Abdoul is a refugee from Senegal who has been in Italy for a year and nine months and is currently working as an intern at "Bee My Job", an urban beekeeping and social service project in Italy. "I took a very difficult journey, crossing Africa and the Mediterranean," he said. "I was in Libya, and I did two months in prison. It's impossible to explain in words what that means," he said. In Senegal he worked as an electrician; now he's learning how to be a farmer and a beekeeper.
Bee My Job offers refugees and asylum seekers the chance to learn a trade, meet Italians, and integrate through work. The initiative is taking place in the city of Alessandria, about an hour's drive north of the port city of Genoa, and is led by the non-profit Cambalache association. It involves migrants who are being hosted in the city's reception centres and other vulnerable people who are being assisted by Catholic charity Caritas and social services.
Training in Italian businesses
Cambalache President Mara Alacqua told ANSA the project's aim is to "respond to the concrete needs of the migrants being hosted, to promote social, economic, and housing integration". Alacqua said Bee My Job was created in 2014 because "we saw an active industry in beekeeping, with the need for labor, that offers a long work season". She said the project "brings together two worlds: people being hosted and the world of farming".
Over the past three years, Bee My Job has provided professional training with beekeeping experts, as well as supplementary training in language skills and work safety. "We've trained 65 new beekeepers since 2015," Alacqua said. "We promote job placement in national beekeeping and farming companies and we've facilitated 44 internships in these two years. Four or five people have created a permanent job for themselves in a company," she said.
Honey for integration
The project runs an urban apiary in Alessandria's Forte Acqui park. "In addition to economic integration, we were interested in promoting social integration," Alacqua said. Earnings from the honey produced at the apiary go towards funding the project. "It's a useful place for training and for asylum seekers and Italian residents to meet," she said. "We conduct activities with schools, groups of scouts, and young people". She said that the project allows Italians to discover the world of migrants and asylum seekers through an approach based on the bees.