1990-91 IICD Central America Team
Formal Complaint Against the Institute for International Cooperation and Development
8 August 1991
1990-91 Global Education brochure
We, the members of the 1990-91 Central America Travel team, are presenting herein a formal complaint against the Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD). The IICD is a registered non-profit organization located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, mailing address P.O Box 103, Williamstown.
IICD organizes travel/study and solidarity programs to various countries. Our group was enrolled in the 1 November 1990 through 1 August 1991 program scheduled for Central American travel and study and was to include a trip to Cuba. The services to be provided by IICD to students enrolled in their courses were to include transportation, food and lodging expenses throughout the nine month course period.
A brief outline of the planned course follows:
A. Two month preparation period - 1 November 1990 to 1 January 1991.This period took place at the IICD facility in Williamstown. It was to include intensive study in Spanish and study of the socio-economic and cultural systems of the Central American countries to be visited.
B. Five month travel period - 1 January 1991 to 1 June 1991. This period was to include travel to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama , Belize and Cuba.
C. Two month presentation period - 1 June 1991 to 1 August 1991. This period was to take place at the IICD Williamstown facility. During this time we were to organize material gathered during the travel period such as slides, articles and pamphlets. We were also scheduled to travel to various sites to give presentations. Our group did not participate in this phase of the program.
paid an enrollment deposit of $500 at the time of enrollment in the course. This
followed an interview with a staff member at the Institute. A total tuition of
$7700 was paid by the 1st of November, Fundraising
was also required of the students. It was not stipulated at the time of the
interview but these funds were to go for the preparation period. $400 per
student was the fundraising target.
Our complaint is arranged in the following sections:
Section 1. Inadequate Preparation - Covers the preparation period
2. False Advertising - Covers false advertising claims made by the IICD and the
economic problems resulting therefrom.
Section 3. Health and Safety - Covers the problems incurred that jeopardized the health and safety of the students.
Section 4. Questionable Ethics - A discussion of actions taken by the IICD staff that were ethically questionable for an institution of its type.
Section 5. Fundraising - Covers the fundraising activities of the Insttute and how they impacted students
[Listed below are the complainant members of the travel team]
The lack of general preparation, academically, technically and practically led to an inability to carry out systematic group investigations. It also prevented the group from traveling safely and efficiently within the limited time allotted for the travel period and within the limited financial resources available to our group. Many members of our group had rewarding personal and educational experiences, but this occurred in spite of the Institute's mishandling of the program. We were not able to make organized investigations because of poor preparation and organization of the group.
In the academic area, the language training at the school was inadequate and poorly conducted. A beginning Spanish class of four members, that we attended, was taught by the leader of our group, Cynthia Lasden. She is a non-native, non-fluent speaker with a poor grasp of grammatical rules. Her only qualification, as an instructor of Spanish, that we are aware of, is that she attended a similar class at IICD and traveled in Central America for five months about a year ago. I have just completed this five month travel period and can attest personally that this experience does not prepare one to teach Spanish, rather it, merely familiarizes one with the language. Often our instructor could not provide us with answers to questions regarding grammar, technique, or usage. This information is necessary to provide one with the investigative tools required of a traveler seeking more than just a cursory knowledge of Central America. We had class five days a week for a scheduled three hour period. Often, however this time was pre-empted by other activities so that the actual time spent in class was much less. A booklet of very basic information was given to members of the beginner's group. This booklet was used on only one occasion. The instructor used no didactic materials such as verb charts or vocabulary lists. Nor were there any methods used to evaluate student progress. It is important to note that no attempt to evaluate class structure or teaching methods was made throughout the two month period.
The educative goals of the two month preparation period are described in a booklet written by the instructors staff at IICD called the Teachers Group. This booklet is called the Book of Qualifications (BOQ). This was supposed to serve as a guide to student accomplishment. After a particular qualification had been completed we were to check it off in our personal copy of the BOQ. Many of the listed objectives however, were unattainable. Quoting from the BOQ:
Under Language -
"7) Pass the weekly language target"
There were never any such targets set by the instructor, therefore no attempt to chart weekly progress was made. By the end of the two month preparation period, beginning students had not attained a basic level of conversational ability.
"8) Present yourself and the Central America team in Spanish"
One class period towards the end of the preparation period was devoted to students giving short presentations about themselves, in Spanish, in front of the group. Students in the beginning class were unable to do this without a written statement. It was clear that a minimum level of conversational ability had not been achieved by these students.
"9) Make short presentations about the USA in Spanish"
This requirement was never completed.
The director of the Institute, in a letter to us, quoted from some of the literature. In one passage it states "We travel in groups...as cultural delegates"
In the interview that we had at the school, before signing up for the program, the school administrator averred that often students become teachers to those that they meet during their travels in other countries. How would this be possible without even basic communication skills in the language of the country? In our experience, during the travel period recently completed, it was not possible. Four students spent several weeks studying Spanish at language schools in Guatemala. For a tiny fraction of what they paid to the Institute for "intensive language training," as specified in their brochure, they received a solid grounding in Spanish grammar and excellent conversational training in a short period of time.
Not only did inadequate language training make meaningful investigations impossible, but it made traveling difficult and at times dangerous. Since our budget allowed for only one or two nights per month in a hotel, we were forced to try to obtain lodging with strangers. We managed to do this but it was extremely difficult to express even our most basic needs and objectives with the limited language abilities that we possessed. There was never an attempt to form the travel groups according to language ability in order to have at least one person fluent in Spanish always in the group.
If it weren't for one member of our group who is fluent in Spanish, having studied the language intensively and lived for some time in South America and in the Dominican Republic students requiring intermediate language training would not have even had an instructor. This particular student was asked by the Institute to serve as an instructor for this "intermediate" class.
The sum total of the resources available for Spanish instruction were a few outdated Spanish textbooks, dogeared photocopied booklets with dialogues and exercises, and a couple of unlabeled video tapes with newsclips in Spanish. The group leader also mentioned having some language tapes in her possession but these were never made available to the group. I believe that the foregoing information shows that there has been serious neglect by the Teachers Group at IICD in putting together a successful language training program. Yet the Institute continues to advertise "intensive language training" in brochures and commercial publications such as The Nation and The Progressive. In our view, intensive language training implies adequate preparation.
Another area in the training process was the ability to conduct investigations using documentation equipment. The BOQ states the following regarding this:
"10. Learn how to use the documentation equipment necessary for your third period presentation and production plans"
One evening and one afternoon session was devoted to documentation and investigation. During one of these sessions, students planning to make a video as part of their investigation played around with the one and only video camera for one half an hour. During the preparation period this camera was shared with another group attending the Institute who were going to Africa. During a weekend excursion to New York City, the only opportunity to practice using the camera, the other group used it. Our group was scheduled to meet with the Nicaragua team at the end of the second month. The camera was to be picked up in Nicaragua where the other IICD team had been using it. At that point in our travel, we had not made any group investigations and problems with the economy were overshadowing other more important aspects of the trip. We no longer believed that investigations were a realistic goal since we were not even sure we could make it through the next three months with the severe shortage of funds. Our lack of adequate preparation, organizational techniques and experience in investigative processes were most likely responsible for our failure to start the travel period in a serious way, conducting organized investigations. Increasingly, we found ourselves preoccupied with survival needs since we had an incomprehensibly meager budget on which to live and travel.
The director of IICD has written us that other documentation equipment was indeed available. Supposedly there is a typewriter at the Institute for student use. This was never brought to the attention of the group while we were there. Also, a tape recorder provided by the Institute was brought down by one student for the five month travel period. At least one half of the group was ignorant of this fact until our return to the U.S. Students who planned to write pamphlets or other educational material had to provide their own camera,film, other photographic equipment and film developing.
Another example of poor preparation was a two day excursion to New York City designed to familiarize the group with traveling as a group, investigative technique and reporting on what was observed. The group split into smaller groups of two or three and trekked about a Spanish speaking part of NYC. We were to try to speak to people on the street asking about their lives here, where they came from, why they left their countries to come here. No effort to collect information was made. In fact no investigation was made. People were not paired according to language ability, no plan had been made about how the information was to be gained or what media to use to collect it. We had no substantial or organized training in investigative techniques.
"11. Interview North Americans about Central American topics"
This was never done.
"12. Prepare and accomplish an investigation about an issue in the U.S.A."
This was never done.
"13. Plan together, with your group, the investigations you are going to make in Central America"
One afternoon session, lasting a couple of hours was dedicated to this planning. The group divided into three smaller groups, according to the finished product that they planned to produce. The products were: a video, pamphlets and children's educational materials. Nobody in the group including the group leader had any expertise in planning investigations, in data collection or in documentation techniques. There were no books at the Institute dealing with these subjects. No guest lecturers were brought in to speak on these subjects although a private college is located only a few miles from the Institute. There was one morning assembly (lectures usually given on a topic by the director of the Institute held four mornings a week) at which an Institute administrator gave a presentation about investigations. It consisted of a very rough, undetailed and basic outline of the steps involved in carrying out an investigation. One specific example was presented. A hand-out explaining investigations provided by the Institute. The group leader and one other group member were the only ones to have traveled previously in Central America. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to plan investigations without any idea of the situation in the locale in which one will be traveling. Our leader, having recently completely a five month travel course in Central America, provided no guidance at all. At one of our very last group meetings she gave a slide show of the trip she made as a student at the Institute. At no other point did the leader offer to share her experiences to help us understand the possibilities available in Central America. We later found out that she had contacts with various organizations and projects but she purposely concealed this information from us. Therefore we were under the impression that she was setting up contacts for the trip. This was not the case. Two work projects were arranged before leaving. The rest was improvised as we traveled through the countries. This severely limits the ability to carry out a systematic, thorough investigation when no knowledge of resources is available.
Some administrators of the Institute told us at a meeting on June 12, 1991, that the Teachers Group had decided to withhold contacts from our group. Their reasoning was that the previous group had "too many contacts." The option of having available contacts was never given to us even though the Institute states that all decisions are made on a consensus basis.
"14. Plan and make arrangements for the presentation period"
The only arrangements made were those rough ideas explored in the one afternoon session to make various "products" in the final two months. We brought up the possibility of giving presentations at schools and churches during the presentation period as described in the Institute literature but were told that the Institute was cutting back on presentations. Nothing was set up by the Institute in the way of presentations while we were traveling. As of this writing only one student is staying for the third presentation period with the group leader.
Under the heading "Practical Work and Organizing" the listings have nothing to do with travel, instead they serve only for the maintenance of the Institute property and vehicles. For example:
"17) Organize and plan a building weekend at the school"
"18) Fundraise for the school"
In fact there was no practical travel information given. The only issue that was well covered was health. In a weekend workshop we learned of the most common diseases in Central America, how to treat and prevent them. Information about visas, exchanging money, foreign currency rates, types of transportation available, ways to live and travel cheaply and safely was never given.
We found out during the travel period that it is Institute
policy to send students out to confront new situations in foreign countries and
to learn to cope with these situations with the knowledge the student has. Given
the preparation for this travel, of course, one is quite ill equipped for any
situations. Students are sent out unable to communicate effectively, knowing
little more than the recent politics of the countries they are visiting. The
Institute philosophy appears to be to not
prepare students purposely so that they may learn through finding out for
themselves. What appears, through the Institute literature, to be a travel and
study course, with investigations into land issues, politics, religion,
revolution, etc., actually becomes a survival training
experience. The biggest challenges turned out to be finding where the bus
stations were, and where the cheapest hotels and restaurants were (since you
don't even have a simple travel guide to save the anxiety of wondering where you
will eat and sleep). Had we known we would be interviewing people in the streets
about hotel locations rather than about living conditions in their area many of
us would never have enrolled in such a course. The lack of practical preparation
seems senseless, not to mention that it can be dangerous and endanger ones
safety while traveling. (See Health and Safety)
This philosophy of self-reliance has been used by the Institute as a justification and rationale for many of the program failures that have occurred. In this way the student becomes the scapegoat when he or she expresses any dissatisfaction with the Institute or the program, which seems to be one and the same thing. For example, several students expressed concern about not getting enough language study time. They were told that they should use their free time, (one night a week) to study Spanish. Complaints were usually handled, or rather deflected in that way. Structural changes to the program were never permitted. It was almost as if the schedule were a religious sacrament. It was always up to the student to make a personal change - perhaps not have lunch? It was always assumed that the student was the only one responsible and needed to change if he or she did not feel satisfied with the program or some part thereof. Students felt this through subtle guilt tripping and manipulation by the group leader and the Institute administration.
We have elaborated on these last points because throughout the program and even after we presented criticisms and complaints in reflecting our program experience, the administrators insisted that there must be something wrong with us, the students, that we must have some deficiency to be so unsatisfied. As a group, we are bright, creative and well educated people who feel we have been betrayed, misled and manipulated by a group of rigid ideologues. It appears the staff at the Institute is unqualified to present the program as advertised yet arrogant enough to dissuade any complaints as unwarranted.
If they had been concerned about providing good language training, with very little expense or effort they could have invited guests to come in on a weekly basis or set up some arrangement with nearby Williams College. Another possibility would have been to spend a month at an inexpensive language school in Guatemala or Mexico. This also would have served as an introduction to life in Central America. We could have planned investigations while there and thus had an organized trip. These are only a few examples of how the program might have been altered to suit the conditions and or desires of the students. Time and again, however, we found the group leader and the administration completely obstinate about any changes to the "sacred" program as they had designed it. We were totally unprepared for our travel period yet the |Institute refuses to take any responsibility for this and continues to blame the students.
The director of the Institute states in a letter dated June 20, 1991 (appended), that another facet of Institute philosophy is that "the Institute expects from the students that they be part of the creation of the program." As evidenced from the above actions by the Institute, this is a totally hypocritical contradiction. The preparation period activities are rigidly prescribed by the Institute without any input from the students. The travel budget, the single most important planning activity of the program, was decided solely by the Teachers Group and was never discussed with the students until the commencement of the travel period. The only control of any activity that we had at the Institute was over meal planning and preparation since we did all the cooking ourselves.
Weekend programs, which contributed nothing to our travel preparation or investigation studies consisted of building and vehicle maintenance or fundraising. There was also a family weekend in which family or friends were invited to see the activities in which we were participating. None of these activities could be changed in even the smallest detail. In fact if students had a conflict with the activities they had to present their case to the whole reason "how are you taking away from the group by being absent?". Pressure and manipulation were continually used when student challenged any aspect of Institute philosophy or the program.
The idea that students at the Institute create their own program is an outright falsehood. The regimented lifestyle at the Institute does more to maintain the Institute and eliminate the need to hire professional cooking, cleaning and maintenance services. Meanwhile the students receive few learning materials and resources, poor language preparation and technical training for the travel period.
We were insufficiently prepared to undertake the travel and investigation program advertised by the Institute. Our language training was inadequate for any type of investigation. Our investigative training itself was non-existent and there was no practical orientation about how to travel and live in a foreign land. There were few resources at the Institute and no effort to connect with any outside resources that might be of assistance. The staff at the Institute was unable to handle even the most mundane of activities such as wiring money to the group when that became necessary. This resulted in our group languishing for nearly two weeks in one city causing us to sacrifice some of our trip. Finally, we feel the Institute's administration is ill informed and ideologically rigid about many political and social situations around the world. An organization that purports to teach global understanding cannot be rigidly unyielding about other points of view.
The brochure that IICD gave to prospective students stated that the tuition for the Central America Travel/Study course covered travel, food and lodging for the nine month course period.(See Page 25, Costs, in the 1990-1991 Global Education brochure). There was no mention of the necessity for fundraising in this brochure. After a non-refundable deposit of 500.00 had been paid, additional material was provided that stated that fundraising was a part of the program. (need the post-deposit info) This literature also stated that our needs would be met and that we would need only $100 to $200 per person during the travel period to cover items such as gifts or film. The nine month program consisted of a two month preparation period, November 1, 1990 to January 1,1991, in Williamstown, Massachusetts; five months of travel/study in Central America, January 1 to June 1, 1991; and two months of post-travel, June 1 to August 1, scheduled as a presentation/study period. This final period was to have given us the chance to travel throughout the U.S presenting slide shows and providing an educational forum for interested groups on Central America.
During the two month preparation period some aspects of the travel period were discussed. The first order of precedence was the mode of travel we would use. Since a used school bus in a state of considerable disrepair was on the Institute premises, the possibility of repairing it and using it as our travel "platform was discussed. The cost in time and money was much too high and the plan was scrapped. Eventually it was decided that drive-away cars would be used to get us to the Texas border with Mexico or to a city in the vicinity. Nothing was otherwise said that would lead any of us to conclude that our transportation, food and lodging requirements would not be
Although fundraising was discussed in the post-deposit literature, the magnitude of the effort had not. It was revealed during the preparation period that each student would be expected to raise an average of $400. The fundraising activity, previously undisclosed, was door-to-door solicitation. IICD director, Mikael Norling, gave a presentation before the first fundraising period. It was revealed at this presentation that IICD was $37000. in debt as of fiscal 1990-1991 and that the fundraising was necessary to; 1) Keep the cost of tuition down 2) Allow IICD to keep operating The goal of $400. per student was met during two fundraising weekends.
In Harlingen, Texas, two days before we were to cross the border into Mexico and begin our travel in Central America, the travel budget was revealed. Cynthia Lasden, the group leader of the Central America team presented the following travel budget:
1. Total budget, including food, lodging and transportation, for 11 group members and the leader for five months - $19584.
2. Budget for 4-1/2 months of travel in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize - $9984.
3. Ten day tour package of Cuba, scheduled for the middle of May $9600. This tour was being arranged at the time of our arrival in Texas and had not yet been confirmed.
Our leader explained that she and other members of the IICD staff had determined this budget apparently based on "previous experience." A breakdown on a per student basis reveals that $50. was allocated for 4-1/2 months lodging. This meant that we could spend $2.50 each month for 4 nights in a hotel. The individual food budget allotted $2. to $3. per day depending on the country that we were in. Mexico and Costa Rica were considered more expensive than Guatemala and Honduras. The transportation budget allowed money for buses or trains but it was not enough for the whole group. It was explained that hitchhiking would probably be necessary at some times.
This budget presentation, which should have taken place earlier when we were still in Williamstown, immediately caused concern among many of the students. It seemed obvious that the individual allotments would not be enough, that sacrifices would have to be made by some students so that others could be assured of safe travel and lodging. Some of the group were afraid of the idea of hitchhiking at all let alone in a foreign country. It was also obvious that no money had been allocated for emergency purposes. We were told that lodging was to be provided at the two project sites we were scheduled to visit in Nicaragua and Mexico. Aside from these provisions however, no lodging was to be provided and that we would have to ask people that we met to allow us to stay with them. The most frightening aspect of this presentation however was the statement by our leader that "there was no other money." This meant that regardless of what circumstances occurred we would not be able to obtain any funds from IICD. Our leader attempted to reassure us by saying that she had traveled in Central America and that this budget was adequate if we were resourceful. She averred that this was part of the IICD program; to make us use our wits to survive and that some students would need more money in some areas than others and that it would certainly work out if we all cooperated with each other. We decided to give it a try.
After two weeks of travel, the group was in Ixmiquilpan, Mexico to work on a group project. We again met to discuss the travel budget. While we had all been very frugal with our expenditures, we had all overspent our budgets in each category. All students and our leader had stayed more than the allotted four nights a month in hotels and the food costs and transportation had been exceeded. At this point in time it also came to our attention that only about 20% of our tuition, $7700., had been allocated by IICD to the travel period. The students decided to send a fax to the director of IICD and ask him to explain the relationship between the tuition paid and the travel allocation. Our leader was reluctant to take part in this since she said she was totally satisfied with the arrangements as they were. In a way this was understandable since her costs were being paid out of the a part of the total tuitions of the students. Also it became obvious that she was taking the position of an IICD staff member as opposed to a member of our travel group. The fax was drafted and signed by each student and presented to our leader to be sent to IICD. She refused and we sent it ourselves.
After four weeks of travel we met in Managua, Nicaragua. Again a discussion of the travel budget predominated the agenda of the meeting. These regular meetings were to be held at two or three week intervals to discuss what we had seen and to sort of review events and make group decisions. By this time we were familiar with the cost of living in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. We were also coming to realize the conditions we would be living under with the IICD budget.
At this meeting many of the students expressed unhappiness with the travel conditions and stated that they didn't feel that the objectives of the travel study course could be met. The travel budget was placing our health and safety at risk. This was due to the fact that we did not have enough for food and lodging and that we spent most of our time trying to obtain the very cheapest food and lodging. To ask people to put us up for the night seemed to some of us a contradiction of IICD principles. We had been led to believe that we should help and support the efforts of poor people but this seemed more like imposing on them. We also again expressed concern about the allocation of our tuition money and how it related to the travel period.
The response to our concerns was not just no response but anger over our position with respect to IICD as disloyal at least. Our leader also stated that students could not have had an input to the budget making decisions as this was an IICD administrative function. This also seemed ironic since we had been continually lectured about "group" decision making and how WE were the ones who ran our program. Again it was stated that there would be no more money available no matter what. It was also revealed at this time that the director of the Institute would coincidentally be in La Dalia, Nicaragua while we were there to work on a group project. Since he would be there to meet with another IICD group who were working on a school building project, he would also meet with us to discuss our concerns. Our leader also suggested that we work on a "real" budget and attempt to reallocate money. Most of the students responded that this was a ridiculous exercise since there just was not enough money for our needs and shifting money from one category to another was a waste of time.
On the 17th of February we met with the IICD director, Mikael Norling in La Dalia. We expressed our concerns about the food, lodging and transportation budget. We stated that even after living very frugally, 55% of our budget had already been consumed and we had yet 70% of our travel to go. His response was basically the same as we had gotten from our leader in previous sessions. When we asked for additional money (it had been determined that an additional $1600. would allow us to continue the program safely) he said that was impossible and that IICD was $82,000. in debt. This debt had previously been put at $37,000. at the first budget presentation.
We then asked that the third period be cut short and that the money previously allocated for the third period could be applied to the travel period. He said that unless we raised additional funds there would be no third period therefore this was not an option.
Prior to our meeting, the director and our group leader prepared a new "realistic" budget allocating the remaining money. This new, bare-bones budget required us to hitchhike through Costa Rica to Panama and through Mexico on the way home. The budget provided for only two drive-away cars in the U.S on the return home. Three vehicles were used to get to Houston, Texas from Williamstown, MA. This meant that four of us would have to hitchhike in the U.S. The food allotment dropped by .50 per day and no lodging funds were allocated for Costa Rica, Panama or Mexico.
Most of the students were outraged at this budget which did not even provide for basic needs. The director's response was that it "allows a way to get closer to the people and their reality". He said that we needed to overcome our fear of asking people for places to stay. In view of the impossibility of continuing the trip under the prescribed circumstances, we decided to scrap the Cuba portion of our travel and use the money ($800. per person) for the balance of our trip. This was a great sacrifice on the part of most of the students. Many of us had been attracted to the program because of the possibility of travel to Cuba. We also decided to individualize the budget, making each person responsible for their own expenditures. This would allow us to plan our own trip (it seemed to many of us that IICD had failed miserably in this regard) and spend our own money.
The director was very upset that we were departing from the "group" concept that he felt was part of the IICD program. He suddenly came up with the statement that he would rather "rob a bank" than see us depart from his vision of the IICD program. We had asked for an additional $1600. at the beginning of the meeting and at that time it was flatly refused. Now it was mysteriously available but most of us felt that it was too little too late. We did not want to remain in the group economy where the group leader maintained tyrannical control of the disbursement of funds. She used a system of ridicule and harassment on some of the group to keep them from spending money on what they felt were basic needs. This pressure was couched within terms like "for the good of the group."
We were to have the Cuba money wired to us in San Jose, Costa Rica, our next designated meeting area. The director was not contacted by our leader until we arrived in San Jose. Members of the group were made responsible for finding out the most expeditious means of getting the money such as banks and wires. This again demonstrated the inability of the staff to administrate a simple function. In fact, it took two weeks for the money to arrive, which further curtailed our activities while wasting precious time and money in the relatively expensive city of San Jose. When the money was finally received, we divided it by twelve and continued our travels without the involvement of IICD or their staff.
When we returned to Williamstown at the conclusion of our trip we presented our complaints to the director and to Eric Newman, a co-founder of IICD. The IICD administration conceded only that they should have informed us about the budget before the trip.
We stated that the means of travel and the living conditions should be stipulated before a prospective student has paid the $500. non-refundable deposit. No one would read the pre-deposit literature and expect that adequate food, lodging and transportation would not be provided. Neither would they be led to believe that students would be expected to rely on hitchhiking as a means of travel. This mode of transportation has been the source of sexual molestation, robbery and murder and is highly discouraged with the U.S. They certainly weren't advised by IICD literature that they would be required to beg for lodging, usually from people too poor to provide for themselves. Nowhere was it stated that you would be required to eat less than you felt necessary to sustain yourself or that you would have to rely on someone sacrificing their food or lodging for you.
As previously described in the section on False Advertising, IICD put students health and safety at risk by not providing sufficient funds for travel in the U.S and Central America. The budget allocated by the Institute staff forced students to hitchhike, eat less than enough food and to stay in seedy hotels in dangerous areas of cities. These circumstances resulted in a constant strain on all concerned with their safety.
During the two month preparation period there were often times when the group would travel to surrounding areas for various activities. These trips were made in vehicles that could not pass the minimum safety standards. At times trips were made at night without rear lights and with brakes that barely functioned. The vehicles, which often carried twelve persons were totally worn out and never properly maintained. Maintenance was, in fact, performed by students unqualified and not knowledgeable in automotive mechanics. IICD usually tried to take care of problems with the vehicles in a slip-shod manner, being concerned more with the cost of repair than with the safety of the passengers.
The electrical stove in the kitchen caused people to be shocked yet it was never turned off until late in the preparation period. IICD asked a student to repair the stove and didn't call in professional help until the student refused to repair it. The shock hazard was so severe that serious injury or death could have resulted.
Students were required to cut wood for the furnace with a chain saw with no safety guard. The saw is in continual need of maintenance but instead of replacing it, students are required to repair it with little or no training. In addition no safety instructions were given even though many students had never operated a chain saw.
Several women in the group stated that they would not feel safe hitchhiking either in Central America or the U.S. Their parents had also voiced objections to this means of travel. Even after this had been stated many times by many of the group, Mikael Norling, director of the Institute, presented a budget in La Dalia Nicaragua that stressed hitchhiking as a means to stay within the budget.
When these matters were brought to the attention of the IICD staff their response was that we had to keep costs down and that part of IICD's philosophy was to learn by doing.
In addition to putting the health and safety of students at risk due to dangerous travel policies, IICD behaved unethically and irresponsibly in many other instances.
Students were encouraged to use Traveler's Aid while in the U.S. This is an organization founded and operated to provide social services for the poor and homeless. IICD is a member of a local food bank and receives food from this organization at minimal cost. This organization is available for use by needy people or other organizations providing services for poor and needy people. Students at IICD paid a tuition for food and lodging. The students and the staff are mainly middle-class people and not the targeted group for an organization of this type.
Students were transported in vehicles that couldn't have met minimum inspection standards at the time of use. Brakes were faulty and brake lights were out on the vehicles. IICD encouraged maintenance of these vehicles by untrained students.
One student was stopped by the police while canvassing for funds in a local town. She was told that IICD had not received authorization for solicitation in that town. When this was reported to the director of the Institute, he angrily told her she should not have stopped canvassing.
While in Mexico the group leader charged drinks to a hotel room number instead of paying. This sort of practice was seen as acceptable by the staff.
Finally, the travel budget allocated forced students to hitchhike when they didn't want to, to beg for lodging from poor people.
These practices seem antithetical to the policies espoused by IICD, assistance and solidarity with the poor people of the world and international ethical behavior.