Buzzing on the Road from Damascus

by Eileen Webb

Matt Baker interviewing

A new church sponsored initiative has taken off in the Huddersfield Stake, bringing hope and happiness to all involved.

The Buzz Project was created by a small steering group of dedicated volunteers who were keen to help refugees and asylum seekers who have settled in the locality from their war torn countries.  This group arose from interfaith meetings where the needs of displaced people were discussed.

Dr Ryad Alsous, an asylum seeker from Damascus, Syria, fled with his family as bombs and missiles destroyed his home area.  His life was threatened, but he eventually made it to Britain and was able to join his wife, son, and daughter's family who had already escaped and settled in Huddersfield.

Ryad had been a lecturer in Food Science at Damascus University where he was also an expert beekeeper with hundreds of hives in his care.  Tragically, these were all lost during the conflict. Huddersfield is a designated Town of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. While Ryad waits for his application for asylum to be heard, he has once again started to keep bees, but this time he is sharing his knowledge and skill with those in the same position as himself, including any unemployed or vulnerable people in the area who would like to join in.

“I would like to give something back to the country that has helped me and my family so much,' says Ryad.

Buzz Project

The Buzz Project was kick-started a year ago with a church donation issued from the European Refugee Assistance Fund, which enabled the first hives, colonies of bees, protective suits and essential materials to be bought.

Later a bid was made and a grant issued from the Police Commissioner's Fund, which has helped the project to develop even further. It will continue to be maintained with another church donation during 2018. The Canals and River Trust have allowed the hives to be sited on their land at Tunnel End, just outside Huddersfield, where members of the public, including church members can get involved, with supervision, in the project.

Ryad runs lecture sessions at Tunnel End and at the local Quaker meeting house where people learn about bees and beekeeping, and are shown how to build and paint hives, create the frames that fit inside them and learn how to plant wildflowers from seed that bees need for their foraging.

“I would like to give something back to the country that has helped me and my family so much.'

Dr Ryad Alsous, an asylum seeker and a lecturer at Damascus University

There has been a great deal of local, national and international interest.  Newspapers, radio and TV stations have all carried articles about the Buzz Project. The latest was 'Countryfile' which covered the project on Easter Sunday 2018.

Much has been made of the main aims of the project, which is to help refugees and asylum seekers learn new skills whilst learning about the locality to which they have been transferred.  They also benefit by being able to mix with people in similar circumstances as themselves, develop their use of the English language and learn British customs and way of life as they travel about and interact with local people. Once refugees and asylum seekers get to a place of safety, their next problem is often how to avoid feelings of isolation, fear and depression as they struggle to adjust to a completely new way of life and an uncertain future. The Buzz Project helps them to address these issues whilst they are supported by caring people around them.

It has been gratifying for local LDS members to know that the church has been able to help their new neighbours in such a practical way.