The Beekeeper of Aleppo in West Cork

© UNHCR/Caroline Brothers

If you haven’t yet read The Beekeeper of Aleppo, then please do. It is a beautifully written and deeply moving novel that chronicles the journey of a refugee couple from Syria as they attempt to find safety and asylum in the UK. It’s raw and bravely, yet movingly, illustrates the nature of trauma and PTSD. While it is appropriately hard-hitting, the narrative is delivered with such beautifully crafted skill that you are compelled to take every step of their deeply poignant journey with them, with every turn of the page. 

One of the main characters, the Beekeeper of Aleppo himself, was based on a Syrian refugee called Ryad Alsous and his true-life experience. As the novel depicts, he made his way to the UK where he now lives and has set up a community endeavour called The Buzz Project. Back in Syria he was a beekeeper with 200 hives and a shop in which he sold all manner of bee-related food-based and therapeutic products. He now teaches other refugees and marginalised people from all walks of life beekeeping skills so that they can begin to develop their own hives and colonies and become self-supporting. This not only helps to empower displaced or disadvantaged people to carve out a modest livelihood, but working with bees, learning about their extraordinary hive culture and being part of meaningful community-led project helps them on a therapeutic level too. 

Sherwood Healing Arts Centre is teaming up with Ryad to develop a similar project in West Cork. It is hoped to offer an opportunity for a small group of participants to train in beekeeping skills with Ryad himself. This will be partially on-line for theoretical components and in-person at Sherwood for regular skills-based sessions, with Ryad coming over on a  monthly basis for a period of time. 

Sherwood offers a range of opportunities for Green Prescription, which is the term given for the tremendous therapeutic value of being out in Mother Nature, involved in gardening or being among trees with gentle woodland work and forest therapy, for instance. By collaborating with Ryad, Sherwood hopes to set up a similar Buzz Project to offer the support this can give on so many levels. 

At present this project is in the formative stages with Ryad ready to come over as soon as there are two-three nuc hives in place at Sherwood and a group of participants on board. 

Sherwood is currently hoping for help and connections in the following ways:

1. Any leads on possible nuc hives that might be available to purchase at a reasonable rate for this not-for-profit community project

2. Networking within refugee communities, or any marginalised groups

3. Networking within mental and emotional health communities

4. Networking within beekeeping communities in order to be able to offer some public talks with Ryad about his life and work on a donation basis to help finance his travel costs over. 

If you would like to learn beekeeping skills from this extraordinary man or if you can suggest either where it might be possible to get some nuc hives or suggest some good groups and/or venues that might be interested in hosting a public talk with Ryad about his life and work, please contact Freya Sherlock:;; 086-1273148.

WCP Staff

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