Making a Beeline for Change

Juaddy Melo wants to create buzz. Literally.

What do honeybees and Dorchester, Massachusetts have in common? At first glance, not much. They both exist on the planet Earth. And…that appears to be where the commonality ends. Normally, when one thinks “dense urban environment” one’s mind does not immediately leap to flowery meadows with a fat bees zipping from pistil to pistil.

Sixteen year-old Juaddy Melo is here to set us all straight. The Dorchester teenager has taken it on himself to proselytize to the masses about an issue he believes has far-reaching ramifications to everyone, no matter the geography they call home.

“Bees do so much for us,” he says. “They keep our produce fresh and keep them coming in large amounts because of their pollination. If the bee population continues to decrease the less fruits and vegetables we will have. Prices will go higher and not everybody can afford that.”

Juaddy, a Dorchester resident who grew up in Roxbury, knows first-hand how vanishingly small food budgets can be disrupted by rising prices. As someone from a lower-income family, he sees that the healthy, leafy stuff comes at a premium.

“In my house we consume a lot of produce,” he says. “We wouldn’t be able to afford price increases.”

The bees. The bees are the key. While hives are few and far between on the asphalt thoroughfares of Dorchester, that doesn’t mean city-dwellers have to be bystanders to a dwindling global bee population (U.S. honey bee colonies has dropped from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today). Juaddy has decided to champion the bee cause in his own community. To create buzz, as it were.

“I want to build awareness,” he says, “show my neighbors what bees truly do for the community, besides stinging people.”

Juaddy’s passion intersected with United Way through the Youth Venture program, an initiative that gives young entrepreneurs budgets, resources and mentors to make their social innovation projects a reality. Juaddy’s project, Bee All You Can Be, was one of 25 launched in 2015.

Through Poder Latino, the Dorchester-based Latino community group he’s part of through Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Juaddy recruited other like-minded young bee-ficianados to spread the word. He also found the project as a great opportunity to involve the group’s children, showing them the animated film Bee Movie and educating the kids about purposes bees serve.

Because awareness can only take you so far, Juaddy and his cohorts want to play an active part in growing the bee population. They want to get their hands dirty in a very literal, agrarian way: by planting community gardens. The gardens they plant are bee-friendly, filled with flowers and flush with vegetables. The produce is then sold in the community to raise funds to build more gardens.

“I’m passionate about this project, but I’m more passionate about my community,” Juaddy says. “I want to make sure that people who are in the same situation as me will not have to suffer in the future because of not knowing.”