By Marilla Steuter-Martin
Accueil Bonneau’s beekeeping program has been running for the last four years. (Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau)
Helping homeless people in Montreal reintegrate into society by teaching them to care for bees may seem like an unusual approach, but organizers of the Accueil Bonneau honey program say it’s been a real success story.
“When they get to be hands on, they see that it’s all about being confident and being at peace with the bees,” said Geneviève Kieffer Després, director of communications and special projects.
Accueil Bonneau, a local group that offers a drop-in day centre and variety of services for homeless men, partnered with Montreal urban beekeeping company Alvéole four years ago.
The program is partnered with Alvéole and has seven different locations of hives across the city. (Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau)
Now the program, whose aim is to teach job skills and encourage social interaction, has 60 hives in seven locations across the city.
“The most important thing is that it’s not just a job. It’s learning to do something you love and getting rewarded for it. That is something we want to teach,” she said.
John Levasseur, an apprentice in the program, sees beekeeping as “meaningful” work.
He says bees are “so important, not only economically, but as a barometer” for the environmental state of the world.
“It’s like therapy for me,” he said, explaining that tending to them requires a certain calmness and focus.
“In a former life I was a DJ. I enjoyed the work, but often I had to get smashed to enjoy it.”
The honey harvested from the hives is sold at various locations in the city, the proceeds of which help fund the program and provide a small fee for participants.
About 10 participants get to volunteer with the beekeeping initiative each year. (Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau)
Kieffer Després says that working with the bees teaches participants, homeless men aged 25 and up, to be calm, gentle and more comfortable with socializing.
She recalls one example of a man who started out very shy interacting with the public at one of points of sale and eventually was able to come out of his shell.
“We started selling honey at the beginning of October, and by November, he was the guy going up to people telling them, ‘come see the stand, come try the honey.’ Amazing change, I could witness those kinds of changes everyday.”
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20250
NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK
June 19 – 25, 2017
By the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America
WHEREAS pollinator species such as honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies are essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing food and are vital to keeping items such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets; and
WHEREAS healthy pollinator populations critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers, of rural America, and of the U.S. economy; and
WHEREAS pollinator losses over the past few decades require immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect environmental health; and
WHEREAS it is critically important to encourage the protection of pollinators; increase the quality and amount of pollinator habitat and forage; reverse pollinator losses; and help restore pollinator populations to healthy levels;
NOW, THEREFORE, in recognition of the vital significance of protecting pollinator health, I, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim June 19 – 25, 2017, as National Pollinator Week. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in celebrating the significance of pollinators with appropriate observances and activities
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 24th day of May 2017, the two-hundred forty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America.