Should we help this company?

Kenilworth Weekly News, UK/February 15, 2008

Kenilworth people are being asked to help an international not-for-profit organisation in order to fund the fight against poverty and suffering in Africa.

But one resident has warned others to find out more about College for International Co-operation and Development (CICD) - which, according to reports in the national press, has a history fraught with corruption and exploitation.

A collection bin for the registered non-profit company currently stands in Caesar Road and flyers have been distributed urging people to donate unwanted clothes and shoes. According to the leaflets, donations will help send volunteers to Africa and India to take action against HIV and AIDS, build schools and combat poverty.

But Abbey End resident Peter Shiels believes the "bogus" company misuses much of the money from the sale of the clothes and exploits young people.

His concerns come after reading several exposés such as in the Sunday Times magazine and on a website, specifically set up to tell people the 'real' story behind the organisation.

Mr Shiels said: "It is a completely disreputable organisation and they really exploit youngsters.

"People should have nothing to do with them and use a reputable charity they know and recognise. There have been many prosecutions of this organisation worldwide.

"I first came across it through an article I read in 2003. They were known as Planet Aid in 2002 and now call themselves CICD. They should not be confused with genuine aid organisations like Oxfam and Christian Aid, whose work is well-reported."

According to its website, CICD, based just outside Hull, prepares people for development work in the Third World in countries like Angola, Mozambique and Malawi. Students come from Britain, Ireland, China, Poland and New Zealand and are usually in their teens and twenties.

The organisation is associated with another clothes-recycling recycling charity, Humana UK, which was investigated by the Charity Commission for financial mis-management. It was found that only eight per cent of its turnover was going to good causes.

The company is also linked to a Danish organisation known as Tvind which some have said exploits young people by making them pay thousands of pounds to volunteer and work long hours. Others have described it as a cult.

In January 2000 seven students left the college complaining of being misled and exploited.

In 2006 Asda banned CICD collecting bins from its car parks as it was not a registered charity.

CICD principal Karen Barsoe s aid: "We operate our clothes collection to sponsor our main activity, namely to train volunteers to go to some of the poorest parts of the world and do grassroot development work.

"Our training courses and the costs involved with the volunteers travelling overseas are basically funded by the students themselves and by the organisation we work with.

"These volunteers are not rich people and we have started collecting clothes to be able to offer scholarships to, for example, students from Eastern Europe or South America, who have not got a chance to pay the fees.

"Our students work extremely hard, particularly during the project period in Africa or India, but it is wrong to say that we exploit them.

"The nature of the work is made very clear to all students prior to enrolment, and they are typically mature people who are serious about making a contribution in these places. "

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