Bees Abroad trustee awarded MBE
Kay Williams, Bees Abroad trustee, has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list 2024. Kay is being awarded the honour of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to the international environment and charitable services to Bees Abroad.
Christine Ratcliffe, Communications and Fundraising Manager at Bees Abroad, spoke to Kay about her achievement:
First of all, congratulations on being awarded an MBE, Kay!
Q: Being recognised with an MBE is a tremendous achievement. Could you share your personal reflections on this award?
A: This award recognises not only my efforts but also those from many different sectors and stakeholder groups working hard internationally to protect our shared global environment from the harm caused by pollution especially chemicals and waste. These efforts complement Bees Abroad which works to enable communities to empower themselves through sustainable beekeeping. Without a pollution free environment, bees do not thrive.
Q: This award recognises your lifetime of work to date. Can you share a personal reflection on the journey that led you to become involved with Bees Abroad?
A: I first became involved in beekeeping around six years ago when I decided that I needed a hobby. As social insects, bees are endlessly fascinating, and I trained with my local Beekeeping Association (the CBKA) to learn how to keep them. Having always had an interest in international development, I admired the ethos and values of Bees Abroad and wanted to combine my passions.
Q: You’ve been working with Bees Abroad for three years. Can you highlight one or two key milestones or projects that you are particularly proud of during that time?
A: I am particularly proud of how Bees Abroad has evolved over the last few years. Under the leadership of Richard Ridler, the Chair of the trustees, the charity has truly become a professional player having revamped its processes, rebranded its image, hired a CEO and become a 21st century charity whilst making sure that nearly all donations are still spent overseas.
Q: Reflecting on your experiences with Bees Abroad, what valuable lessons have you learned that you would like to share?
A: If you become involved in a small charity then be prepared to turn your hand to anything and everything!
Q: Having accomplished this recognition of your work to date, what’s next on the horizon for you and your work with Bees Abroad?
A: I would like to continue to work with Bees Abroad in increasing its profile, support its work on the ground, particularly with women, and help the charity on its journey to be the international experts on beekeeping for communities overseas.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share: insights, reflections, hopes for the future as we enter a new year?
A: Aim high, work hard and have fun.
Thank you, Kay, for sharing your insights and congratulations once again on this well-deserved recognition. We look forward to your continued contributions to our work.
Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared a first-person account from Elizabeti, mother to a young child with albinism.
Elizabeti, based in northern Tanzania, was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child when her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She named him Baraka, which means “blessing” but she was immediately cut off from her late husband’s family; shunned and shamed, she was seen as a curse and the cause of her husband’s death.
Later, a man approached Elizabeti and her family, asking to marry her. The family was initially delighted at this unexpected turn of events. But before the marriage took place, Elizabeti was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that the future husband had dark intentions to kill her child in order to sell his body parts for witchcraft.
Elizabeti broke off the engagement with the man, but after being attacked but escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life at risk as well. Warned of imminent danger one night a week later by a friend, she fled in the darkness, running with her baby boy for his life. She ended up in Mwanza, where she found the support of Under the Same Sun. She received a sewing machine and was looking to support herself and her child by sewing clothes when she joined the Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”) group.
Now, nine years later, Elizabeti is happily married with more beautiful children. She has trained and excelled in her sewing skills and is valued member of the albinism women’s group, making beeswax products to sell. She takes the handmade batiks that the women make and turns them into aprons, cushion covers and cloth napkins. During COVID, she sewed an uncountable number of colourful batik face masks!
And now, with support from Bees Abroad, as the women start their own honey and beeswax social enterprise as a national NGO, rebranding themselves as “Mama Hive,” Elizabeti is boldly taking a step not many women in Tanzania have taken … onto a motorbike! She has spent the last few months with MJ Piki (“Mwanamke Jasiri ya PikiPiki” or “Brave women on motorcycles”) learning how to drive and maintain a motorbike. She is about to start her training on a 3-wheeler, in order to become the official driver for the Mama Hive Bajaji.
This exciting new project is going to convert a normal Tanzanian bajaj (3-wheeler used for transporting goods) into a trendy mobile shop which the women will take around the city to sell honey and beeswax products.
From the desperate terror of running for her life with her baby boy, Elizabeti is now a brave advocate for women and children with albinism. She has overcome persecution, adversity and stigma; gone from being homeless, alone and destitute to being part of social enterprise earning her own income, to show that truly this beeswax artisan can!