The Beehive of Knowledge

Emmy Roday, IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow in the Philippines, explains how she used artwork and personal expression to support a group of women learning beekeeping through HoneyAID

HoneyAID has taken hold of the Philippines! By teaching women to manage bees, harvest honey, and market their products, HoneyAID is designed to economically empower low-income women. For two weeks, Tim Cummings, an American-Israeli Beekeeper, conducted an intensive beekeeping training for 20 women.

Beekeeper Tim Cummings from Kibbutz Shaar Hagolan leads a workshop for the HoneyAID participants

Following the training, each woman received two hives of Apis Mellifera Honeybees to care for and maintain under the supervision of IsraAID. From Nepal to Ecuador to Dominica, women facing disaster and dire economic circumstances have regained control and confidence in the management of their lives through IsraAID’s HoneyAID beekeeping program.

So, how did these 20 women find avenues to relate to their six-legged, black and yellow friends? The IsraAID Philippines staff created and facilitated team-building and women’s empowerment workshops that centered around bee-related concepts, images, and metaphors. This holistic approach allowed the women to develop an understanding of their individual roles as well as larger group framework through the lens of worker bees and collectivist beehives.

The ‘Beehive Of Knowledge’ is a workshop that encouraged the women to apply their new learning, foster a sense of camaraderie, and inspire personal reflection. The women were first asked to draw how they see themselves ‘as a bee’ (i.e. worker bee, drone bee, queen bee) considering their real-life roles, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. They folded their artwork into the cells of a beehive (recalling the universal 6-sided cell shapes). In pairs, the women shared their designs and stapled their cells together, finding new pairs to complete the same tasks until an entire hive was assembled.

Every day, the women wrote responses to the prompts, ‘I learn…I feel…I will take with me…’, and stored them in their own cell. On the last day of the training, they collected eight days worth of notes detailing their personal growth. Gathered in a circle, the women contributed, with open hearts and eager ears, pieces of their newfound knowledge.

Emmy helping to construct the beehive

One participant, Cirila, stood up and read, “I learned about different kinds of bees and how drifting causes the spread of sickness throughout colonies. I learned you have to take care of the bees — bees are a creation of God.”

Vic Vic smiled as she spoke of the honey and the IsraAID staff: “I learned the honey is made of substances — fructose, glucose, amino acids, minerals, and proteins. I am happy and thankful to be here in this training because the speakers from IsraAID are smart and friendly, and the participants are all eager to learn.”

Leaning into the circle, Virgie began, “I feel so very happy and thankful…to IsraAID for giving me the chance for a livelihood project for us women. I take with me the knowledge to tell the people at home. I will remember our community.”

The ‘Beehive of Knowledge’ not only brought the women closer together, but also became a personal way of tracking their emotional and educational progress. During the training’s conclusion, the ‘Beehive of Knowledge’ was overflowing with the women’s intellectual honey for their sweet keeping. As the women face the next stages of beekeeping, they have their female collective and their own knowledge now to guide them — ready for harvest.

The HoneyAID Philippines group with Emmy and Tim

The IsraAID Humanitarian Fellowship is an annual program offering 14 students from colleges across the United States a two month internship in one of IsraAID’s humanitarian aid and development programs around the world. The fellowship is supported by the Schusterman Foundation and the Koret Foundation.

Emmy Roday studies English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, and Arabic at Kenyon College and is an IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow in the Philippines. She is from New Haven, Connecticut.