Hayley & bee keeping

Hayley’s story: bee keeping at Sunnyside makes me feel calm, relaxed and happy

Hayley has Asperger’s and OCD, she has been coming to Sunnyside for two years. She was introduced through the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) scheme, a nation-wide project aimed at encouraging people to learn new skills and help them become more employable.

At first Hayley was very anxious and she was easily distracted, so it took her a while to settle into her time at Sunnyside. In 2017 Sunnyside acquired a new colony of bees and was then able to offer a bee keeping course to staff, trainees and BBO participants.

Catherine Jones, Sunnyside’s bee keeping expert and horticultural co-ordinator, started Hayley on the bee keeping course, which she structured into several two hour sessions. In her first class Catherine taught Hayley how to make a frame for a hive. Hayley managed to make one frame, which she did reluctantly. But then her mother Vivien, who always came to Sunnyside as Hayley’s “plus one”, took some equipment home to make more frames and this proved to be the turning point. Whilst at home Hayley made some frames together with her father and discovered a real flair for it, and she started to really enjoy making them. This was the start of her beautiful relationship with bee keeping.

Hayley comes twice a week to Sunnyside and when she does she works with Catherine Jones and Peter Finch, another Sunnyside bee keeping expert. Together they check the hives once a week to see if the bees are healthy with enough food to eat and disease-free. “Hayley is particularly good at spotting the queen,” said Catherine, “She has excellent attention to detail.”

Bee keeping at Sunnyside has changed Hayley’s life and her parents’. “We used to live in America and back then Hayley worked for a doctor for five years typing up their patients’ reports from a Dictaphone. Her hobby was welding, in which she immersed herself 100%. When we came to England, she had to give that up which was a real shame, but then we found Sunnyside and the bee keeping has become a wonderful replacement,” said Hayley’s father, Harry. “Hayley would love to get back into welding and Vivien and I are always on the look-out for opportunities to get her started again.”

Hayley’s mother Vivien said, “When Hayley is bee keeping, she feels calm, relaxed and very happy. I have seen a pattern with the welding and the bee keeping, when she focuses on something dangerous, her disability disappears.” Both Peter and Catherine at Sunnyside have been extremely impressed with Hayley’s knowledge and practical skills on bee keeping.

Catherine, who sees Hayley more of a skilled volunteer than a trainee, observed, “Hayley is always super keen to go see the hives and she has improved so much socially since coming to Sunnyside. When she started with us she made very little eye contact with anyone and did not want to engage in conversation. She has trigger words that normally cause anxiety, but since she started bee keeping, there has been a marked difference in her reaction: she is more acceptable of her trigger words and is much more confident in social situations.”

Harry finishes by saying “Vivien and I spend our lives trying to satisfy Hayley’s needs, so we would like to say a big thank you to Sunnyside Rural Trust and BBO for putting a smile on Hayley’s face and giving her something to look forward to.”