Program helps survivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives by building bee colonies

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – For most people handling hundreds of thousands of bees would be terrifying,  but it is nothing to compared to what one group of female beekeepers in the Mid South have already been through.

We can’t identify any of the women in beekeeper suits because they are victims of human trafficking, but in just months they have learned their way around a beehive and call it their happy place.

“It’s calming.  It’s amazing to see how they work together and function in the hive,” said one program participant.

Thistle and Bee Enterprises was started a few years ago to help survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking in the Mid South rebuild their lives through clinical support and employment.

The women are not only learning how to harvest the honey but market, package and sell it.

“They learn all kind of skills. They learn about community and cooperation. They also learn about being responsible for the lives of the bees,” said Eyleen Farmer with Thistle and Bee.

Thistle and Bee began with two hives and now has around 80 all over Shelby County — including four near the emergency room entrance at Baptist Collierville.

“It was the perfect location to be visible right near our ER entrance.  We have a lot of people ask — patients and visitors, and so it definitely is getting the word out for them,” said Lindsay Stencel, COA for Baptist Collierville.

Along with the honey, these women make granola. They get to keep some of the money and the rest goes back into the program to help other women down the road.

“The business supports the program and the program takes care of the bees,” said Farmer.

Program participants say they now have more confidence and for once in their lives, they are the ones in control of their destiny.

For more about the program, how you can help or where you can buy the honey and other Thistle and Bee products click here.

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