Julia Common, left, with her daughter Sarah, right, and Jim McLeod in the middle, examining a hive in the Hastings Folk Garden in the middle of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Photo credit: Jeff Lee

Hives for Humanity teaching beekeeping in Vancouver’s poorest district

There’s an interesting marriage of social enterprise and beekeeping taking place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that offers promise for some of Canada’s poorest residents.
Julia Common runs Hives for Humanity, a fledgling enterprise that has put beehives into the DTES with a goal of teaching people how to raise bees and produce honey for local sale.
Julia, without a doubt, fits very well into the eccentric world of urban beekeepers; when her contract as a community coordinator for a private school ended, she took the proceeds and bought a number of hives with which to teach the unemployed, the addicted and the mentally ill who live in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood.
Someone heard of her philanthropic works and donated a pickup truck she promptly named “Loretta” for Loretta Lynn, her favourite country singer.
Someone at the Richmond Beekeepers Association donated a home-made “beemobile” wheelbarrow with which her students will move hives between as many as a dozen rooftop gardens, back yard and community gardens.
I’ve written a piece about the efforts of Julia and her daughter Sarah Common, who also works as a counsellor for the Portland Hotel Society, one of the non-government organizations working with and ministering to residents. The Sun’s photographer Ward Perrin also did an exquisite job on photography, and we’ve also produced a video with the expertise of Mark Yuen and Mike Bell.
Some beekeepers are interested in becoming commercial operators with hundreds of hives producing tonnes of honey.
But Julia’s goal, she says, is to simply return to the community some hope and redemption, offering opportunities and education to people who are preoccupied with simply trying to survive day to day.

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