A unique social school enterprise with students and bees has been launched in a village in the Kyiv region. The children there not only make honey but also learn to work in a team, help others, be creative and responsible.
In the yard of the Zavorychi educational complex, life is bustling like in a beehive even during the summer break. And not figuratively. All because since this spring, schoolchildren from the village of Zavorychi, Kyiv region, have created an unusual social school enterprise "School Beehive."
"School Beehive" is an apiary of six beehives in the Kalytianska united territorial community. Students of the Zavorychi educational and production complex together with the team of the NGO "Our Steps" are creating a school apiary within the "Establishing Social School Enterprises in Rural Areas and Small Towns of Ukraine to Encourage Young People to Social Entrepreneurship" project, implemented by the Eastern Europe Foundation and ChildFund Deutschland, and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany. And if someone thinks that working with bees is not for children, they're very wrong. In recent months, project participants have finally made certain of this.
According to Natalia Roslyk, co-founder of the NGO "Our Steps," the idea of creating a school apiary has been soaring for a long time. The thought leader of this process was one of the curators of the current project and part-time head of the club in the Zavorychi educational complex, Maksym Kulida. He proposed the idea of developing an apiary at school and teaching children such a demanding but exciting business as beekeeping. And although everyone understood that the combination of school and bees is so new and atypical, this idea was enthusiastically supported by the school and the community.
And there were a lot of options to choose from. "At the stage of writing a grant application for establishing a social school enterprise," Natalia Roslyk recalls, "we also considered options of growing eco-greenery, and producing second-hand clothes. Although later, despite the attraction of both of these ideas, they pitched upon beekeeping and, as time and the progressive interest of children show, didn't miscalculate. Both adults and children are so fascinated by the project that now we plan to cover the whole of Ukraine with a network of school hives!"
For a long time, the idea of creating an apiary was at the plane of conversation. The community didn't have the funds, and the power of sponsors and philanthropists wasn't enough for such social initiatives. That is why it was decided to try to write a grant application. The NGO "Our Steps" admits that the team didn't have solid experience in this process. However, even then, they saw the children would like it. UAH 75,000, which the initiators of "School Beehive" won in the "Establishing social school enterprises in rural areas and small towns of Ukraine to encourage young people to social entrepreneurship" project, became the basis for implementing a bold plan of Zavorychi residents.
In general, during project implementation, namely, equipment and tools for the enterprise, i.e. hives, frames, mortgage boards, suits, protective masks, glass containers, buckets, chimneys, filters, etc. more than 40 thousand hryvnias were spent. Bee colonies came to the Kyiv region from distant Bukovyna; it's a Carpathian breed, recognized in Ukraine as one of the best, and recommended for breeding in many areas with the herbaceous honey collection. In addition to the grant funds, they also managed to attract the help of participants of "Our Steps"; this contribution also made it possible to significantly strengthen the logistics of the company and make it more capable and competitive.
After that, the most interesting thing started. After all, purchasing equipment and bees were just the beginning. From the very beginning, the main idea of the organizers wasn't to turn children into mere observers. Young future beekeepers were engaged in landscaping, fencing, processing, and arranging hives, relocating bees from special transport containers to hives, and studying at school at the same time.
At specialized master classes, children got acquainted with the basics of safety in the apiary, beekeeping, as well as marketing features of promoting honey products on the market. For this purpose, both local activists, former deputies, and well-known specialists were involved. For example, the long-term personal beekeeper of ex-President Yushchenko Petro Diachenko told children about the basics of beekeeping, and Alina Bocharnikova, a well-known expert in this field, told them about the basics of social entrepreneurship. Pavlo Babenko, Deputy Chairperson of the Federation of Employers in the Field of Tourism of Ukraine, Specialist in Market Research and Marketing Strategie, Development introduced them to the basics of marketing. Ruslana Balakir, the former head of the budget commission of the Kalyta village council, told the children how to work with the company's finances so as not to remain in the red. During this master class, the project participants learned the list of products that can be obtained from the apiary, understood how much resources should be spent on it and how much income can be earned. The interesting, accessible presentation of material and open communication inspired the students even more.
Svitlana Butrym, the mother of one of the participants in the project, says: "Honestly, at first, I thought it wouldn't be interesting for my children. The youngest son completely refused to go to the first lectures, and the eldest reluctantly agreed. Later, after practical classes, Andrii became interested. The sons started talking about the school's apiary at home, watching videos on YouTube on this topic. Now the youngest son is zealously running there. Moreover, my husband had already bought them material for making hives, and acquaintances promised to give the bee family. So the sons are saving money on inventory and already have plans to develop a home apiary."
Of course, at first, parents had concerns about the safety of the apiary for children. But seeing the interest of children, parents not only stopped worrying but began to support, help with spreading information about the social school enterprise and its products. For their part, the organizers issued insurance policies to students for the project duration, purchased the necessary drugs that can be used in case of bee stings to take care of children's safety.
The school administration played a significant role in the parents' positive perception of the project, and met the needs of the organizers, supported them in every way, and continues to do so.
Currently, the project participants are 15 students of the Zavorychi educational complex, aged from 7 to 14 years. Each of them has a role in the school enterprise. So, the director of the enterprise became the student of 7th class Anastasia Boboshko, there's a deputy, departments of marketing, deliveries, public relations, responsible for finances and logistical support. However, despite the children's enthusiasm, of course, it's still challenging for them to learn all these processes. So the curators Maksym Kulida and Pavlo Dubovyi help in the project implementation. The first one, besides being a beekeeper, is also a railway worker, a deputy of the village council, and the head of the school group, responsible for the educational part of the project. He explains to children the basics of beekeeping, coordinates their activities in the apiary. Pavlo Dubovyi isn't just a first-year participant in the public life of the Kalytianska united territorial community, and therefore he's more involved in organizational issues, communication with the grantor, as well as the promotion of a social school enterprise. In addition, activists of the "Our Steps" organization provide their share of assistance in the enterprise, who have been imbued with the idea of creating a school enterprise no less than children and help achieve this goal.
Pavlo Dubovyi, the project coordinator, believes that school social enterprises can be one of the ways out of the "virtual bubble" that modern children often fall into: "Over the past 20 years, the amount of time children spend in front of different devices has increased rapidly. It's either phones or TVs. Generations of modern children are often referred to as the digital generation. But at the same time, it is no object to our project's participants to feel and enjoy reality. Because how can a virtual game replace a quest with traps to catch wild swarms or a supply of flowers for bees for the winter? Well, there's no need to talk about weekly inspections of hives, because you need to think about protective ammunition, and not to make sudden movements, and most importantly, to play in a team that trains better than any FIFA or Minecraft. And as in every game, a new lesson on School Beehive is a new level, new knowledge, and new life experience, without which there are no great VICTORIES in any game, and most importantly, in life."
It wasn't without difficulties. Among the main ones are the weather and national peculiarities of the beekeeping market in Ukraine.
"For example, this year turned out to be quite cold in the spring," says Natalia Roslyk, "so the bee colonies arrived at the new place with a significant delay." We also see today that families are young, so they build up their strength by using more honey for their use and fodder than saving it in honeycombs. And while it's a temporary process as families grow, it's a characteristic to keep in mind right now. As for the specifics of the market, it manifested itself at the stage of the material and technical base of the school enterprise. The primary condition of the grantor was the purchase of all necessary equipment only officially, using agreements, invoices, and bills. However, as it turned out, the lion's share of market participants work in the shadow sector. Simply put, without contracts, without official recalculations, and only for cash. At some point, this created some obstacles, but at the same time, such circumstances made it possible to better study the market situation, its specifics, and most importantly, to find legal and responsible suppliers.
The project participants call their little wards "buzzers". However, for the Zavorychi students, beekeeping isn't just beehives that are buzzing funnily, and regular visits to the apiary "for show," it's work, and participation in a real quest full of special effects, and care for the environment and creativity.
Even Hollywood stars know bees are on the verge of extinction, and according to the NGO "Our Steps," it's very cool that now children can support this species with their activities and thus help nature. Of course, it's hard to influence this global process at the school and children's level. However, the project participants still couldn't get past this problem, so soon "School Beehive" will issue a special educational leaflet, which will discuss the responsible treatment of fields and the danger to bees because of the use of chemicals in the fields. If it saves at least one bee colony, that's the result.
Valeria Sydoruk, a student at the school, a participant in the project, says: "The thing I like most about the apiary is our team. She's friendly and hardworking. Also, on the example of bees, we see how a real team works. Plus, it's a lot of experience and knowledge in completely different areas: from science to economics and business planning. I think that our 'School Beehive' will continue to develop and will be able to attract even more children not only within our village or community but also students from other regions throughout Ukraine."
When it became clear that this year's collected honey would be less than planned, after consultation, the children decided to diversify the line of products that can create the company, without waiting for honey pumping. So, two batches of candles made of wax, soaked with propolis, are ready, which the first buyers were interested in. As of the beginning of July, the income from selling candles amounted to about UAH 2,000.
There's also the idea of creating a lemonade based on honey, which will be especially relevant in the period of abnormal heat, candy, marmalade, and pastilles. And for honey, the container with the branded stickers for its realization is already prepared. Primarily, children rely on the local consumer, although the possibilities of the Internet make it possible to expand the area of distributing information about the social school enterprise and its products far beyond the community and the region. By the way, shortly, they'll create the company's business page and a virtual store, where everyone will be able to buy products of interest to them in a few clicks. The participants also aim to expand the company by installing at least 20 hives and sharing experiences with all of Ukraine. So School Beehive is looking for partners and sponsors for these ambitious plans.
The project's important component is not just the creation of an apiary, or profit, but also the social mission of the social school enterprise. The participants of the "School Beehive" project have defined a mission to help children from the "Nadiia" orphanage in the Kalytianska united territorial community. In particular, part of the profit from selling the company's products will be transferred to help the orphanage. The rest of the profits will be reinvested to develop the apiary further and will be directed to school self-government and diversifying student youth leisure.
As Kristina Rivera, the project's communications manager points out, School Beehive is an example of a story where a big step begins with a small step. "At the start of the project, we just wanted to show children the ancient traditions of beekeeping, bring them closer to nature and the production of environmentally friendly products, and also for social purposes. But now, while communicating with children, we have further plans and goals related to project development. For example, we're about to launch a crowdfunding campaign as part of a project from the Renaissance Foundation to purchase a bee house for a school apiary and practice free medical apitherapy for retirees and anti-terrorist operation participants. We also see how much our participants have changed. They've become more responsible. Now they're a full-fledged team that thinks, plans, and calculates their own steps forward. I think the success story of the School Beehive project is the story of not just a school apiary, not just an enterprise, but something bigger that allows you to change the minds of children, cultivate their respect for nature and their worldview in life. This experience is invaluable, so we plan to scale it up and, if desired, open similar school hives across the country: from East to West, from North to South. Although its heart, of course, will remain here, in the Kyiv region, in the very center of Ukraine."
Meanwhile, each new week, a new day brings fresh experiences, new impressions, and discoveries to the project participants. And all because the real measure of the life of "School Beehive," young beekeepers and their beetles isn't the number of bees or the amount of honey collected, but the moments when the eyes shine and the breath of both children and adults is baited.
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