We're all used to getting rid of our used clothes and shoes in charity clothes dumpsters, of the kind usually provided by Goodwill or the Salvation Army. (While we're at it, here's a plug for Got Books?. the Massachusetts-based used-book charity organization.) Over the past decade or so, you may have seen a new entry in the field of clothes dumpsters: bright yellow bins with the Planet Aid logo on them. These days, you never know where you're going to run into a cult front group…wait, what?
Yep, it seems that the group in charge of Planet Aid, Tvind, has been the subject of frequent cult accusations over the years. (We've seen cults based on Yoga, martial arts, psychotherapy, classical music, politics, and what have you…now here's a cult founded on donations of used clothes?!? Apparently if there's money involved, someone finds a way to build a cult around it.) The name "Tvind" is Dutch, and they prefer to use the more professional-sounding name of the International Institute for Communication and Development. But whatever they call themselves, former members of the group give the same horror stories we hear all too often when cults are involved – dictatorial leaders living lush lifestyles while their followers work for slave wages. In the case of Tvind, the organization's founder Amdi Pedersen was charged with tax fraud and embezzlement in 2002, and he's been a recluse ever since.
Planet Aid denies any actual connection to Tvind, though it does proclaim that "Planet Aid is a member of the International Humana People to People Movement." Meanwhile, a look at the humana.org domain proclaims it is "Related to the Danish Tvind organization."…and the Web site of Tvind-based school Richmond Vale Academy places Tvind and Humana together in its "history" page.
But as for the clothes donations, Planet Aid and its sister Tvind-based organizations (including Green World Recycling, Green World Action and the Gaia Movement) find a lucrative business there, because they're getting those clothes donations for free from people like you and me. The Better Business Bureau gave a scathing report on Planet Aid, noting that the organization actually donates less than one-third of its funds on actual charities. In other words, the clothes you donate to Planet Aid are clothes that you don't contribute to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, which are more honest charitable organizations.
The Tvind Alert site gathers together critical information about Tvind, Humana, and Planet Aid.