Becoming a Beekeeper: Mercedes’ Story
19-year-old Mercedes, who has spina bifida and autism, successfully applied to the Therapy Focus GIVE Program for a $5000 grant to purchase specialised beehives called Flow Hives.
The innovative hives remove much of the physical labour typically associated with honey harvesting, giving Mercedes more independence to run her honey business, Ms Gold’s.
While Mercedes has been operating Ms Gold’s for the past six years, Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Glenna Tan explained that she has always required significant assistance to manage the heavy, labour intensive hives.
“Harvesting honey in the traditional way has many steps that require lifting, carrying, transferring and using tools while standing,” said Melissa.
“Mercedes’ diagnosis means that she has poor control over her lower body, affecting her ability to stand and walk which makes this process impossible to complete independently. Additionally, traditional hives require Mercedes to wear a full beekeeping suit which she needs help to put on.”
The Flow Hive does not require the removal of the frames from the hive, making it an attainable task for Mercedes to complete by herself as well as removing the need for a protective suit.
“Since receiving the hives Mercedes has been able to take more responsibility for her business and complete ownership of the process,” said Melissa.
Mercedes’ mum, Vanessa, agreed that the Flow Hives were a very positive step for her.
“Mercedes finished high school last year and needed to move into a more adult lifestyle, including meaningful employment,” Vanessa said.
“As well as giving Mercedes a great opportunity for post-secondary school employment, the beehives also provide a really social environment for Mercedes.”
“It gives her value in the community and a sense of belonging to something bigger than just herself.”
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