Welcome: Honey bees!

Thanks to Bank of Melbourne, residents at Carrical and Hamer Court now care for over 50,000 bees in their very own bee hives. 

Our residents learning to care for bees at one of our houses. As the hives mature, residents will collect the honey to sell.

Looking after bees has been a dream for Servants staff and residents for years – but now it’s a reality. In fact, over 60,000 honey-making bees currently call a Servants house, ‘home’.

The bees aren’t just for show. In fact, they will be put to good use. The process of caring for bees has proven to be therapeutic for residents, giving a sense of purpose.

Karina Battey, Day Manager at Hamer Court, has been intimately involved with the project. She says, “We started with around 35,000 bees at each of two properties, but the hives are growing steadily and we now have thousands more.”

She also sees the impact they have on residents.

How honey-making friends are helping create safe, sustainable housing for people on low incomes.

As with everything, the bee project (which we’re calling Home Sweet Comb), is part of Servants’ mission to create communities where respect, dignity, hope and opportunity are nurtured. The process of caring for bees is therapeutic, especially for people experiencing acute mental illness. And residents are loving it.

Karina says, “Residents are excited. Involvement with the bees is expanding their interest across the whole house, motivating them to try new things and growing a new sense of pride for their home. Caring for the bees gives residents something to look forward to each day, but also gives them a long-term goal as they get excited to make honey in the future.

“I think of one resident in particular. He spent months looking forward to the bees arriving, and there’s a noticeable change in his happiness since he’s been able to get involved.”

Over time, residents plan to harvest honey, and are also getting creative about other ways to use the wax. Wax candles, among other things, might be on the menu in coming months.

All of this has been possible thanks to a grant from Bank of Melbourne, which has supported the purchasing of materials, training, and ongoing support to ensure the project remains sustainable and scalable.

Our beekeeper preparing the bees with a smoker.
Bees on their arrival day.

‘Every person is going through something’.

CEO Amanda Donohoe and Women’s House Manager Belinda Battey are honoured at Boroondara’s 2022 Australia Day awards.

2022 Australia Day award and honours recipients with Boroondara Council members and Mr Josh Frydenberg (Treasurer). (Photo: Boroondara Council).
Belinda Battey encourages us to be compassionate and courageous in the face of challenge. (Photo: Boroondara Council)

The following words are republished with permission from a speech by Belinda Battey, who was recently honoured as the 2022 Boroondara Young Citizen of the Year for her tireless volunteering with Servants Community Housing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same ceremony, CEO Amanda Donohoe received a special commendation award for her leadership and dedication.

“For the past 12 months I’ve had the privilege of living as an on-site volunteer house manager with Servants. The house I manage supports a number of women from different backgrounds and with different challenging experiences, including acute mental illness and domestic violence.

By living with people with such different experiences, I have been face to face with the fact that every individual is going through different challenges in life. It goes back to the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover. Every person has their own experiences, and every person is going through something. Everyone has a story.

Having the opportunity to live and be alongside people while they face significant challenges has been a privilege; to support those people, and be a positive, stable, encouraging presence in their lives. Especially during a time where everyone’s lives are that bit more complicated as we make our way through these COVID times.

As an occupational therapy student who wishes to work amongst people, supporting them in their daily lives, volunteering at Servants has given me prime opportunities for exposure to the world around me, and experience that I could not gain through uni alone.

My encouragement to myself, and to everyone in this room is to strive to continually be the person who doesn’t judge, who stops, listens, and genuinely cares for the people around them.

Belinda has been managing the Women's House throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One moment that will always stay with me is when a new resident moved in. On the day they moved in they told me that in their previous residence, they would stack furniture against the door at night to make sure no one could get in. But here, she felt safe. She had a lock on her door that she knew she could use, to lock her door overnight while she slept, but she did not feel the need to. Because now she had somewhere safe to live; somewhere that felt like home.

This award shows that the work Servants is doing in our community is valued and important. To me it is not just me standing here, but this recognises the work of all the staff and volunteers at Servants, and it is a privilege to have this recognition.

Thank you.”