organizations is recruiting, advertising or engaging in other activities on your university campus, I urge that you read on, investigate the organization carefully, and get your university authorities to do the same. I am confident that once you have done this, you and your university will wish to see their activities stopped! These organizations are all part of the same Denmark-based international operation named Tvind , the activities of which have been documented in scores of countries. Members of Tvind are known as the Teachers Group, and they are the directors of the various schools or other component organizations in the field. The leader of Tvind, Mogens Amdi Petersen, was arrested in Los Angeles in 2002, extradited to Denmark and faced criminal charges there. Briefly, this organization (under its many names) masquerades as a third-world development aid and charitable organization, while in reality it enriches itself by appropriating much of the money donated for its own uses. Why have I written this letter? A daughter, aged 22, was recruited in 2001 as a volunteer overseas development worker by IICD, because she saw this as a way to go to Zambia and work, as she aspires to do, in overseas aid. She went to the IICD Development Training School in Dowagiac, Michigan, beginning in mid-December. The story she was told is that she and her team would be given development-aid training, language instruction and other training to enable them to operate effectively in Zambia. For this training, they were required to pay $3300 each. In addition, they would fund-raise in the US to support the work overseas, and after six months they would be sent to Zambia. The reality was far different! Most important, there was no training or instruction offered. Language training was self-instruction; one member of the team learned words from a book and taught them to the others on the team. Just before they began to fund-raise (by canvassing, or begging on the streets, in cities in the US) they were told that the money raised would go towards the IICD school s expenses, the largest component of which was rent paid, of course, to Tvind! This meant that the Dowagiac school was chronically short of funds food was at times inadequate or unavailable, phones were cut off, the electricity supply was threatened with disconnection, vehicles were inoperable, small animals (pets) did not receive proper food or needed veterinary attention, and break-ins and thefts revealed serious problems with security. I saw all this when we visited in 2002, so I know what I am talking about. Each team member was required to bring in an additional $5600 by fund-raising, which would require that at least half or more of the training time be spent on the streets in Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, etc (where they were allowed only $3 per day each for food and expenses, and were billeted in sometimes-dubious locations). But the volunteers kept at it, because they wanted to live their dreams of aiding in the third world. When I was in Dowagiac in 2002 a team destined for Guatemala, having completed their fundraising and having made final plans for departure, were told that their project in Guatemala had collapsed and that they could not go! After much struggle they received cheques for their $3300 tuition and the school kept all the money they had fund-raised. After their departure they experienced difficulties with clearing these cheques through their banks. My daughter continued to be assured that the projects in Zambia were assured, that they were assisted by the Zambian government, and that the team members currently in the field were operating successfully. Because of a lot of research that our family had carried out (and the horrible conditions that we saw in Dowagiac!) we discussed the issue with our daughter and she made the, for her, difficult decision to leave IICD Michigan with us. When we arrived home, after a day-long drive, our daughter had received that day an e-mail from a member of the team who was supposed to be in Zambia, but who had returned home. She wrote that the real reason that she came home was because the HOPE projects in Zambia were quickly turning into disasters. The projects weren t being funded; the volunteers weren t receiving their subsistence allowances on time (or were only receiving part of what they needed to live). One week the volunteers had nothing to eat but plain slices of white bread. The organization was also taking unfair advantage of the African workers, who were the backbone of the work on the project. As I said above, IICD/Tvind masquerades as an overseas development organization, but it is, really, nothing but a racket that exploits dedicated volunteers and the people they are trying to help. And as my daughter put it, very succinctly: first of all, the organization lies all the time� You might be thinking, but this is an isolated case, an isolated story� This could be a fair reaction to a personal experience, but I assure you that my daughter s experience is not unique! There is abundant evidence of Tvind s corruption, which extends through all of its component organizations. This can be found on a web site, at: http://www.tvindalert.org.uk I urge you to investigate this site carefully, read the many newspaper articles, first-hand accounts, police charges and other materials on this site, and follow the links to other sites that investigate Tvind, IICD, and other of its components. I am sure that, when you have done so, you will conclude, as we did, that Tvind and its creature-organizations must be excluded from university campuses everywhere. Thank you for your attention and concern, Professor Alan Somerset Department of English University of Western Ontario London Canada N6A 3K7