SpinPoi is a social enterprise dedicated to improving health and wellbeing through poi. We support individuals and organizations across the globe with our evidence-based programs, specializing in improving quality of life for seniors. SpinPoi has been featured on international media including BBC World News, ABC News, TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and Maori Television.
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SpinPoi Founder & CEO
SpinPoi was founded by Dr. Kate Riegle van West, a scientist, artist, and entrepreneur with a passion for play and wellbeing. Kate completed her PhD in the health benefits of poi at the University of Auckland, where she conducted the first study to scientifically investigate the effects of poi on physical and cognitive function. She was awarded the Future Leader Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Best Doctoral Thesis Award for her work in the poi/health field.
From a young age Kate gravitated toward climbing on things/hanging upside down/causing general panic for her parents. At age 7 she joined a youth circus in the USA, and immediately knew the circus was her home. It was also where she eventually discovered poi, an unassuming sock with a weight in the end that completely spun her life around. Kate continued performing and coaching circus throughout her studies and career as a digital artist, web designer, and musician, but became frustrated with the lack of evidence around poi as a tool for improving health. At age 28 she left her job at Harvard University and moved to New Zealand, where poi began, to pursue a PhD on a ball on a cord.
Ken Erskine has helped establish multiple Kiwi startup ecosystem organisations and startup companies including development an support of the Venture Lab incubator for the University of Auckland. He has over 30 years international startup, strategy, sales, marketing and investment experience working with commercial and social enterprises.
Associate Professor Cathy Stinear is the Director of the Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Medicine at the University of Auckland, and the Director of the Brain Research Clinic at the Centre for Brain Research. Her work focuses on translating neuroscience discoveries into clinical practice. Cathy supervised the first scientific study on poi, health, and older adults, and continues to play an important role in shaping subsequent poi/health research.
Orquidea Tamayo Mortera
Aged Care Advisor
Orquidea is the National Diversional Therapist for Summerset and President of the New Zealand Society of Diversional & Recreational Therapists Inc. She works with people of all ages and abilities to design and implement recreation and leisure-based therapeutic programs which support, challenge and enhance psychological, spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing. .
SpinPoi Kids Team
Three times APRA NZ children’s song of the year winner and 2018 Tui Children’s Musician of the Year, Levity Beet is well known for his dynamic and humorous performances in schools, E.C centres, festivals, libraries and private parties. Levity wows audiences with new musical inventions playing instruments he makes from heaters, air bed pumps, tyre valves and anything imaginable. Mr. Beet has produced 6 of his own studio albums, numerous singles and a cd/songbook.
Tumanako Tinirau is a vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. He has worked on a variety of projects including the Maori translation for the Chris Sander’s Award Nominated song “111 Ambulance Song”, backing vocals for Chris Ward, performing at Te Matatini with Te Whanau o Te Kura, and performing as the lead singer and guitarist for Soulsystem. Tumanako was also the Marae Kai Master Winner in 2015 and Whanau Bake Off Guest Judge in 2016.
Lucy Hiku is an award winning singer, songwriter, children’s music artist and educator. In 2016, as part of children’s music duo Itty Bitty Beats, she won New Zealand‘s Best Children’s Song and Album for their bilingual song Pō Mārie and lullabies album Lay Your Head Down. As Itty Bitty Beats, she has released 3 albums, 2 EPs and various singles, amassing over 1.5 million streams on Spotify. Most recently they have collaborated with Suzy Cato and Chris Lam Sam of the Funky Monkeys.
Clayton is full time musician and music educator of Ngāpuhi descent, who gained a Diploma and Bachelors of Music in Jazz Performance from CPIT and the University of Canterbury. Clayton has toured the country as a session musician and been a support act for many notable NZ bands such as Kora, Katchafire and the Black Seeds. As a music educator, Clayton has taught as a full time bass tutor in schools across Christchurch and has over 10,000 subscribers to his online music lessons at claysbasslessons.com.
He Taonga Māori
SpinPoi’s goal in working with poi is to improve hauora (physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing) and spread the word about poi’s positive health benefits. We work alongside tangata whenua (people of the land) and the community with cultural responsiveness acknowledging poi as ngā taonga Māori (Māori treasure).
We recognize that there are many aspects of poi Māori that cannot be understood or learned in any way other than through lived experience/the passing down of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). Our goal in working with poi is not to teach these aspects, but rather to work with poi as a tool to improve hauora. We believe improving wellbeing for Māori and non-Māori, especially as we age, is of utmost importance. And although the focus of our mahi is working with poi to improve health, we hope SpinPoi can also provide a space for people of all backgrounds and cultures to learn about and respectfully engage with part of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world).
If you would like to kōrero further about SpinPoi’s engagement with this precious taonga, please do not hesitate to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mā te rere a te poi, ka tau ai, te mauri ki roto i a tātou (may the flow of the poi generate positive energy within us).