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Homeless Canadians Getting New Life Through Beekeeping

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The Accueil Bonneau honey program in Montreal is earning positive results in helping homeless people learn essential life skills and start anew by an unusual approach – taking care of bees.

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Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau

According to CBCNews, the group Accueil Bonneau, which provides a variety of services for homeless people, started the honey program 4 years ago by partnering with Alveole, a Montreal beekeeping company.

This program primarily aims to help the homeless learn job competencies and social skills that can assist them in effectively integrating to society. While job skills are directly learned, life lessons are unstructured and indirect but powerful and influential as observed by the program organizers.

Accueil Bonneau

Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau

Director of communications and special projects Geneviève Kieffer Després shared that working with bees is teaching the honey program participants to be gentle, calm, and more comfortable around other people.

Després also said: “When they get to be hands on, they see that it’s all about being confident and being at peace with the bees.” She added: “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.”

The director also mentioned one beneficiary of the program who initially had difficulty interacting with people but after some time, the work helped him to open up – “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 kind of changes everyday.”

Accueil Bonneau

Alice Renaud/Accueil Bonneau

Another apprentice of the program, John Levasseur, revealed that what they are doing in beekeeping is meaningful and rewarding. He also explained that taking care of bees demands stillness and focus.

“It’s like therapy for me,” Levasseur said. “In a former life, I was a DJ. I enjoyed the work but often I had to get smashed to enjoy it.”

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