I’m a beekeeper – what’s your super power?

On Friday 23rd of June I used my Sopra Steria Volunteering Day to support the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA) at the Royal Highland Show. The SBA was setup in 1912 as the national beekeeping body in Scotland. Sopra Steria provides me with one day’s paid volunteering, as part of our Community commitments, so with the SBA being a charity I decided to use my volunteering day to help.

Every year the SBA have a massive “Honey Marquee” at the Royal Highland Show which is a 4 day event – it’s Scotland’s biggest agricultural event with over 1,000 trade exhibitors and 6,500 animals. In the Honey Marquee alone, the SBA plan for around 10,000 visitors per day and require teams of stewards to help. So I put my name down for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

SR-Outside-Honey-MarqueeAll of the stewards were avid beekeepers, ranging from people like me, i.e. beginners keeping a couple of hives in the back garden, through to bee farmers with hundreds of hives and decades of experiences.

We rotated our teams around the various sections of the hive covering:

  • Candle making – beeswax of course!
  • Observation hives – we had 3 glass sided hives with bees foraging outside at the show

Education – a “touchy feely” area where people can handle hive parts, honey  comb and a honey extractor.

Here’s a view inside the Honey Marquee:

SBA-Honey-Marquee-2017

How did I get into Beekeeping?

readman-family-beekeepersOne of my good friends from school has kept bees for many years and I’d always had “beekeeping” in my bucket list of things to. So when he said he had a spare colony for me I thought – “how difficult can this be?”. I took my first colony with his telephone support, joined the Edinburgh branch of the SBA and did their beginners evening course. My (then) 8 year old daughter came along to the Saturday practical sessions too, so this has become a bit of a family hobby.

2016 was a bad year weather-wise and we didn’t get any honey, but in May this year we took our first crop of 13 jars:may-honey-crop-wide

Bees and our environment

As you will have heard in the news, bees have had a bit of a bad time with a variety of factors leading to colonies failing, this includes Varroa Mites and Foul Brood. We’re all hoping that the Asian Hornet doesn’t take hold in the UK.

Discover more about Sopra Steria’s sustainability commitment and community activities.

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Three things I learned volunteering for The Prince’s Trust

 Sopra Steria is a proud Patron of
The Prince’s Trust – a UK youth charity that helps 13 to 30 year olds get into jobs, education and training.  We encourage our employees to be volunteers for The Trust to help run and lead programmes that inspire and empower these young people to realise their potential.

I recently volunteered to deliver a
‘Find A Work Placement’ workshop to help participants take responsibility for developing and raising their skills.  Here are some things I learned from this challenging and rewarding experience:

The participating young people wanted to make a difference to their lives

The young people participating in the workshop showed real potential to succeed.  They engaged in the workshop activities (including a role play where I played  an employer they were approaching for a work placement), listened to and positively acted on the feedback given and shared in celebrating success.  They demonstrated the right qualities we all need when looking for work.

The Prince’s Trust team were fantastic

The materials and support I received from The Trust Team were always practical and useful.  As a volunteer drawing from my own professional skills and experience, I was rightly expected to make the workshop a success; The Trust helped me by providing a structured approach and suggested methods for facilitating the session with clear, specific learning objectives for those participating. This empowered me to run the session effectively with other volunteers while giving us room to share our own relevant insights and experiences throughout the day. In addition the onsite Trust Team helped participants engage in the workshop activities constructively using a positive, collaborative approach.

It was challenging and personally rewarding for me

Like all Trust volunteers, it’s intrinsically satisfying to see young people get value from your engagement.  The experience also helped develop my own business skills as I needed to adapt my working style to succeed as a workshop facilitator.  By the end of the day I had helped participants create their own individual action plans to find work placements – a positive next step in them taking responsibility for unlocking their own potential.

Find out more information about The Prince’s Trust and how you can get involved.  And if you have any thoughts on this topic, leave a reply below or contact me by email.