BBC HomeExplore the BBC


Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

PROGRAMME FINDER:
Programmes
Podcasts
Schedule
Presenters
PROGRAMME GENRES:
News
Drama
Comedy
Science
Religion|Ethics
History
Factual
Messageboards
Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 

factual
FACE THE FACTS
MISSED A PROGRAMME?
Go to the Listen Again page
Face the Facts
Transcript : Face the Facts - 22 August 2008
THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

FACE THE FACTS: Aid College

Presenter: John Waite

TRANSMISSION: FRIDAY 22ND AUGUST 2008 1230-1300 BBC RADIO 4
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DAVID ROSE BUSKING

WAITE
David Rose there turned to earning a living busking after quitting his college course. A course supposed to prepare him to do worthwhile work in the developing world.
Nothing that unusual for an idealistic young man in his 20s. What is unusual is the college he and his partner left after just two months - to be followed by 10 fellow students, who found its strict insistence on money raising mind numbing, and not so much a college course as an endurance test.

ROSE
The working day - you had a morning spot - half past eight in the morning - this transpires to be what the teachers saw on the television the previous night. There's nothing, there's no information, nothing. You're constantly kept busy - you have breakfast after that, if you're preparing the breakfast you get up at seven o'clock in the morning and you dish the breakfast out, then afterwards you wash up as well. And then you're sent out on the street to fundraise. By that I mean selling magazines. Begging in the street, you sell these magazines for £2.

WAITE
The institution which David Rose joined last September is one of the most unusual and controversial educational establishments in the country. It claims to prepare students to do invaluable work in the developing world - yet its qualifications and training are not recognised by organisations like Oxfam or Voluntary Service Overseas.

Its literature - complete with pictures of African children - bears all the hallmarks of a developing world charity - yet in fact it's a company, albeit not-for-profit. It publishes no detailed accounts and students we have spoken to are unclear about where the money is going.

And far from it being a learning institution, former students of the College for International Co-operation and Development, based at Patrington near Hull, have told us not of lectures and seminars but of long days slogging the streets to raise ever more cash. And there's no respite in the evening.

ROSE
As soon as you come back from fundraising there's games - singing to do - and this goes on till one o'clock in the morning. So you go back absolutely shattered and then you're up again first thing in the morning, there's no relaxation, there's no time to gather your thoughts, they keep you constantly occupied.

WAITE
Indeed former students of the college posted one of its musical evenings on You Tube - under the less than flattering title of CICD Freak Study Weekend.

CLIP - YOU TUBE
Singing

WAITE
Today we investigate complaints that this self-styled College for International Co-Operation and Development is virtually brain-washing students - by controlling their lives and imposing a gruelling workload. Students who've sometimes paid nearly £3,000 to enrol. We'll hear of the college's close links to a controversial company involved in the lucrative business of collecting and selling on second-hand clothes - and to an even more controversial organisation, Tvind, also known as "the Teachers Group" based in Denmark.

Well I'm now standing outside Winestead Hall, which is a sprawling complex of buildings, including right opposite me a two-storey country house covered in ivy. The place is about 20 miles east of Hull, it's set in 30 acres of beautiful parkland and it's just a stone's throw, if you go down the main drive there, to the Humber estuary and the sea. A former mansion with walled gardens and stables dating back to the 1700's, Winestead Hall has also served as a mental hospital. But today the house is home to the College for International Co-operation and Development. And before that from 1989 until 1998, it was a school.

DURHAM
It was originally a school for what we might call emotionally disturbed children.

WAITE
Journalist Mike Durham has followed the history of Winestead Hall closely.

DURHAM
Very, very disruptive children whom local authorities could not manage. And they paid to board and educate these children, so they were doing a public service. The point that needs to be made though is that they were earning a huge amount of money doing this. These figures come from a long time ago but I think it was something like £700 a week for each child and there were between 20 and 40 children at the school. They were making a vast amount of money.

WAITE
What happened to that money became a subject of growing concern even inside the school. Steen Thomsen was its principal from 1991 to 1998 and, for some of its sailing activities, for example, he couldn't understand why the school had to rent boats ever year from Tvind, that organisation in Denmark, rather than buy them outright.

THOMSEN
I discovered that a ship which were hiring was 47 feet long, sailing boat, one of them, this ship which I realised would cost £80,000 on the market in England. But this amount we paid annually. Altogether we had four ships - two big sailing vessels and two smaller ones.

WAITE
In fact, documents we've seen suggest that the school based at Winestead Hall, and another in Norfolk, paid up to £7.7 million a year for the leasing arrangement.

But the sailing trips, along with skiing trips, and visits abroad, attracted growing criticism and in 1994 the then Health and Social Services Secretary, Virginia Bottomley, ordered an inquiry. The Charity Commission also took an interest and began its own investigation into the school and into a linked charity Humana UK, which was recycling clothes. The commission told us:

CHARITY COMMISSION STATEMENT
We discovered concerns relating to high administrative costs and the level of control over funds sent to Africa. Our inquiry led to the appointment of four additional independent trustees.

Those trustees forced the charity to close and new trustees were also appointed to run the school and were not impressed with what they found.

STATEMENT CONTINUES
The new trustees approached the commission with serious concerns about the welfare and safety of the children at the school and stated that the school should not be allowed to continue to operate.

So, the school that was here closed in January 1998 and Winestead Hall, here on the outskirts of Hull, entered a new phase. A college training volunteers to work in the developing world. The students changed, but many of those running the place did not.

PROMOTIONAL ADVERT
Training at CICD ...

The College for International Co-operation and Development

PROMOTIONAL ADVERT CONTINUES
...will qualify you to do development work in Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia or India. You have 14 months in front of you of education, training, fun and experiences, challenges, hard work and a sense of achievement. Go for it full blast, and it will be a "life changing" experience.

Although, as we say, those behind the college didn't change. The school was run by that Danish organisation, Tvind, so is the new college. The school buildings and grounds were owned by Tvind. Ditto the college. The current college principal is Karen Barsoe, formerly the accountant at the school and one time teacher there, Rolf Jakobsson, is now employed at the college. Mike Durham again:

DURHAM
What happened was that the school had originally been one kind of charity and it simply closed down as that charity and reopened with a different purpose but run by the same organisation on the same site with some of the same staff, all the same facilities. There was little taxpayers' money going into this college but at the same time there is very little oversight over it because it is a private college for over 16 year olds.

WAITE
And those young people have two ways of joining it. They can pay £2,800 to go straight onto the so-called Development Instructor course. They then have to raise usually around £2,500 more to fund an overseas trip. Or they can opt for a "Gaia Scholarship Programme" - paying a £250 registration fee up front, and then working for the college to raise the further £2,000 for the course. They're also asked to pay £650 for "travel expenses" - though the contract we've seen doesn't specify what that's for.

Mike Nelson, who's 22, is one of those who joined the Gaia scholarship scheme in 2004 and, despite everything that was to come, completed the CICD course.

NELSON
I actually wanted to do voluntary work, to see a different country, travel. I was living quite a hectic lifestyle, I was doing karate for several years, I was a black belt, fighting in European and World championships; I was at college; I had two part-time jobs ...

WAITE
And why CICD? How did you hear about them?

NELSON
This was in the Sun newspaper. There was not many in the Sun newspaper so I was quite surprised at seeing their advertisement.

WAITE
And what was it about the advertisement that you liked?

NELSON
It was volunteers wanted, no experience needed, apply within.

WAITE
Mr Nelson looked forward to learning how to help the developing world - as promised on the college's website.

PROMOTIONAL CLIP
Training will qualify you to do development work in Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia or India. You have 14 months in front of you full of education, training, fun and experiences, challenges and hard work.

Well, it was the "hard work" Mr Nelson remembers most. Cooking, cleaning floors, fridges, freezers - and his special responsibility..

NELSON
They had a sewage works, just outside the school campus, that had to be cleaned, this is where human disposal was. So someone had to clean this and this was actually my role for six months. So that was quite tough.

WAITE
Did you ever think of leaving?

NELSON
Many times.

WAITE
Why didn't you?

NELSON
I didn't want to be classed as a failure in my dad's eyes. I wanted to go to Africa actually.

WAITE
Mike Nelson finally left the course after six months in Hull and six months in Malawi. And married a fellow development instructor he'd met in Malawi who was from a college in Denmark also run by the Tvind.

Both Mike and his partner, however, grew disenchanted with the African operation, and in particular with the mountains of second-hand clothes, all charitably donated, which were being simply sold to the locals.

NELSON
I believed they were donated until I got to Malawi. Sacks of clothes would come, they would sort them out into sections and sell them to market vendors and before that they actually separated the clothes out, so like they picked the good stuff out and sell it in their shops.

WAITE
The website for "Humana People to People" - yet another member of the Tvind organisation - boasts…

HUMANA PEOPLE TO PEOPLE PROMOTION
Clothes and shoe sales in the northern, central and southern region of Malawi are generating funds for development projects in Malawi and providing many Malawians with good quality second-hand clothing…

And that clothing operation is another major feature of the finances of the Tvind Organisation. Humana UK - the charity that was closed down - was well known across the country for its second-hand clothes collection service via door-to-door leaflets asking for old clothes for the developing world.

And right now students of the college at Winestead Hall are busy working for an identical scheme to leaflet homes and pick up unwanted items.

CICD PROMOTION
Clothes and shoes collection. YOU can help us by donating your surplus clothes and shoes that can be used again…

A leaflet posted in Beverley in Yorkshire only this week.

CICD PROMOTION CONTINUED
We raise funds for training volunteers to work at development projects in Africa and India. We send volunteers to Angola, Botswana, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. We teach and take action against the spread of HIV and Aids. We care for street children and orphans.

Linda Beatrise, another former student from a year ago, delivered such leaflets, and picked up the clothes they generated. She was always trying to hit targets, she told us, because the more she collected, the more her college fees were reduced.

BEATRISE
That means you take leaflets, 1,000 of them approximately, and you go out on the streets, you have your map and you have to cover all your area or as much as you can and we go out, distribute all the leaflets in mailboxes. So it was physically hard. Everything was measured in bags, you worked for bags.

WAITE
All the students we've spoken to say this system of, in effect, commission-based work to pay off their fees is not only highly pressurised but, they felt, dishonest. Because, on occasion, they rattled collection tins for other companies which were part of the Tvind - the Teachers Group network.

Like Planet Aid UK Ltd - a clothes recycling concern based in Corby in Northamptonshire. Its director is Birgit Soe. Graham Bale was her deputy at Planet Aid UK from 1999 to 2004. Yet even so, he told us, he could never establish what happened to all the revenue from sales of donated clothing.

BALE
I've been out to Zimbabwe and I have seen some of the projects, which obviously have been supported by the Humana organisation. And there are projects which are working out there and - in various countries in Africa. So money is getting there and the projects - some of the projects are working. But to what extent or what percentage of the money is going out there, that I can't - I don't know and it's very difficult to find out.

WAITE
And you in effect were number two, even you couldn't get at the exact information about where this money you were raising you thought for good causes was actually ending up.

BALE
No, I was being told where it was going, which was the projects that we were supporting.

WAITE
But you didn't check up on that?

BALE
There was no way I could, I mean I asked the question and I was told that it was absolute rubbish, of course the money's gone there.

WAITE
Mr Bale is an experienced charity worker who's now running his own charity. And he was not alone in his concerns. Local councils began refusing to allow recycling bins on their land because Planet Aid was a company and not an official charity. And when Planet Aid UK Ltd simply installed dozens of its clothing bins in ASDA car parks without permission, Dominic Birch, from the supermarket, says Asda couldn't get at the truth of where the money was going either.

BIRCH
As far as we were aware they had just arrived and plonked down into the car park. Well we actually asked to see their accounts and had to actually go to get the lawyers involved and ask them to come back to Asda with proof, if you like, that they were who they said they were and we could understand where the money was going to go to.

WAITE
And so you say lawyers had to get involved before you could get this information out of Planet Aid?

BIRCH
Well we never got the information, so even following our legal letter asking for the information it wasn't forthcoming. And eventually we had to evict them from our car parks, so that we could ensure that the right clothing banks, run by the Salvation Army, were put in place in those stores.

WAITE
The college near Hull, Humana UK, Humana People to People, Planet Aid UK Ltd., - they're all part of the Tvind network and they all claim to be working for good causes. So why don't they simply register as a charity?

Well, if any of the Tvind organisations - which call themselves "not-for-profit" companies - became registered charities, there would be tax advantages for them. But then they would also have to publish annual accounts, with details of directors' pay, how much they're spending on admin, and how much of the money donated by the public actually reaches good causes.

So what is Tvind, this curious organisation behind a complex web of international companies? Known as the "Teachers Group", it's origins lie in the '70s, and over the years its aims and its methods have become increasingly controversial.

Five years ago, eight of its leading members stood trial in Denmark accused of illegally transferring money through fake companies.

One was convicted, the other seven acquitted. And when new fraud charges were brought against them, in November last year, they - including Tvind's leader Amdi Petersen - simply disappeared.

Journalist Mike Durham has set up a website to raise awareness about Tvind's global activities. And - because of its links with the teachers group - he wants its UK outpost, the college in Hull, to be investigated.

DURHAM
Somebody ought to be looking at the college in its wider context. Where that college sits in the organisation as a whole. It's a college, it provides some sort of education to students and it appears to be providing a network of volunteering. But at the same time there's no doubting that it is part of a much wider organisation which owns farms and businesses abroad which students are not told about, there is probably another agenda and that other agenda is very apparent when you look at the overall organisation which has very, very large investment in property, in business, in building, in boats and in commerce all over the world.

WAITE
Last Wednesday we visited the college for ourselves, where around 30 students had gathered in the dining hall to introduce themselves.

ERIKA
My name is Erika, I'm from Brazil and I want to work in the project, I go to a school in Mozambique.

PHILIP
Philip from Brazil and I'm going to Mozambique, farmers' club.

MASAKO
My name is Masako from Japan and I'm going to work at TTC - teachers training college.

WAITE
Afterwards came a song of welcome.

WELCOME SONG FROM COLLEGE STAFF AND STUDENTS

...from the teaching staff as well as students

After the introductions, I spoke to the current principal of the college, Karen Barsoe, and to Birgit Soe who's on the college board as well as being managing director of the clothes recycling company Planet Aid UK Ltd. .

Karen expressed surprise that Steen Thomsen, former head of the school on the site, had worried about how much money each year went into the coffers of Tvind in Denmark, as in his role as principal, she told me, he had full responsibility for the school's finances.

Donated clothes are sold in Africa, Birgit added, often at the instigation of local governments who don't want to create a nation of beggars.

And both were proud of the 22 training colleges around the world that had turned out more than 5,000 teachers and helped millions of people in developing nations.

Students cooking and cleaning every day was good preparation for their time abroad - and every college has its share of drop outs. On average, CICD's run at around 18% a year, compared to a national average of further education colleges of 13%. But what about those students on the Gaia scholarship programme who spent weeks on end going out leafleting and collecting clothes every day? How did that prepare them for doing development work I asked Karen?

BARSOE
The Gaia course is not promoted as preparing people to go to Africa, it is promoted as a course in its own right. The proceeds from the clothes collection goes into our scholarship fund and it means that people with no means to pay the course fees to go here can get a scholarship to do the six months course to prepare them to go to Africa.

WAITE
And the conditions under which they do that work - we've heard it's almost like a - one person called it a Dickensian workhouse.

BARSOE
[Laughing] I mean what can I say. It is hard work, it's one of the things we find in all our enrolment materials, in all our websites, in all our brochures - this is hard work.

WAITE
Mike Nelson, he was sent to teach karate in Malawi, he says that he was very disillusioned to see lots and lots of second-hand clothes, all of which had been charitably donated being sold to local people. Birgit you want to say something.

SOE
Yeah, most of the clothes in this country are sold to raise funds. Charities, they need money to buy medicine, they don't need an old coat down in Malawi, for example.

WAITE
You see the concern we've heard about it is okay these clothes are sold, okay money is raised but how does anyone know how much is raised and where it goes because you don't publish accounts do you?

BARSOE
We follow all the laws, we have to in ...

WAITE
I know and those laws mean you don't have to publish accounts.

BARSOE
Our accounts are audited every year, of course, as they have to as a not-for-profit company. We don't have to publish - I mean there's a system through these things. We have extremely thorough accounting procedures.

WAITE
So why if you're doing charity work don't you register as a charity?

BARSOE
We could do, we might do.

WAITE
Because you get tax advantages, wouldn't you?

BARSOE
I know.

WAITE
You see at the moment the trouble is that many people suspect you don't register as a charity because then you'd have to declare directors' fees, where the money goes, there would be the kind of transparency you wouldn't be comfortable with.

BARSOE
I would be extremely comfortable with that. We also might do that.

WAITE
Turning to you Birgit, I want to talk about your organisation - Planet Aid UK Ltd. We have been speaking to the former operational manager for Planet Aid UK, Graham Bale, he was in effect sort of number two there, yet he couldn't find out where all the money - where all the money raised went.

SOE
He always saw the account so why couldn't he find out?

WAITE
He was never sure, even as number two, where it ended up, he had concerns and was told not to worry but he couldn't ever see anything in black and white.

SOE
I don't know what he - why he says that because I shared all the accounts with him.

WAITE
Why is he so uneasy then?

SOE
I don't know, ask him, I don't know.

WAITE
He's not alone with his concerns over Planet Aid. Planet Aid, didn't it, simply set up bins at dozens of Asda stores without permission.

SOE
No, that's not true.

WAITE
Asda say they found all those bins there, without permission, they wanted to know from you who you were, were you legitimate, where was the money going and Planet Aid would never say.

SOE
We have never ever put any clothing banks out without permission, end of story, never. Asda asked me for audited account and I said listen, in one week's time I have the annual general meeting, I am not going to send you that before I've had the annual general meeting because I can't, as a managing director, send something that hasn't been approved by the annual general meeting, isn't that fair enough?

WAITE
And Birgit did show me the latest accounts though I wasn't allowed to have a copy. Revealing that Planet Aid UK Ltd had a turnover last year of around a million pounds - 12% of which went to charity. For the record the charity Oxfam donates 79%.

But I wanted returned to all those links with that Danish organisation.

Planet Aid UK Ltd., Humana UK, Humana People to People, the college where we're sitting - all of these in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent, go back to Tvind don't they, the Teachers Organisation. The Teachers Organisation is highly controversial. Fraud charges were brought against leading members of Tvind and some of them, as you know, including its leader - Amdi Petersen - just disappeared, now that's very strange behaviour.

BARSOE
There was a court case against various members of the Teachers Group.

WAITE
And one of them was convicted of illegally transferring money through fake companies.

BARSOE
Yes and seven of them were completely cleared of all charges.

WAITE
And then new charges were brought and then several of them disappeared.

BARSOE
Did they? I ...

WAITE
They did.

BARSOE
I mean I know that the court case is ongoing and I don't want to comment anymore on it. I find it highly unlikely he's disappeared but I don't want to say anymore about that.

WAITE
With all that going on would you want your son or your daughter involved in CICD?

SOE
Absolutely.

BARSOE
Absolutely.

WAITE
With all that - with fraud concerns, with question marks over money, you would?

BARSOE
Because you know allegations is one thing and facts is another, don't you think?

WAITE
Are you saying they've got it all wrong?

BARSOE
I'm not saying they've got it all wrong, I think if you - if we paint the picture of CICD we have an adult college, we have a certain number of students who leave, if you come any day to this place you can find students who are extremely happy, you can find some who are not happy, you can find some who are extremely nervous because they're going to Mozambique in two weeks and who feel ooh maybe their Portuguese is not good enough. You can find anything in between. And that is how it should be. But talk to the students also, talk to someone who is extremely happy about the project they've just completed, talk to them all and make up your mind.
Listen Live
Audio Help

Face the Facts



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy