SpinningTop Interview

NZ-based charity SpinningTop is taking Kiwi generosity to the world by giving balance to vulnerable children living in poverty, whose lives have been thrown off balance through war, oppression, natural disaster and circumstances beyond their control. Barrie Thomas is the Director of The Body Shop NZ, a trustee for SpinningTop and was part of the team that brought SpinningTop to life.


You are involved in making the life of vulnerable children better, what a great reason to get out of bed in the morning! What got you involved in this great work?

Well, it all comes back to my belief about the role of business in society. The traditional view is that the only responsibility business has is towards its’ shareholders, and maybe to their employees. I believe that businesses have an equal responsibility to the communities in which they operate and so, to me, the problems facing society also face business and business needs to help find solutions. I like to say that business is part of society, not a part from society.

Once I became aware of the needs of refugee families from Burma it was a small step to use the resources of The Body Shop to help them and SpinningTop was the result.


Tell us about special moment you have had with your involvement in SpinningTop.

My first visit to Mae Sot several years ago to see the schools SpinningTop was working with was very special. It was special to see so many people working for the good of their community and it was amazing, and humbling, to see just how much they could achieve with so little.

One Percent Collective donors have given almost $7,000 since last November to SpinningTop to help you reach your goals. Tell us about the great work you have been doing in Samoa and the Thai/Burmese border.

We have been working on the Thia/Burma border for over 7 years and have seen huge changes in that time. In recent years we’ve been very excited with the introduction of an agricultural project at a boarding house for 240 children that we support. It’s essential that the children learn these skills, as one day it’s very likely that they will return to Burma and many will be involved in agriculture. The project also lowers food costs for the boarding house. We have a number of other projects in the area and at present, we are funding the build of a school for 120 children in the jungle of Burma.

In Samoa, nutrition is again our main focus, we are looking at how to lower the food costs for the victim support shelters we support. The children in these shelters are victims of abuse, they are looked after well at the shelters, yet food funding is always a struggle. We currently have two volunteers from Kiwi band Minuit, volunteering at the shelters, building gardens and working on the food situation.


How can people get involved with SpinningTop?

The simple act of donating has such a powerful impact in the areas we work in. It costs only 13 cents per meal to provide the nutritious vegetables which give the children in Thailand the energy for their school day. This means that even a donation of $5 a week can make a huge difference to the lives of these kids. The Body Shop staff have been an incredible example of this sort of support, with 65 of them now donating $5 or more a week to help with food costs in Thailand. It makes me proud to see the staff following our values with their own personal donations to SpinningTop.

Donate your 1% to SpinningTop here.