'This made my day': Recycled wedding flowers bring smiles to patients

'This made my day': Recycled wedding flowers bring smiles to patients

Wedding flowers worth more than S$10,000 were turned into 300 bouquets by volunteers at social enterprise Bloomback and were given a second chance to bring joy.

Ms Hazel Kweh runs social enterprise Bloomback, which helps marginalised women to gain floristry skills and gathers volunteers to help turn used wedding flowers into bouquets for patients. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

SINGAPORE: She had been told that a group of volunteers would be visiting her ward but to be given a bouquet of flowers was a lovely surprise for Madam Yeo Peck Hoon.

"I haven't received any flowers for almost 30 years," said the 86-year-old, who is a patient at the dementia care ward in St Andrew's Community Hospital.

The small bouquet of red and pink roses brought back memories of her mother.

"My mother used to have pots and pots of flowers at home and I'd water them for her. I take after my mother and when I got married, I planted roses in my garden but that was a long time ago," said Madam Yeo, while holding the flowers carefully in her hands. "This made my day and I feel so privileged."

The bouquets - a mixture of roses, hydrangeas, pink astilbes and eustomas - were delivered to the hospital on Monday (Nov 6) and distributed by volunteers from local social enterprise Bloomback.

Earlier in the day, 12 volunteers had spent more than five hours sorting, trimming and rearranging the flowers, which were collected from a wedding dinner the night before.

Costing more than S$10,000, the vibrant and sweet-smelling flowers had made their first appearance as floral centerpieces on some 80 tables in a ballroom at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Not wanting the fresh flowers to be thrown away immediately after the wedding, the couple - Singaporeans Mark Tan and Stephanie Khoo - looked around for a way to give them a new lease of life.

These wedding flowers worth more than S$10,000 were turned into 300 bouquets and distributed to three beneficiaries. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

Bloomback, a social enterprise which runs an e-commerce platform helping marginalised women pick up floristry skills, took up the offer.

After trimming the stems and carefully removing all thorns as well as wilted petals, the beautiful wedding blooms were re-purposed into 300 small bouquets and distributed to patients at St Andrew's Community Hospital, Banyan Home and the Salvation Army.

This is not the first time that Bloomback has done such a project but its co-founder Hazel Kweh told Channel NewsAsia that this is the biggest donation it has received thus far.

While re-using flowers for charity is not entirely new in Singapore, Ms Kweh, who was an insurance agent before becoming her own boss, said she stumbled upon the idea by accident.

"I was at a friend's wedding when she told me she had ordered too many flowers. She asked me if I wanted to take them back and I thought 'Why not? Don't waste them.'"

Ms Kweh persuaded her sister, who was suffering from depression then, to join her in rearranging the flowers. During the process, the sisters decided to give them away to low-income elderly residents at Beach Road.

"I didn't think much about it then. I just thought it might make someone's day and when people asked what we were doing, we told them the truth that we had re-purposed them from a wedding. They smiled and accepted them."

Bloomback has since organised five of such events over the past year and each of them has left heartwarming memories for Ms Kweh and her group of volunteers.

"We met an uncle who lived alone at Beach Road and he told us about how he used to battle with drugs and ended up being abandoned by his family. We ended up crying with him because my brother used to have similar issues so this was something we could relate to," said Ms Kweh.

Given that such events tend to fall on weekdays, it is not easy gathering volunteers, according to Bloomback. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

For first-time volunteer Noelle Tan, the afternoon at St Andrew's Community Hospital was unexpectedly emotional.

"The patients I met at the dementia ward reminded me of my grandmother and I had to try very hard to hold back my tears," said the 41-year-old who volunteers three times a week at the Enabling Village's Stroke Support Station.

"It's always difficult facing patients because sometimes they tell you things like how they feel old and useless. Even though you feel sad for them, you have to smile and tell them everything will be alright," said Ms Tan.

And it's not just patients who appreciate these initiatives; healthcare workers get a morale boost too.

"Taking care of patients is not easy so when you receive something like this, it helps to lift your spirits and you feel appreciated," said Ms Zane Chan, head of group corporate communications at the hospital.

"For patients, it means that somebody cares. While most of them do have family members who visit them often, we have one or two who have less visitors so a gesture or a visitation like that helps to keep them positive," she added.

For Mdm Yeo, the surprise gift made her day.

" I did not expect this," she said with a smile. "It'll be good if I can be discharged today. This is so pretty and I want to bring it home."

Source: CNA/sk

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