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This website is geared towards people thinking about joining a program at the Institute for International Cooperation and Development in Williamstown, MA or Dowagiac, MI (IICD-MA or IICD-MI) or the California Campus Teachers Group (CCTG) in Etna, CA.
You probably have seen the materials from these schools and like the way these schools present their programs. At the same time you’ve seen reports about corruption, financial irregularities and even suggestions that these groups are part of a cult. At this point you are probably uncertain what to believe. You may have even visited one of the campuses, met a lot of interesting people that you liked and are having trouble reconciling this with the stories listed at Tvindalert.
This site is an attempt to summarize a lot of material posted at Teachers Group (TG) sites and Tvindalert and present an overview of the volunteer experience. This webpage, however, makes no claims of objectivity (check here for an overview of the motivations and methodology used). Some may see this as unfairly biased against the TG schools but based on my experience I think this present a fairly good overview of the issues involved. I’m simply saying…
…You really don’t get much from these schools and can do exactly what they do on your own…
…(or even better with a group of friends) and by so doing, have a better chance of having a good experience and really helping people in the developing world. In the end only you can judge whether to join one of these programs and I wish you luck whatever your decision is.
For people who aren’t familiar with Tvind or the Teachers Group, I recommend that you read the Mission Control article or listen to the BBC report which provides background on the larger Teachers Group/Tvind organization. If you have some of this background you can dive right into how the programs are structured and the experience of the place. You can also jump straight to the FAQ that sketches out the basic argument and gives background on the motivation and methods of this website. Finally if you have already decided that the TG schools are not for you but are looking for alternatives, check out this page.
All three schools are run by members of the Teachers Group (TG), the properties which they use are owned by AS Properties (a TG company), they all generally send people to work on Humana People to People which was founded and is run by the Teachers Group. So although it may sound like there are lots of different non-profits working together they are basically different arms of a larger organization. Of course, each school is staffed by different personnel and so each is different but they all share a fairly standard 6 months of preparation at the school in the US, 6 months working in Africa or Central America, and 1-2 months follow-up in the US.
I’m not going to go into larger issues about what the Teachers Group is but suggest that you visit the Tvindalert site for further information. Because the programs offered by these schools are very similar I am going to treat them as the same. Things may have changed since this was written but the basic outlines should be fairly standard. The standard 13 month programs offered by these schools currently costs between $3300 to $3800 dollars.
The basic division on the value of TG schools is aptly summed up by the following quotes from two different IICD-MA volunteers.
I just recently became a student at IICD in Williamstown Mass. One week after driving up onto the mountain, I canceled my check and drove right back off of it. I do believe that much of the information on this site [the Tvindalert site] is embellished, but the basic facts are true. If you are going to dedicate one year or more of your life working for a cause you believe in, don't you think it should be one you believe in 100% beyond the shadow of any doubt.
I am a former IICD/Zimbabwe volunteer. I want to say that I had wonderful experiences on "the mountain" as we called it, in North Western Massachusetts. Many of my teammates and I are still in contact... We all knew why we were there. For the people of Zimbabwe. To learn to have respect for a foreign culture. To realize how lucky we are to live in places where education, food, and shelter are easy to come by. I will never forget the many faces that smiled at me day after day during my 6 month adventure in Africa. It was well worth it for me.
Confused? You’re in good company. Both quotes suggest a very complicated situation. The first person decided to leave the program but is skeptical of some of the reports posted at Tvindalert and the second is positive towards IICD but tends to focus on aspects that are not directly attributable to IICD, i.e., the other volunteers and the people of Zimbabwe.
The rest of the website is spent examining from whence these attitudes come.
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