Alumni Charity Update: SpinningTop

July 21, 2023

Feet caked in mud from working on a SpinningTop construction project

For nearly 11 years, One Percent Collective donors have enabled SpinningTop to support the children of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities on the Thailand-Myanmar border, and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. They’re giving these kids a better chance at something most of us took for granted when we were young – the opportunity to just be kids. Here’s a little of what’s been happening in the world of SpinningTop since moving to Alumni Charity status in 2022.

Mae Sot is a rapidly growing city located on the Thailand-Myanmar border. It has become a refuge for marginalised communities of migrants and refugees fleeing the harsh conditions under Myanmar's ruling Military Junta.

In this area, numerous community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations work to support these marginalised communities. Among them, SpinningTop has been actively involved for over 18 years, with a focus on education, shelter, nutrition, and the importance of play for the children.

The current crisis has created uncertainty for the migrant schools that provide a safe haven for traumatised children. These schools were closed for the past couple of years due to the Covid pandemic, but now they are reopening. However, they face a desperate lack of resources, even as the demand for their services continues to grow, especially with an increasing number of refugees from Myanmar seeking shelter.

More Mud

In 2020, SpinningTop collaborated with German Architect Jan Glasmeier to build mudbrick classrooms. Initially, the plan was to construct two classrooms and upgrade the school's poor sanitation facilities. But the project aimed to go beyond mere construction. They organised workshops where local students could learn about using Bamboo, Eucalyptus, and Adobe bricks (Baan Din) for construction. The students actively participated in producing the necessary adobe bricks using water and rice husk as a fiber material. The bricks were then sun-dried for 2-3 days. This hands-on approach not only strengthened the students' sense of ownership but also left them with valuable skills for future projects.

Construction began in mid-January as scheduled. In the first week, they laid the foundations and produced 500 Adobe bricks. Meeting the weekly target of 500 bricks was crucial for staying on schedule since they relied on volunteers, including students from Harrow University in Bangkok and some of Jan's Masters students from Germany. By the end of week three, the classroom walls were already up, ready for the roof structure. The construction progressed rapidly, and now the build is complete. The result is an environmentally friendly and durable solution that meets the needs of the migrant community.

Moja Kids

Life at Kutupalong Refugee Camps in Bangladesh has been incredibly tough for the Rohingya children who call these camps their home. They had to escape from horrific violence in Myanmar and now live in overcrowded and squalid conditions, with limited freedom of movement. Access to education is a struggle, and when they do attend classes, they are forced to learn the Burmese curriculum, a language they don't understand.

SpinningTop has been providing support to learning centres in the camps, which are run by the British charity Children of the Edge. These classrooms reopened in mid-October after being closed due to Covid, and all their programs are now back in action. However, it took some time to train the staff and get activities back to normal after the long break.

Fires in the camps have further exacerbated the challenges, destroying several classrooms. While waiting for reconstruction, they are making use of temporary rooms or squeezing more children into existing ones.

Amidst these difficult circumstances, there are also some positive aspects. Thanks to technology, trained refugee teachers can now use digital lessons. The team has created video lessons in the spoken Rohingya language, allowing the children to understand what is being taught. They have expanded the digital program through Moja kids, an online video platform.

Moja kids started as a humble newsletter created by the children themselves. It enables them to record video presentations that are shared between classrooms in the refugee camp and slum communities in Bangladesh. These video newsletters serve as an opportunity for the children to express themselves, showcase their talents, and share their experiences. Moreover, they create a bridge for connecting and interacting with peers beyond the confines of the camp and slum communities. This has significantly boosted the children's confidence, with many who were once shy, now excited to take part. The content includes arts, crafts, songs, games, and has expanded to include more in-depth life stories and interviews with teachers and camp leaders.

Enabling the children to create content and share their ideas with each other has been tremendously beneficial for their wellbeing. Knowing that they are not alone and feeling heard by the outside world is incredibly important. As 14-year-old Rainikel puts it, "The video newsletter features stories, rhymes, and biographies of children like us. Moja kids videos show us what children do in other countries. It's really interesting. Sometimes when I see someone like me talking in these videos, then I feel good."

Words and images supplied by SpinningTop

SpinningTop now Alumni Charity

SpinningTop has finished up their charity work. We are proud to have supported them for 10 years. While it’s sad that the work of SpinningTop has come to a close, knowing the huge difference it has made to the lives of thousands of children on the Thai/Burma border brings a smile to our face 😃

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