Christine Ryan - The ambitious beekeeper

By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, November 13, 2017

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CHRISTINE Ryan could have decided that her painful experiences would hinder her progress in life, but instead, she fought long and hard until her passions became a reality.

Born and raised in St Catherine, Ryan, 39, told All Woman that her parents separated when she was six, and she went to live with her father. It was there that she suffered the misfortune of being molested by a close family member. After being labelled a liar by those whom she actually told, Ryan was afraid to tell her father, so she eventually ran away from home at age 14 and went to live with her older siblings in Newlands, Portmore.

She dropped out of school in third form as she said she lacked confidence and believed no one would understand what she was going through. But instead of sinking into depression, she used her skills to develop a T-shirt line at age 14, and worked at it until age 17 when she had her first child.

She became a producer at KOOL FM in 2001, which saw her being recognised by UNICEF for a programme that she did on children's rights.

She also came across the Global Institute for Transformation (GIFT) 10 years ago — a cross-denominational ministry which supports the spiritual, material and physical needs of people around the world — where she did a personal development course that helped to align her spirits.

In the midst of working at KOOL, Ryan had to cope again with a mystery illness which she had been battling for a few years, and which became worse at that job. This limited her ability to work. This illness saw her taking 18 medications three times a day, but after meeting physician Dr Clement Williams who adjusted her diet and lifestyle, her symptoms vanished.

She eventually started a natural juice business based on her new lifestyle, but was forced to close owing to competition from the larger players.

Ryan, a mother of three, was now unemployed, and yearning to earn for herself to help her husband contribute to the household.

“I began praying about it, and I met a lady who sold honey on a retail basis. She encouraged me to try my hand at it, but the earnings were thin and there were too many bills to pay. Also, when the bee farmers did not have honey I couldn't earn,” she said.

But Ryan was undaunted. She managed to save enough to buy her own two boxes of bees which she split into six units, but four were stolen by praedial thieves. She eventually moved her supplies to Hellshire, where ants invaded the hives and killed all her bees.

Others would have given up, but Ryan was made of sterner stuff. She decided to rebuild, and obtained training through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). An experienced beekeeper mentored her in the craft and taught her how to use burnt gas oil to keep away ants, as well as how to breed the queens and reap honey.

Having participated in a beekeeping training programme through RADA, Ryan was recommended to Food For the Poor (FFP) through the St Catherine RADA office in 2013. In 2016 a field investigation was done and she was considered to be eligible for help based on her financial situation, training and experience in beekeeping, and her determination to get involved in beekeeping as a business to take care of her family.

In June 2016, FFP gave her 10 colonies of bees along with tools and equipment to pursue her craft. She has since harvested over six five-gallon buckets of honey and increased the apiary to 13 colonies.

Ryan has been making a wide variety of products under the Pure Natural Mystik brand, using the by-products from her hives to infuse natural herbs like spirulina, guinea-hen weed, moringa and cinnamon in her honey. She also has a line which makes hair and body butters, soaps and oils.

She was also assisted by Kwao and Agape Adams of Yerba Buena Farm in St Mary, who obtain grant funding to bring trainers from abroad to facilitate farmers in product training and development.

This entrepreneur, who home-schools her children, trains other mothers in beekeeping so they can have an option to provide for their children who are also being home-schooled.

Overall, Ryan is passionate about helping people in the trade and getting over hardships as she has done.

She believes that all her trials happened for a reason, and it is now her turn to help others to overcome their difficulties.

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