All posts in Projects

  • Fairmont Waterfront Solidarity

    Our partnership with the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver began in 2014 with the launch of Governor General of Canada Award Winning book Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark Winston. Incredible how bees bring community together, time and again.

    We have been building the partnership steadily every year, supporting our programming, and creating opportunities for meaningful work and experiential education. The Fairmont Waterfront has supported our Pollinator Corridor Project – pollinator advocacy in the form of community workshops, and installations of forage and habitat. We manage the health of the hives on the 3rd floor garden of the hotel, engaging visitors through the wonder of the bees. We dress the tables each year for Earth Hour with our hand poured beeswax candles. We maintain the chef’s garden at the hotel, growing food for bees and for feature in the Arc Dining restaurant downstairs. And we are building native plants into a West Coast Garden to provide further opportunity for connection.

    We are excited to announce that we have received a Solidarity grant from the AccorHotels’ group that the Fairmont Waterfront is a part of, to support our work in Building Community through Bees.

    We offer inclusive and supportive training and workshop opportunities in our urban apiaries through this support and partnership, with the following objectives:

    – To build opportunities for skills sharing and learning, grounded in nature and inclusive community across socio-economic strata

    – To create meaningful training and employment opportunities for people facing barriers to stability grounded in green skills.

    – To enhance three urban pollinator gardens and add forage and habitat for pollinators in our city

    – To create educational, interpretive signage for three pollinator garden sites to improve communication, better engage visitors, and to build a shareable tool as a model for other communities.

    -To deepen the relationship of social and environmental sustainability between Fairmont Waterfront and the surrounding community, to create story-telling opportunities and to link the Fairmont Waterfront to the surrounding community.

    Thank you Fairmont Waterfront and AccorHotels! We look forward to sharing these spaces with you, building community through the bees.

  • Winter Markets and Gin Honey Launch!

    We are pleased to announce a series of upcoming markets and the launch of our Gin Barrel-Aged honey in collaboration with Odd Society Spirits:

    NOV 23 5pm-8pm
    at Italian Cultural Centre
    Winter Market: candles, ICC honey, natural self-care

    Nov 24: 10am – 6pm
    at Dunbar Community Centre
    Winter Market: DCC Honey

    NOV 25: 1pm until sold out
    at Odd Society Spirits
    Launch: Gin Barrel-Aged Honey!

    Dec 1: 1pm-4pm
    at Strathcona Community Centre
    Winter Market: candles, honey, natural self-care

    DEC 8&9: 10am-5pm
    at East Side Flea: candles, East Van honey, natural self-care

    Thanks for your support, we look forward to seeing you over some honey soon;
    Keep an eye on our calendar and sign up for our newsletter for updates!

  • Online Store Launch: GIFT BOXES

    We are excited to announce the launch of our online store, with the creation of 50 sweet and special gift boxes available now! These contain treats for you and yours to enjoy, and support our non-profit programming. Help us raise funds – spread the word, gift a box!

    Thank you, 

    The H4H team 

  • Harvest Celebration with Fairmont Waterfront

    Our wonderful partners at Fairmont Waterfront brought us a delicious luncheon yesterday at Hastings Urban Farm: 125 pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, ice cold real lemonades, and the legendary burned-honey-ice-cream!

    Here is a favourite photo from the day, two of our DTES Volunteers, Ali and Wilma, enjoying a slice of shade and time together.

    Sharing joy, offering dignity through food and work, connecting it all through the magic of the bees.

    Thanks to everyone at the Fairmont Waterfront, Chef and team, for the day (fifth annual!!), we loved it!


  • Guest Post: If my Mother were a Bee

    Guest Post: If My Mother Were a Bee

    Many thanks to our fantastic volunteer, Rebeka, for writing this fun guest post, in celebration of Mothers – insect and otherwise! Read on to discover the wonderful world of bee-mothers.

    If you’re looking for a fun Mother’s Day activity, consider visiting us at Faculty Brewing for a pop-up PLUS special honey hefe beer from 1-5pm, May 13th!

    An ode to all types of mothers, human and insect.

    Stumped on what to get mum this Mother’s Day? Fear not! The bees are here to help you decide. Just like for us humans, bee motherhood comes in many different forms. From sassy to savvy to sweet, find out what the mother in your life craves to feel loved and appreciated this Mother’s Day.

    Honey, you should see me in a crown
    If your mum is high-maintenance and fiery, she might be the ultimate diva: a honeybee queen. This queen would literally die without attention – and I literally mean literally. Honeybee queens are doted on by a court of worker bees, who not only feed her, groom her, and dispose of her waste, but actually digest her food for her.

    This ruler is anything but lazy though. In fact, her stinger is primed for a battle to the death. A worker bee’s stinger is barbed, causing it to be lodged in their target when they sting. This results in the bee dying shortly thereafter, so they can only sting once. Queen bees on the other hand have smooth stingers that can be used multiple times, like in a death match against a rival queen. For when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.

    If you think your mum can relate to this ruthless ruler, make sure she’s spoiled this Mother’s Day. Maybe some Hives for Humanity honey and hand-rolled beeswax candles? And if you’re treating her to lunch, maybe let her chew her own food.

    All hail the humble bumble mum
    Is your mum resourceful and clever, with a take-charge attitude? Then she must be a badass bumblebee queen. These tough queens endure harsh winters, hidden and alone, and once spring comes around, the real work begins. She must eat, find a nesting site, build her nest, prepare a wax honey pot, and forage for nectar and pollen before she can lay her eggs – phew! But even this powerhouse has a soft side: a bumblebee queen will actually lay on her eggs to keep them warm until they are ready to hatch, just like a mother bird.

    After a little while longer of foraging for pollen and feeding her newly hatched offspring, the first brood will finally emerge as bumblebee adults, and mama can relax a little. The bumblebee colony will flourish in numbers as worker bees help incubate more eggs that the queen continues to produce until the end of the summer. With a life span of only one year, the exhausted queen will pass the torch onto new queens, and the cycle continues.

    A superstar mum like yours deserves a little help from her offspring this Mother’s Day. Actually, I’m sure she would appreciate a little more help year-round. And if you don’t pitch in with a few chores, don’t be surprised if she sits on you.

    Blue-collar buzzing babes

    A sweet yet hard-working mama would empathize most with the modest mason bee. This is a solitary bee species, which is much different from both the honeybee and bumblebee; no hive, no queen, and their appearance can vary. In fact, the Blue Orchard mason bee, commonly found on the North Shore, looks more like a metallic blue and black fly. Only females have stingers, but these passive little sweethearts don’t mean you any harm! On the rare occasion that they do sting, their stingers have no venom to inject, making the sting feel more like a fly bite.

    Mason bees are also known to be excellent pollinators. It is estimated that a female blue orchard bee visits 1875 flowers to collect enough pollen and nectar for a single tube of offspring. She will work on filling about three tubes over the summer – a real working-class woman! But before you start thinking that mason bee mothers are all work and no play, these bashful little creatures like to get down and dirty…with mud. Where honeybees use wax to seal off cells containing eggs, mason bees, like their name suggests, use mud to seal off the ends of the tubes. Make sure to check out Hives for Humanity’s blog covering Mason Bee Resources to learn more!

    If your mum is anything like a mason bee, make sure she gets the chance to relax this Mother’s Day. Perhaps a homemade spa kit? A mud mask might be just what she needs to reset!

    Whomever you have as a motherly figure in your life, use this day to show your love and appreciation for all they do! As Denise Mckay so beautifully reminds us in her poem, Mother Earth, “Most of all I am grateful every day for the gifts my Mother and Mother Earth has given me and continues to give me each and every day.” (2007)

    Mother Earth

    She reminds me of my own Mother.

    She has many scars that are not Her fault.
    She has seen many battles and has endured
    each and every one of them.

    She has never stopped supporting me though.
    She still continues to protect me and looks over me.
    She gave me the tools I need to survive.

    I return the favor by supporting Her, protecting Her, and
    giving Her the tools she needs to survive.

    Most of all I am grateful every day for the gifts my
    Mother and Mother Earth has given me and continues
    to give me each and every day.

    Denise Mckay


  • YMCA Youth Internships

    Ben, our second youth intern from YMCA, for Feb-April 2018, just completed his last day, and wrote up some thoughts on his experience to share. Building skills, sharing experience, and working together in community: this is the good stuff! 

    If are able to donate to support opportunities like this, please see our donate page!

    Above: Ben with Sarah and Cassie, sharing a cinnamon bun in celebration!

    Ben’s post follows:

    Terrific is the only word I can use to describe my time at Hives for Humanity.
    I’ve had a great time working with this amazing group of people and learning more all the time. 
    If I had to choose one thing that I will take foward with me it would have to be bottling honey. I have found it really enjoyable and find that it relaxes me and accents my skill for attention to detail perfectly.
    I remember one day when a deaf man came in looking for some candles and when I realized he was deaf it caused me to reevaluate how I had been interacting with everyone who came through the door. As I was thinking about how I talked to people and discovered that I used too many meaningless words (like, yeah, um). And have been working on making my speech patterns easier to follow. 
    From here I’m hoping to find a job in garden/farm work. A passion that I wouldn’t have been able to exercise without my experience at the Hastings Urban Farm.
    In closing I would just like to say how special Hives for Humanity really is and I look forward to working with everyone in the future.
  • Hastings Urban Farm Update

    THE HASTINGS URBAN FARM: urban farming, community empowerment, pollinator forage and habitat!

    From 58 W. Hastings & 117 E. Hastings, to 501 Powell and beyond! The Hastings Urban Farm is a multi-site partnership between the PHS Community Service Society and Hives for Humanity Society, supported by the City of Vancouver.

    The sites have rich histories of people, programming and partnerships, which we are proud to honour and share. Please download and read the notice below for updates on the Hastings Urban Farm (58 W. Hastings, 501 Powell) and Hastings Folk Garden (117 E. Hasting) sites.

    > Download  + Read the Hastings Urban Farm Update (PDF)

    All sites and programs take place on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

    The Place Where The Maples Grow. Vancouver.

  • Fun and Funds!

    You are invited to our Fundraiser!

    Plan to attend this casual (free) fundraiser event coming up on April 3rd from 6-9pm at Luppolo Brewery
    in partnership with the incomprable EartHand Gleaners Society.

    There will be a silent auction – with unique, gorgeous, hand made items from the Salmon Leather Guild and Abeego Weavers Guild

    There will be food and drink specials, so bring friends!

    There will be storytelling – featuring special guest Lori Weidenhammer, author of “Victory Gardens for Bees.

    All funds raised will go to support inclusive, shared programming to connect people to community, nature and traditional skills.

    >> More info here or see our april3poster

  • YMCA + H4H: Youth Employment Program!

    We have been building our connection to youth with a YMCA Youth Employment Bootcamp – this partnership emerged from a Youth in Social Enterprise Study we participated in, and we are now hosting our second practicum youth. It’s been fun getting to share our lively, busy and unique work space with these program participants. Ben has taken part in all aspects of our operations, and it’s been a pleasure getting to share the work we love with him, and have him contribute his time, energy and skills too! We’ve asked each participant to contribute to our blog, and we’re pleased to share his guest post below.

    Guest blog post from Ben:

    I was first formally introduced to Hives for Humanity through the YMCA’s training program called the “Youth Employment Bootcamp” which is a program for helping a group of roughly twelve 15 – 30 year-olds find employment, whether it’s their first job or a complete change in career.

    I had heard of Hives for Humanity (H4H) only in passing but, upon researching it, I found out how closely my interests aligned with H4H I was super interested!

    I was very apprehensive before starting to work in the Downtown Eastside as I had lived in the west side my whole life and had heard of many stories about confrontations and how dangerous the people were. But as I’ve worked here and gotten to meet quite a few people who call the DTES home, I have become more and more comfortable with the neighbourhood and the individuals who are more often than not victims of circumstance.

    It was amazing working on the seed library with a big group of about seven people and seeing the efficiency of a group so big with good communication.

    In my experience with filtering honey I’ve discovered just how precise and thorough you have to be in order to ensure no particles of wax or other contaminates make it into the honey bottling process.

    So far, working on the farm has been fun and rewarding to see and better by the end of each session. However it has also been wet and freezing most days which definitely makes working outside more challenging!

    It’s been incredibly interesting getting to see candles being made, and having the chance to make some candles myself has been fun and engaging.

    I had heard about how important seed saving is but had no experience with it. Not only has the seed library program taught me how to separate the seeds from their plants but it’s also taught me about the plants themselves – like how milkweed fluff is used for pillows and weaving.

    Honey can be drastically different from neighbourhood to neighbourhood – things like consistency and flavour are often affected and this is because of the various types of plants.

    Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at H4H and I look forward to working with everyone more in the future!

  • PechaKucha Night Vol. 44

    PechaKucha Nights are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps — just about anything, really — in the PechaKucha 20×20 format. Every PechaKucha Night city is hosted by a local organiser, who has an annual Handshake Agreement with PechaKucha HQ to run their event series. This ensures that each PechaKucha Night is relevant to their city- and can create a unique platform to uncover that city’s creativity. Learn more here:

    In case you missed the sold out Pecha Kucha Vol. 44 evening, you can watch the recordings of all the speakers via the link below!

    PechaKucha Vol. 44:


  • The Power of Bees: Team building workshops!

    Are you looking for a unique and unforgettable experience for your team/group? Want to connect to the natural world around you and learn something new?

    As always, nature is the best teacher – bees have a way of capturing our curiosity – through their vibrations, communication, and magic! Delving into the world of bees with our enthusiastic beekeepers can ignite imaginations, spark inspiration, and create moments of reflection as we appreciate the lessons of these incredible creatures.

    Beekeeping is an experience like no other. Our presentations and workshops explore all aspects of community beekeeping, offering historical, biological, social and cultural insights. Get in touch with us to talk about your team, your goals and how we can create a flexible, fun, and engaging experience!

    We are more than beekeepers. Bees are much more than honey.

    > Pollinator & Community Health
    > Communication & Team-building
    > Mindfulness, Self-Worth & Community Pride
    > Connection & Reciprocity
    > Advocacy

    > Therapeutic Hive Tour & Team Building Experiences
    > Speaking Engagements
    > Classroom Presentations
    – with portable demonstration hive
    – with bee-centric activity/craft

    To hear what the team at Routific Solutions thought of their hive tour, check out this article from Huffington Post

    Excerpt from article: “From behind my beekeeping veil, time seemed to dribble to a gooey halt and I became engrossed in the bees that were crawling, floating, darting and taking flight in a seemingly frenetic yet purposeful way. This heightened awareness allowed me to experience an intense focus that rarely arises in me, a modern, multi-tasking human being.”

    To read full workshop options, full descriptions, view pricing and schedule, download our Workshop Info Package PDF!

    Any questions or ideas – please get in touch:

  • Volunteer Opportunities

    Thank you to all the volunteers for your willingness to share your time, energy, skills and joy with us! We are seeking committed volunteers for the following positions. Please click on the titles below to download PDF with full descriptions and details on how to apply.

    Project-based Photography
    Project-based Videography
    Seed Library Coordinator – positions filled for 2018, thank you!
    Event Support
    Farm/Garden Support

    Not seeing a position for you or want to share/gain another skill? Email us to discuss:

    – Access a 20% discount on our honey and merchandise after 10 hours of volunteering
    – Invitations to all of our community gathering events such as end of harvest lunch
    – Meet new people and be a part of a society that encourages connections through beekeeping!

    – All volunteer positions are unpaid
    – Availability to work weekdays, some weekends may be needed
    – Minimum 3 months commitment is preferred
    – Additional terms to be mutually discussed

  • Save the Date: Beekeeper’s Journey Event January 20th

    A Beekeeper’s Journey: January, 20th 2018

    Join us for a beecentric evening of art, music, complimentary canapés, and story-telling

    with special guest speakers Mark Winston, Governor General’s Literary Award winner and internationally recognized professor of apiculture and social insects; Renée Saklikar, award-winning poet and writer of thecanadaproject; Paul Van Westendorp, provincial apiculturist for British Columbia; Ali McAfee, author for American Bee Journal and PhD candidate; John Gibeau, President of Honeybee Centre and co-founder of the Bee World Project; Julia Common, Master Beekeeper, BCHPA instructor and Chief Beekeeper at Hives for Humanity; and Lindsay Dault, Master Beekeeper, BCHPA instructor and owner of Urban Bee Supplies Inc. & Urban Bee Honey Farm.

    January 20, 2018
    6:30 PM – 9:30 PM
    $69 per person

    Click here for Eventbrite Link & Tickets



  • Winter Break 2017

    We are taking a break from all programming Dec 15 2017 – Jan 2 2018!

    It has been another incredible year working with people and pollinators to enhance community, foster self-worth, and create meaningful opportunities for work and connection … all through the bees!

    We wish you the best over this winter break, as the solstice turns dark back towards light, we continue to learn and grow together.

    Thank you for being a part of our 2017, we look forward to beekeeping, gardening, woodworking, honey tasting, researching, celebrating, storytelling with you in 2018!


    The team at Hives for Humanity 

  • The Gastown Foodie

    The Gastown Foodie has hit shelves, including ours, of locally owned and operated restaurants and social enterprises in our community! This beauty of a book share more than just recopies, it shares the passion for community behind each ingredient, the power of food to connect, heal and inspire. 

    We are very proud to be featured, and if you purchase your copy from us, either through Bee Space or at one of our winter markets (ie. the upcoming Strathcona Winter Market Nov 25) 100% of the proceeds support our work! 

    Thank you to everyone who helped make our pages in the book pop: especially to our BOD member Sheri Weichel for her work in developing our delicious recipe and to Jim, Kevin, Melanie and the community gardeners and beekeepers for sharing their gardens and apiaries through the photos.

    Thanks to Chris and Brad for sharing our story in such a unique way. You can learn more about the book and the other features here!


  • Reflections

    It’s the last day of October, and as we shift into another month, as our bees cluster up to keep warm, as we hunker down into office work and planning for 2018, we have this reflection from one of our summer interns, Thea Sturdy. Thea was a support to the Hastings Urban Farm and Bee Space in the first part of her internship, and then moved into full on beekeeping support in our country and city yards in the later months of her time with us, as part of the Queen Rearing team. Thank you Thea for all of your work and support, and for this piece reflecting on the impact for you and for our community.



    Hello everyone, let me introduce myself. My name is Thea and I’m a UBC agroecology student. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Hives for Humanity through an internship over the last 6 months, and now that I’ve completed the internship and had a chance to reflect on the time I spent working as part of the H4H team, I would like to share my experience.

    I can say with confidence that I had a very positive internship experience. I always felt welcomed, engaged, interested, useful, valued, and challenged, whether it be at Beespace, on the Hastings urban farm, or in the apiary. I’m grateful that Sarah, Julia, and Cassie gave me the opportunity and encouraged me to take on a learning and leadership role at H4H rather than be the type of intern who buys coffee and runs errands.

    In addition to communication, technical, and organization skills, my beekeeping skills have come a very long way since January. I am a new and mainly self-taught beekeeper, only having 2 seasons under my belt. By spending over 100 hours in the field inspecting colonies alongside the best mentors, Julia and Phil, I am now able to spot queens easily, detect signs of disease, quickly survey a hive’s food stores, identify problems in the colony, graft larva, and overall am a much more competent and confident beekeeper. Using the skills I have learned throughout the year, I was able to build my own personal apiary from 7 colonies that overwintered into a successful and thriving 21 colonies. I now also have the confidence to take risks in my apiary; I will be experimenting with overwintering my very first nucleus colonies and raising my own queens next season.

    This internship has made me realize that the keystone to becoming successful in whichever path you choose to follow is to have the confidence that you can do it. Above all, my time at H4H has fostered self-confidence in me in a way that I have never before experienced. I am excited about my future in the world of beekeeping, because it has ignited a passion in me that I have never before had for anything. Now that I’ve started building the important skills needed to succeed as a beekeeper, I truly believe that I can make a successful business out of it someday.

    This experience has also pushed me to reach out to more people in my own neighborhood to create a more tight-knit and inclusive beekeeping community. I recently re-connected with my 3rd grade teacher, who as it turns out, has been a beekeeper herself for 40 years. We have organized a community meeting and potluck to get to know other beekeepers in our own community, and our provincial bee inspector will be attending as well. This is a step that I never would have taken had I not been inspired by the networking and partnership-building that Hives for Humanity encourages.

    Above all, I have absolutely no doubt that the confidence that I have gained, whether it be in my leadership skills, technical skills, communication skills, or beekeeping skills, through this internship opportunity will make me much more successful in my future endeavours. I would like to thank Sarah Common, Julia Common, Cassie Plotnikoff, Phil LaFlamme, and all other members of the Hives for Humanity team for making my experience so rewarding and enjoyable.


  • Seed Library ‘Zine

    The DTES Seed Library (located in the Carnegie Library at Main and Hastings) is a place where folks in the community can access food, medicinal and pollinator-friendly seeds to grow, share and enjoy. Many of the seeds are grown, shared and harvested by community farmers at the Hastings Urban Farm (58 W. Hastings St and 501 Powell St sites) and Hastings Folk Garden – a place where community members in the DTES can access low-barrier training and employment grounded in nature, community and care for our urban ecosystem.

    In partnership with many community groups, we developed a “Seed Starting Tips ‘zine” to provide some useful information for gardeners accessing these seeds. ‘Zines are self-published, small-scale works often made of recycled content and reproduced by photocopier. Ours is a combination poster/booklet and it’s now available free for download to share far and wide.

    Happy planting!

    > Learn how to fold the ‘zine here

    > Download the DTES SEED LIBRARY ZINE (11 x 17 PDF)

    > More ‘zine inspiration here

  • Podcast Land!

    Hello Friends,

    We’ve been talking bees, people & community on some podcasts, take a listen!

    The PolliNation Podcast with Andony Melathopoulos – out of Oregon State University

    Engaged Citizen X with Jamie-Leigh Gonzales – our Bee Space drop in yoga teacher (Thursdays at 7:15!)


  • Harvest Celebration

    Hello Friends of Hives of Humanity!

    We are excited to share our Annual Report from 2016 with you AND to invite you to come celebrate with us at our Hastings Urban Farm location at 58 W Hastings, this coming Thursday Aug 31st 1pm.

    Fairmont Waterfront will be joining us to offer delicious food in celebration of the honey harvest and all the work and love that has gone into growing our gardens and community.

    Our partners at Culture Saves Lives are sharing the space with us to honour lives lost in the Overdose Crisis, with song and word and community gathering. The power of gardens and food to bring people together never ceases to amaze.


  • Loss and Hope

    Our social work practicum placement Sam has been working with us for the past three months, and leaves on Thursday. Working with her has been a pleasure, learning alongside her and supporting her in exploring social work engaged in community, connecting through nature, with strength based programming.

    We are living and working on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples, in the context of concurrent (and preventable) homelessness and opiod overdose crises. Keeping hope alive, when there is so much potential for despair, is more important and more challenging than ever.

    The following is a reflection, written by Sam, around the loss of a community member who was an advocate, leader, teacher and hope carrier for many of us; she will not be forgotten and we will seek to keep her work and words alive, moving together towards social justice, inclusion, and the honouring of all lives.


    A community leader died last week. Tracey Morrison was a well known figure in the community. The Bannock Lady. Tracey was loved and respected. Tracey held important positions in progressive, valued community agencies. Tracey was highly engaged in her community, in a multitude of ways. Tracey was knowledgeable and giving, wise, funny and brave. In a community meeting about community ethics and media production last Wednesday night, Tracey sat across the table from me. I took notes for the meeting and after Sarah gave a short welcome to the group she requested we go around the table and introduce ourselves and speak to why we felt compelled to join the conversation. Tracey sat to the left of Sarah and Sarah asked her to start us off. Tracey’s name is the first on my list in my notes, the different agencies she was there representing listed beside her name: President of Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) and Board Member at Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).Tracey spoke about how WAHRS had struggled with people outside of the agency and the community wanting to come in to do research and how the agency had been working to address the issue. She had copies of the policy and forms WAHRS had drafted and were using and she offered them to the group as a resource.

    Later in the meeting, a DTES community member and participant at Hives for Humanity spoke of a past experience he had with the media. He told the room that many years ago he was shooting up in an alley way when a news crew began filming him. He said nothing to the crew while they filmed him. He told us his friend asked him why he didn’t speak to the news crew and that his friend viewed it as a missed opportunity as he considered him a good spokesperson for the community. He told us that he had plenty to say but because the news crew didn’t ask him anything he said nothing. Now he says, years later, whenever that station needs to show a clip to go with a story about addiction they pull up the film of him shooting up in the alley. ‘I am their stock footage for drug addict’ he told us. His story, and others shared that night, touched me deeply. Not because the man telling it was now, years later, ‘clean’ and sober and haunted by this old reminder of a different time but because this man is a human being and regardless of his life circumstances he is as worthy of dignity and respect and we are all people first. I was moved because this man, and others that night, spoke of not being asked the right questions and not being listened to when giving the right answers and yet they were still here at a community meeting using their voices. I continue to be astounded and humbled by the resiliency and sense of community in the DTES.

    There is no denying the power of the media. How they choose to present a topic or issue can have an impact on public opinion. The continued portrayal of the opioid crisis as a problem of substance users, who are ‘other’ and thereby ‘lesser than’ to everyone else perpetuates the stigmatization of substance users and excuses society at large for not addressing the deeper problems in our communities. Community meetings like the one I attended are a great step toward discussing how communities can both protect themselves from dangerous media exposure and how to use media/research projects to the benefit of the community.

    On Friday night, two nights after that community meeting, Tracey died. Despite her work dedicated to educating the community about overdose prevention, about using safely, she used and she died. I didn’t hear about her death until Monday night just before bed.

    Monday was kind of a funny feeling day at Hives for Humanity. We did some gentle work. I worked alongside two lovely participants, one a typically fast and somewhat frenzied worker one a deliberate, slower worker. We used pulleys to lower down the drying racks (made from trellis) from the ceiling and we undid the bundles of lemon balm and mullein that had been drying, harvested from the garden. The rack was specifically made for this function and it works beautifully. We crushed the herbs and stored them for future use and gifts. Later that day a bag of mullein would go to Culture Saves Lives. Sarah seemed in her own world tidying the kitchen area, organizing, cleaning, making right and working on making healing salves from stuff harvested from the garden and the hive. We listened to a Fleetwood Mac album, twice. Both sides. Then one of the women and I walked down to the farm to harvest raspberry leaves, mint and more mullein. On the way she was more talkative then usual, to me anyway. She was sort of trying to tell me about someone dying, a woman who used to make Bannock, but no other details. Later that night I was checking social media before bed. I saw a post, a CBC news post, saying that Tracey Morrison had died. I did a double take. I checked the name. I looked at the face. I pulled out my notebook and checked my minutes from the meeting. I let it sit with me for a few minutes. I have very little experience with death. No one close to me has died. I have never attended a funeral. I don’t know about death and I am here in a neighbourhood that knows too much about death. I am in a community where people experience the death of people they know well, often. I am not sure what is supposed to happen, what is supposed to be felt.

    I thought about Sarah and wondered if she knew. She didn’t say anything to me. There have been 2 other deaths while I have been here that I heard about but didn’t tell Sarah about. Both times after she found out I wondered if I should have told her. I am not always sure who knows who and have come to realize just how small this community in a vast city really is. I wondered if I should text her and if I wondered if I wanted to initiate this conversation for my benefit or hers. I decide I should not text. I decided that if it happened Friday night then Sarah probably already knew. It would explain the feeling at Hives for Humanity today. If she doesn’t know, I decided, I don’t want to convey that message through text. It can wait. Tomorrow morning.

    Tuesday morning Sarah brings a pot of coffee to her desk. I tell her I saw the post on Facebook. Sarah tells me that social media is how she found out about her friend Tracey dying, someone tweeted it. This is hurtful to Sarah. I am thankful for Sarah sharing her perspective with me. I think about the way we share information and news with one another through social media and how we must be thoughtful of our audience. We need to ask ourselves for what purpose we are passing along stories and weigh the costs and benefits of posting news, particularly news stories that involve injury or death. I think about how much privilege I have, never having experienced the death of someone I was close to, professionally or personally. Thinking about how alarmed and taken aback I was to learn through social media about the death of Tracey Morrison, not knowing her at all, I can easily understand that it must have been painful for people who knew Tracey to learn of her death in this way. As a society we have become fairly desensitized to sharing grim stories at the click of a button. Whether we aim to be the first person to share a breaking story or we want to draw attention to a serious issue and/or honour a beloved community member, we need to remain cognizant of others. We need to think of people. We need to examine our use and usage of media and how well it is serving our society. Stories need to be told but who ought to be telling them? Tracey, I am told, had a favourite saying and it is one I am fond of as well, ’not about us, without us’. Who are the storytellers in our community and how do we help them to tell their stories?

    It is expected that hundreds of people will come to the memorial happening in the park on Friday. All week people are preparing, getting ready. There are various posters up around the community. Some are telling people to come to Oppenheimer Park on Friday, some are saying we must end the opioid crisis with a picture of Tracey’s face, some are letting community members know that particular services expected to happen on Friday are cancelled because of the memorial. People are stopping and chatting in clusters their conversations all ending with ‘see you at the park on Friday’. I overhear Sarah talking to two women at the farm about the park on Friday. They showed up for a shift today after a long time of not coming. The three of them agree that there will be a big crowd at the park on Friday. One of the women says ‘we don’t want the media there’.


    Thank you Sam, for this beautiful and powerful reflection, honouring this community and its members.

    Thank you, Reader, for sharing your time through this post.

    Thank you Tracey, for all you have gifted this community. You are loved and missed.