About Tvind

Tvind is an organization founded in Denmark in the 60’s by Mogens Amdi Petersen.

Since then, Tvind has grown into a “$100 million labyrinth of charities and for-profit companies spanning some 55 countries” [Source]

Operating names include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Humana People-to-People
  • Planet Aid
  • Campus California TG
  • The Institute for International Cooperation and Development, IICD (USA & Canada)
  • International Education Co-operation (China)
  • One World Volunteer Institute (Norway)
  • KwaZulu Natal Experimental College (S Africa)
  • DAPP
  • UFF
  • NetUp
  • The College for International Cooperation and Development
  • CICD (UK)
  • Green World Recycling
  • The Gaia-movement Trust
  • Yunnan Institute of Development (China)
  • The Travelling Folk High School
  • The Necessary Teacher Training College
  • and more

The organization has been accused of being a cult due in part to the way its volunteer workforce is treated.

What is Tvind?

Every Dane is familiar with Tvind. But exactly what is it? I find that this is not an easy question to anwer.

One of Denmark’s television journalists, Thomas Stockholm, who has made the most extensive documentaries on Tvind, tells me: “There is not one definition. I would say it is a cult, it’s a political organisation, even a charitable organisation. It’s a chameleon. And at the same time they grow bigger and bigger.”

Accused of being a cult, Tvind is now facing allegations of embezzling millions of pounds worth of public money.

Tvind started in the 60s as a group of radical young teachers.

The organisation derived its strength, particularly in the early days, from a unique provision in the Danish constitution that allows any organisation to run a school – and the state finances these schools.

Tvind started lots of schools across Denmark.

Tvind functions along classic communal lines. At the centre of the organisation are the teachers – forming a sort of political cadre, who share not only their ideals and their time, but also their incomes.

The Tvind communal financial pot is used to fund a wide range of “good causes” and commercial concerns around the world. Over time, as Tvind grew and diversified, funds were merged and diverted into a complicated internal market. Projects include fighting Aids in Africa, commercial plantations in South America and second-hand clothes businesses wherever there is a market for them.

Yet Tvind is an organisation of stark contrasts. From early flower-power sensitivities in Denmark grew a global Tvind empire, a network of business-cum-charitable concerns whose stated aims were to “do good”, to “make the world a better place” but which are also motivated by profit.
– Source: Denmark’s Tvind, BBC, Mar. 21, 2002. Audio version broadcasting by BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002

Cult Allegations

A number of people who have been involved in Tvind accuse the enterprise of cult-like practices.

Steen [Thomsen] joined Tvind as a radically-minded student in the early 70s. Inspired by Maoist philosophies, he and his comrades set out on inspirational travels across the Third World…

“I thought it was all about freedom”, Steen says. “But I was wrong. I had joined a cult and I was being trained to follow its orders. My experience with Tvind ended up being about anything but freedom”.

Steen Thomsen dedicated most of his life to the organisation, and like many others, Steen gave all his money – inheritance, savings and earnings.

Now, Steen is one of the few former Tvind insiders to go public. After making his “escape” from Tvind, he delivered a testimony to the Danish government about his time in the group, detailing the psychological pressure and verbal abuse of Amdi Petersen, the founder of Tvind.
– Source: Denmark’s Tvind, BBC, Mar. 21, 2002. Audio version broadcasting by BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002

Numerous people involved with Tvind have quit the group, accusing Tvind of mental coercion and intimidation, and there have been allegations of restrictions on members’ access to outside information, such as newspapers. “Tvind is a cult or cult-like organization that takes away the individual will of those who join,” according to Zahara Heckscher, who was quoted in a 2005 LiP Magazine article, contributed by Washington Post staff writer Kari Lydersen. Heckscher, an American, attended a Tvind-run school in 1987–1988 and briefly volunteered in a Tvind program in Zambia.

Former members have described Petersen as a mesmerizing figure who possessed extraordinary ability to influence and control others. “It was the eyes,” said former Teachers Group member Britta Rasmussen in a 2002 BBC News broadcast. “He would fix you with his stare. He was a very brilliant speaker. He was like a god to us.”

Early on Tvind “set out to conquer the world,” said former member Hans la Cour, in a February 2004 Chicago Tribune story. “Their original ambition was world revolution.” Jes Møller notes in his FAQ site that years ago Tvind was suspected of having ties to the regimes of North Korea and Cuba and was under surveillance by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.

“We don’t yet understand what the purpose of Tvind is,” offers Danish reporter Jakob Rubin, quoted in the Miami New Times story. “Yes, Mr. Petersen is trying to collect millions, but that [simple answer] is not satisfying. We believe they were trying to create an alternative economic world order.”

“They don’t have a religion,” comments former volunteer Heckscher in the same article, “but they do have an obscure political theory that no one can articulate.”

Jes Møller concurs that Tvind is not a religion, writing in his website: “It is an ideology with no hopes of an afterlife. It is very pragmatic and unromantic. Personal feelings as well as love for nature are considered disturbing elements in the correct perception of the world.”
– Source: Mysterious Danish group builds exotic compound on Baja Coastoffsite Michael Waterman, San Diego Reader, Feb. 3, 2010

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2015