Huneebee Project is a venture based in New Haven, CT that provides transferable job skills training and employment opportunities to youth ages 15-23 with past or present child protective or foster care involvement. Youth are trained in beekeeping – they install and maintain beehives in community gardens within under-resourced neighborhoods – and power an online marketplace. Huneebee Project seeks to create a new system that highlights dignity, self-worth, and unique individual talent. This post is written by Savannah, one of Huneebee Project’s graduates. All photos by Belden Carlson.
July of 2018 started off as a normal summer for me. Going out to the beach, spending time with friends, eating ice cream and having a good time! I was 16 years old when I learned about Huneebee Project. I remember getting home from a day well spent with friends, and on the refrigerator was a flyer. I took the flyer off and started to read, I walked into the living room and shouted to my grandmother “Are you trying to get me killed!?” in my hand a held up a single white piece of paper that had contact information, brief description and a single question “Do you wanna be a beekeeper!”A few days after I gave in and said I would try it.
My first day interacting with the bees was quite the experience. Hearing the buzzing made my heart tingle and I felt a sense of calm run over me. The moment I lit the smoker I knew I was where I belonged, where I wanted to be. The smell of the smoke, the sight of the puffy white clouds, and the way my anxiety left my body and feeling all my problems go away.
After the first few sessions, I found myself in school talking about my experience and sharing my knowledge. I would walk around saying “Hey guys, guess what? I’m a beekeeper!” and their mouths would drop in disbelief, while I continued to show them pictures of me in my bee gear.
Being a female beekeeper makes me feel this certain accomplishment and power in my life. I’ve been told what a girl can and can’t do my whole life, and then this opportunity opened up where I can say “I’m a girl in charge!” The honey bee’s main provider of the hive is the worker bee which is a female bee. They run the hives! They’re in charge, too.
Huneebee project has opened me up to something I’d never thought I would be doing, let alone wanting to start my own. When I’m well and ready, I plan to run a small garden of my own with my boyfriend called “The Coping Garden,” with my own hives, flowers, and vegetables galore. A small place in which people can relax, destress, and feel that same relief and have the same experience I had when I first stepped in the garden. Therapeutic is how I would describe it. And, of course, empowering.
Power and responsibility are feelings I like to walk around having. And feelings I want to continue to walk around having. And just like the bees have given to me, I’ve been able to give to them. Being able to give back to the environment is highly important and more than deserved. Taking care of bees and making sure they are well cared for and safe is very important, especially to us, the Earth and its occupants.
If bees don’t have enough to eat, humans won’t have enough to eat either. Globally there are more honey bees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so they are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one-third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees.
Our plants and crops are kept alive by our buzzing companions, without them we wouldn’t have very much to eat. They are important and knowing that I am helping something that is keeping millions of people fed and alive makes me feel like an essential contributor to society.
I have the experience and knowledge that is needed to become a successful beekeeper. And knowing that I am gonna continue working with bees in the near future makes me happy. Without Huneebee Project, I wouldn’t have known that the world could use my help, and that with even the smallest effort I am contributing to something that is globally impacting our earth in a positive way. I am nothing more than proud to be a young independent, powerful, responsible, female beekeeper, and it’s all thanks to Huneebee Project.
Savannah is 17-years-old and a senior at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven, CT. She hopes to study computer science at the University of Hartford, and in the meantime has grown to love the bees. Savannah graduated from the Beekeepers in Residence training program in Fall 2018 and vows to be a part of Huneebee forever. She looks forward to starting a garden space and apiary of her own, which she will call “The Coping Garden.”