Terry O'Shaughnessy

Hudson

Out of Africa

From Vaudreuil-Soulanges to Uganda, the keeping of bees is an ancient skill. Hudson resident and beekeeper Gunther Arnold recently returned from teaching his craft to five women in Africa and will be talking about his extraordinary experience this Saturday.

I will definitely be there, and it won’t only be for the delicious muffins that will also be there. It’s to hear about how Arnold brought the art and delicate science of beekeeping 6,000 miles from home, helping rural women acquire a skill that will bring them income.

As you might expect, Arnold was bowled over by his experience in Uganda.

I asked what struck him most forcefully about his journey.

“After working with these women for a couple of weeks I thought:  just wait until the women of Africa become more and more educated,” said Arnold.  “Nothing will stop them.”

Arnold’s African bee venture began in late August when he left Montreal for Entebbe with a crate of supplies for starting five bee hives from scratch at the Bududa Learning Centre, a school founded by another Montrealer, Barbara Wybar.

A small town in Uganda, Bududa became affiliated with the Hudson chapter of Grannies Aid for Africa a few years ago, an organization that Arnold was also connected with.

Operating under the umbrella of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Grannies Aid for Africa is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the grandmothers of Africa who are raising their grandchildren in the aftermath of Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic that is erasing their children’s generation.

The now-retired Arnold, who is a notable handyman among many talents, had some ideas for the Grannies and their work for Bududa—such as shipping solar powered lights, a brilliantly simple idea for the rural African town. Then there came his idea of sharing his beekeeping craft with women who would be able to turn their new skill into a source of income for themselves and their families.

For three weeks, Arnold taught the women how to care for honeybees and harvest honey. And though I wouldn’t want to spoil the fascinating stories of his experience in Uganda (you can hear them for yourself this Saturday), maybe he will forgive me for spilling the beans about the moment he presented each of the women with the beekeeper regalia of full body suit and head gear.

Unused to such immodest and unsuitable attire, the women simply refused to exchange their dresses for such a getup. Much worry and discussion ensued. Finally, a solution of sorts was reached: the women would wear both sets of clothes at the same time, their dresses folded and tucked into the pants of the beekeeper suit.

Arnold has clearly been moved and inspired by his new beekeepers—and so will you. He will speak at Wyman Memorial United Church in Hudson, 513 Main Rd. at 9 a.m. this Saturday, Nov. 3. The $10 charge at the door will go to the Bees for Bududa fund. For more information, call 450-458-0897.

 

 

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