Teachers Group College
Tvind Alert dossier (in preparation)
Campus California TG, USA
Teachers Group College
Teachers Group College
Williamstown (opened 1986)
The offshore companies
The Teachers Group controls three 'charity' used clothes collectors in the United States and Britain. It also controls several commercial clothes trading concerns, and several colleges which provide it with cheap labour.
Ultimately, all these charities, companies and colleges are connected to a network of Tvind-controlled, tax-efficient offshore companies.
The fraud trial
This is the very same network of offshore companies that is at the heart of the current European fraud trial against Amdi Petersen (left) and five other leaders of the Teachers Group cult. Petersen, the founder of Tvind and the Teachers Group, and the man alleged to have benefited by millions of dollars over the years, is currently charged with fraud and on the run from Danish police.
Who gets the clothes?
They are not given away - they are sold.
Most charities sell donated clothes, but the Teachers Group has a unique system. It sells many of the clothes to its own offshore companies, we believe evading tax and creaming off most of the profit for itself, often as 'operating costs'.
In Europe, journalists have reported on a Teachers Group financial scam which has operated for years. For a clear explanation, read Michael Bjerre's article on Humana Holland in the Danish newspaper, Berlingske Tidende (24th Aug 2002).
How much money goes to the Third World? Some, but probably not much. Read our dossier on the Tvind used clothes trade.
Planet Aid and the Teachers Group
Planet Aid is a Teachers Group enterprise.
The object is apparently to collect old clothes for charity and train volunteers to Africa. But Planet Aid is not just a simple charity - it is an important source of income for the $840 million Teachers Group, and part of a large multinational business.
Planet Aid is controlled by the Teachers Group, a body tainted by allegations of criminal financial misconduct. The Teachers Group is an international organisation based in Zimbabwe, whose leaders are currently facing prosecution for alleged fraud in Europe and are in hiding from the police. Claims that there is no connection between Planet Aid and the Teachers Group are entirely false.
Clothes collection bins and volunteering in the United States and Canada
For Planet Aid UK click here
Who runs Planet Aid and the Colleges?
Fred Olsson (general manager, Planet Aid).
Olsen is fond of telling journalists that Planet Aid Inc is an independent charity and has nothing to do with Tvind or its leader, Amdi Petersen.
In fact, Fred Olsson has worked within Tvind and been a Teachers Group member for many years. In 1980 he helped set up UFF, the Teachers Group recycling enterprise in Sweden. See newspaper articles about UFF in Sweden. Fred Olsson is surely a caring individual but he is misleading people when he says Planet Aid is unconnected with Tvind!
Recent Planet Aid board members
Most other senior managers at Planet Aid are equally clearly Tvind members. The directors and officers listed in the Planet Aid 2003 Annual Report are almost all members of the Tvind Teachers Group, and are in fact often employed in running other Tvind enterprises in the USA. The key TG members are:
Mikael Norling (chairman) - Planet Aid founder. A TG member and close associate of Amdi Petersen, notorious for his support of Cambodian tyrant Pol Pot in the 1970s. He now fundraises for Planet Aid on Wall Street.
Ester Neltrup (president) - co-founder, and a former principal of IICD Massachusetts.
Jytte Martinussen (treasurer) - also educational director of IICD Massachusetts
Eva Nielsen (director) - also runs Gaia
Bob Dzere - (director) program director at IICD Michigan
Soren Hofdahl (a director in 199). Hofdahl is also the Teachers Group farmer in charge of the Teachers Group plantations on St. Lucia and a director of the UK registered company Mt Lezard Estate Ltd since around 1993.
US and Canada media reports
Toronto Star:(26th April 2002) 'Charity collected gave $1.7m, gave $0.'
The Commons, Windham County, Connecticut (1st June 2006): Planet Raid? by Les Kozaczek. (PDF) " According to Planet Aid’s 2004 tax return, the corporation listed gross sales of $9,968,728 and expenses of $9,689,682, even though all of the merchandise Planet Aid sold was acquired for free." The report also notes that "the hairsbreadth profit margin that Planet Aid recorded on this tax return, and the typically small margins it has filed over the years" have concerned local people.
Lawrence Journal-World, Kansas (2nd April 2006): Investigation into Planet Aid.
The Pitch, Kansas (12th May 2005): Boxed In? Used-clothing collectors Planet Aid say they’re not in a cult. By Bryan Noonan.
Baltimore City Paper (20th October 2004): Adventures in the Rag Trade - Do Clothes Dropped Into Planet Aid Boxes Support International Aid or an International For-Profit Scheme? By Erin Sullivan.
Chicago Tribune (12th Feb 2004): The Green Bins of Gaia. Major two part investigation into Gaia recycling. Makes the link between Gaia and Planet Aid. By David Jackson and Monica Eng.
Boston Globe (April 7th 2002): 'Planet Aid's Work Draws Worldwide Scrutiny'. By Farah Stockman.
Boston Magazine (Oct 2000): 'Mission Control' - in-depth feature on the Teachers group. "In the USA In 1970, a group of Danish hippies set out on a mission to save the world. Thirty years later, some of the young acolytes they recruited claim the group has become a cult, amassing riches in the hundreds of millions of dollars under the direction of an elusive and mysterious founder. Now, with recruiting efforts reaching into the United States, ex-members say the mission is no longer to save the world but to conquer it. North American headquarters? Massachusetts." By Jay Cheshes
Your stories about Planet Aid.....
Thank you very much for your work on this site. My experience with Tvind came through my employment with Planet Aid in the role of Collections Manager in Philadelphia from May, 2006 to June, 2007. What I experienced with Tvind/Planet Aid mirrors much of what this website has already espoused.
Aside from my issues with the cultish nature of the organization and obvious money tracking issues, the most disheartening detail of my experience was with the way they treated the live-in workers that my managers housed. During my employment we had a worker from Africa come to learn the roles of managing and to develop skills for later on. The outcome, in my opinion, was exactly the opposite.
For all intents and purposes she was a slave. She was not allowed to leave their house, disappointing to me because I was anxious to show her how great a city that Philadelphia is and to get her to see the history of the city in relation to America (i.e. the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc.). Just simple trips that everyone who visits Philadelphia for a day should make, let alone someone who lives there for over six months.
She was often forced to work unpaid overtime, beings that they would not allow her to get her drivers license in order to provide her own transportation to work. She was at their mercy to come and leave the office when they did. Often times she would arrive at 8:00 am and stay in the office till 7:00 pm or later with them. The difference being that she was actually doing hard, laborious work while they stayed huddled in an isolated office and played video games and Skyped other Tvind members. She would also work long hours on Saturdays, without extra compensation to my knowledge. The managers, as well as other people in TG, were very good at convincing themselves that they were contributing to something and being productive when they are actually having no impact. This applies from the top on down, from the projects in foreign other countries to actually running the “fundraising” businesses in the US. The “Managers” (2) had no formal training and were often too inept to handle the most simple of managerial tasks. Often times they would pass along the duties to other workers and at the same time demand more their employees. Their inexperience became more apparent during stressful times when tempers would often be lost, leading to one-sided screaming matches to be followed a few hours later by empty apologies.
From a financial aspect, they withheld her pay to contribute to the “Common Fund”, the benefit to her contribution being unclear, and would threaten her by taking away what limited privileges she did have. They also made her pay an exorbitant amount for rent, considering three of them lived together and she had to pay $800/month in a house that cost $1600/month (it should have been split to $535 per person). They also required her to pay $200 per month for food, which only included dinners. I have personally verified this information. She would often be very upset cause her family could not understand why she was unable to send more money back to them in Africa, further heightening the amount of stress she was enduring.
They were extremely hard on her and the work she was doing considering the hours that she worked and the fact that their afore mentioned inept managing skills often placed us in difficult positions from an operational standpoint. This worked effectively on her, as she was intimidated and understandably hesitant to speak out. It did not work on another woman we had from Africa who successfully lobbied to be moved to another office after only three weeks of being at our location.
Overall her experience in Philadelphia was a miserable one. It often weighed on my how an organization whose goal was “Solidary Humanism” could allow someone to be treated so poorly. Already wavering due to the cultish rumors and the nefarious network of companies, my faith was completely lost in the organization after her repeated attempts to be transferred to another office were ignored by the upper management (she emailed Ester Nelrup and Fred Olsen directly multiple times). Finally she was moved to another office and her spirits have changed, as evident in the nature of recent communications, however the damage has been done.
Of course the argument can be made that this was an isolated case in a single location, however I do think that it is deeper than that. I have also seen the same attitudes of superiority and practices reflected at the schools in Michigan and Massachusetts, both of which I visited numerous times. This was also troublesome, considering they were exploiting the well intentioned, however undereducated youth (I myself have a Masters from a top-tier university) who were quite impressionable and were not being effectively educated on the processes of development.
Personally, I now value the experience I had. But this is not due to some altruistic feeling or sense of accomplishment in the field of international development. But rather by gaining the knowledge to examine organizations for the truth in fulfilling their goals and the personal aspects of how to behave in the workplace as well as the managerial skills that I was forced to develop which are helping me in my new career.
Thanks again for your great work,