The three-day course was attended by 12 people – all of whom have been affected by their own or their partners' military career.
The course was taught by John Geden, a former Army Captain turned beekeeper – and a Help for Heroes beneficiary. John was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2014 and has now set up his own bee-farming business, called Sinah Common Honey and manages over 100 beehives.
John said “During my 10 years in the Army and 22 years in Hampshire Police, I encountered many unpleasant things that have left me with some unpleasant memories and mental scars. I needed to do something that would give me a sense of worth and achievement, but that did not put me under too much pressure by placing huge demands on me.”
“I had been keeping bees for many years as a hobby and, after considering a few other options, I decided that this was the best fit for me. Beekeeping rids my brain of negative thoughts, and now I have been able to turn it into a business, and I also get to teach like-minded people – it’s very satisfying that I can give back.”
The course covered a range of topics including the history of the honey bee, equipment requirements, managing common diseases and harvesting honey. All of the students were provided with a copy of the BBKA Guide to Beekeeping – kindly donated to Help for Heroes by The British Beekeepers Association.
The course were extremely inquisitive, and the relaxed environment helped many overcome some of their mental health issues such as anxiety and depression from their military careers. Now with all of the course looking into the future, they were keen to learn as much as they could to be able to start a new hobby.
Former Army Major Don Hodgson, who suffered a stroke seven years ago during his service, also attended the course and said – “I’ve never been involved in beekeeping before, but I love gardening so I’m naturally interested in bees and beekeeping. I was involved in a car accident three years ago and broke 11 ribs, 4 bones in my back and 2 in my neck which has affected my mobility – this is why I like gardening because I can take my time with it. This course has been really fascinating and I’m now looking at putting in two bee hives into an allotment I have – fortunately I live close to John Geden and he’s happy to help me set it all up which is an amazing gesture.”
Don’s wife Donia also attended the course and added “The course was excellent, we are now joining our local Bee Keeping association and can’t wait to have hives of our own. Tedworth House has been key to Don’s recovery and rehabilitation for which I will always be grateful, it’s great that Don can attend courses to benefit his future.”
BJ Sherriff, beekeeping specialists, kindly donated beekeeping suits to Help for Heroes for this course and have also been working on suits for those with prosthetic limbs, meaning wounded military folk will be able to participate in this course in the future.
Although this course was purely theory based, the budding course will continue their learning with a practical day in a few months’ time where they will learn to construct a beehive and being to start practically handling bees, and will hopefully add 12 new faces to the beekeeping community.