Helping to get something worthwhile off the ground is a pretty amazing feeling. Back in 2009 Steven and I came home from the International Federation of Beekeeping Association – Apimondia Congress realising for the first time Australian beekeepers were the luckiest beekeepers in the world. You sometimes need to leave Australia to realise this! Our time at the congress was a pivotal moment in realising that we needed to do more to help honeybees and protect what Australia had. We realised there was a need for a not for profit foundation to help save honeybees. Upon returning to Australia we were thrilled to see that an incredible woman in beekeeping – Gretchen Wheen – then in the twilight years of her career was already in the process of setting up a foundation to help protect honeybees. The Wheen Bee Foundation was formed and I was invited to join the board.
Setting up a Foundation from a living bequest has taken time and with only 5 volunteers initially there was so much to do. When Gretchen passed in 2012 and left her estate to the Foundation we essentially had a Foundation but with no foundations! We had a legacy to protect, a vision to build and it was our obligation to deliver it.
Nine years on we’re still a passionate bunch of board directors backed up and lead by the very dedicated and amazing Fiona Chambers as CEO. Every Friday morning I start my day with a Wheen Bee Foundation check-in, where we catch up on the happenings of the Foundation and – awareness raising, general fundraising, research plans and projects.
This month when the Wheen Bee Foundation Board met in Melbourne it was really exciting to see so many years of meetings, discussions and ideas coming together and creating incredible programs that will help protect honeybees. Fiona is about to deliver the first “Bee Ambassador Training” program to a group of bee advocates nominated to participate in the program by their respective bee clubs or communities to help support them and their passion for honey bees and also grow the work of the Foundation. Wheen Bee Foundation has been responsible for raising almost $3million from pollination dependent industries (almond growers, seed growers, avocado growers, blueberry growers), beekeepers, the NSW Government and the Australian Government. It’s an incredible achievement from such small beginnings and builds on some of the more humble research programs funded so far.
Ready for the upcoming festive season (which is only about 18 weeks away!) we’ve put together Wheen Bee Foundation – Bee Advocate Badges of Honour. They’re a beautiful gold bee badge set on a little card with messages about how to help bees which would make a great gift for Christmas with all proceeds going to the Wheen Bee Foundation.
It’s rewarding to see all these activities and really makes me happy to be part of the Wheen Bee Foundation. It’s a highlight of my Bee Cause work to be surrounded by my fellow Wheen Bee Foundation Board members I value every minute talking about how to solve the problems that face bees and beekeepers in Australia. Importantly, I’m really lucky to have always had the support of Steven which has allowed me to get out of the business and do this work. Check out Wheen Bee Foundation and be sure to watch its progress into the future.
For more information on the Bee Ambassador training program click here.
To purchase a Bee Advocate Badge of Honour click here.