Sara's story

IICD Michigan 2002

 

Hello, my name is Sara and I was a student who left IICD-MI when I was planning to go to Zambia in July [2002].

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make and I can't honestly tell you right now that I am fully happy to be back home away from IICD-MI.    I have always been aware of TG and A-S Properties and where exactly our fundraising money went too, but I was also having the mind set that I would be going to Africa to do good work.

Every NGO/NPO will be taking the short cuts to save money, when you aren't making any, the amount you have you must try to make the BEST possible use of it, without money you can't DO anything especially in a 3rd world country which wouldn't have the money to support the organization. Now the question would be: If I knew it was corrupt in money scandals then why did I stay all this time especially when half of your team mates had left earlier on?

Because I believed in HPP [Humana People-to-People].     I thought -- Yes, they are corrupt but I believed in the incredible potential this organization had to do good in this world.   The volunteers who join--each individual is amazing and has soo many strengths and skills to offer this organization, the belief that you don't need a degree or personal money in order to help out those in need was a fantastic idea.    HPP believes that PEOPLE can help PEOPLE. What a concept!

But when I came back from Denmark after seeing the EXPENSIVE property out there that had in one of the schools absolutely no Teachers or DI's (Bustrup) I was beginning to wonder what the true purpose of this organization was?

Was it a real estate company or was it an organization that was looking to train volunteers and watch out for its volunteers to do good in this world??

Well the training factor was out of the question.   In my school we had nobody who had experience to teach Tonga and we were being taught by our own fellow volunteer who was learning straight out of the FEW books about Tonga in the school, and the DmM which is bragged about being a HUGE database of information which we can learn from, was a HUGE waste of time, EVERYBODY (including the overly enthusiastic members of my team--who are still there) had stopped doing the DmM system after the second week of training.

I had spent my whole time in the past 3 months preparing for fundraising, going fundraising, going to Denmark and Norway (which I had done without knowing that our school was having HUGE FINANCIAL problems to the point many of the staff weren't getting paid and phone lines were going to be cut). 

Before I start with what happened at IICD-MI when I arrived back from Denmark, I would like to point out that my Zambia team had already lost 3 people (including my roommate) because they had read the Tvind Alert site and they couldn't ignore their morals and ethics to stay in this program. It was one of the hardest weeks for me to go through because then I had to question my own morals and ethics... why am I here?? Does this make me a bad person for staying and ignoring all the facts??? Is the fact that I will be going to ZAMBIA to do GOOD--is that enough to right over all the corruption of this organization???

Well I had decided that it was. And to be completely honest I had decided that this organization was NOT for everyone.. and the only reason these girls had left was because this organization was NOT for them, and perhaps volunteering wasn't for them at all. I had rationalized it to the point that these girls were weak volunteers and that they weren't here to volunteer at all or that they didn't want it enough. As it turns out I was wrong and that they were just more intelligent and had stronger morals and ethics then I did.

So now I have come back from Denmark and what do I find out???   That my fellow volunteers on the Guatemala team found out that they didn't have a project to go to the DAY they came back from their FINAL fundraising trip. To be honest-- I wanted to avoid the school, I didn't want to deal with this again, but my teammates made me come back to the school and I ended up talking with the Guatemala team members. I think to be honest they should come onto this website and tell their story. I won't tell it for them. I am here just to share what I personally went through.

So I listened to their story and I was shocked and appalled.   First to the fact that Line--the director of the school (whom we had been in contact with the whole time in Denmark) didn't tell us what was going on.. so we had NO clue until Elton picked us up from Chicago airport on Sunday and told us what had been happening since last Wednesday.

From the moment I came back there were meetings after meetings. The meetings had two purposes in my opinion: 1) to deal with the Guatemala team 2) Damage control for the Zambia team that still has to fundraise 7-8 more weeks for the school.

As the week progressed my feelings and confidence in this organization diminished. I couldn't see how this organization wanted to help others when it has been proven time after time (either speculation or hearsay) that this organization exploited the 3rd world people and even its own volunteers. But NOW it wasn't hearsay or speculation.. it was ACTUALLY happening before my very eyes... my friends and fellow volunteers had been hurt.

Eva (the VP of the board of Directors) and Uoli (I may have spelled the name wrong--I apologize--the Director of the IICD-MA school) even admitted that they had made a mistake in the dealings with the Guatemala team, that how they found out and how they were initially dealt was wrong and a mistake and that the communication between projects and training schools needed to be fixed, they also admitted that the training need some changes.

But what I didn't understand was that this organization has been sending DI's to projects for 22 years and NOW they are making changes to the lack of proper training and lack of communication (so when a project completely crashes and burns that the training schools would at least have some idea that the project was in trouble BEFORE it COMPLETELY collapses to only 3 lines of child aid out of the 9 lines they were running). I began to again question.. how important is it to the organization to want to help people in need.. to want to train its volunteers so that they are capable in doing that or supporting it's volunteers???

Even through out the week I truly wanted to believe that this organization wanted to do good, but I couldn't see that when their own volunteers were devastated from the way the organization was handling them. It was then I made the decision to quit the organization. My train of thought was: If I and HPP can't possibly stand up and want to help my fellow volunteers in a first world country where we have all the resources and support in the world, where there are laws to protect these peoples rights then HOW can I POSSIBLY think that I and HPP would want too or could help people in third world countries where there aren't the numerous resources, where there aren't laws to protect these people's basic human rights etc??? How can I possibly believe that this organization wants to do right in the world when I couldn't even see them wanting to do right to the girls on the Guatemala team.

Eventually after many parents involved later, the Board of Directors decided to do right and give back these girls their full tuition back (minus the registration fee) and they got to keep their plane tickets (which had been already booked before when they thought they were going to running projects). So then after that decision was made I came running back to the organization. I wanted to stay. To me that decision was a domino's affect.. if the first one got knocked down (the Guatemala team was finally dealt the hand they deserved) then other possible changes could be made in this organization.

I believed that I could be a positive part to make this organization or at least my school (IICD-MI) to be more of what it was suppose to be--a volunteer organization willing to train and support its DI's and send them to good working projects. Unfortunately my parents and sister came up to visit me. While I had been in Denmark my sister had been doing her own research of HPP and IICD-MI and TG and she did NOT LIKE what she found out and she wanted me out of there. But I ignored that and kept staying. But now my parents became involved extremely worried about my safety and sanity that I eventually became convinced that if I were to stay it would be for ABSOLUTE selfish reasons.. that I would be going to Chipata and working on the Hope project... regardless of the constant corruption that surrounds this organization.

Coincidently the day I came back home and left IICD-MI I received an email from one of the girls of the Guatemala team who was in contact with one of the girls who was on the Zambia team before me. Anyways she had sent me an email written by the girl in Chipata explaining why she had left Chipata. I don't want this to be hearsay or speculation at ALL so I am now going to request that that girl go and post her own comments about the Hope project in Chipata (which Line and Uoli had last week said were VERY WELL ESTABLISHED and would never break down like the Guatemala projects), all I am going to say is that during this whole ordeal they knew why I wanted to stay, I wanted to go to Chipata and work on the Hope project and NOBODY there told me or even indicated that the girl that was working there had already left and NOT stayed out her 6 months there.

They (Line and my teacher Prabha) had been willing so much to show us letters from the same girl near the beginning of her stay about how happy she was but did not want to bother sharing any other facts like the fact that she had left the project. Again I really hope she will come and post her opinion about what she saw with her own eyes because I think this is really important for people to see that the school you're training at does not give you all of the facts. They pretty much love the "ignorance is bliss" theory.. and I was living in bliss.

I am no longer living in bliss. I can not say right now that I am fully convinced I made the right decision, because in some way I still feel like I am failure as a volunteer that I obviously didn't want to go work on those projects and help people because I couldn't overcome the boundaries... but how high do those walls have to be before I realize I shouldn't even WANT to climb over???

Why do I write this?? Because I wanted to share my experience... I would love it if this organization would change and reach the full potential I think this organization has to do good in this world. I want potential volunteers to understand that you must be CRITICAL of everything that goes on, and realize even though YOU may think you're doing good.. that YOUR actions may be part of and helping something that is NOT!!!!!

If you have any questions please address them to Sara and post it up and I will try respond. I think I will post up my new email address in a couple of days. I apologize for the lengthiness of this email and to be honest I had to leave a LOT out because I didn't want it to drag and drag.

Thank you for reading my opinion.

Sara