For those who don’t understand French, I’ve provided a translation of it in English below (not line by line but more of a summary).
There are many ways to help ease the isolation felt by senior citizens. Christine Law chose to give them flowers, obtained from marriages and corporate events, which she rearranges into nice bouquets. This is essentially the mission of Floranthropie.
The idea came to Christine from having lived with her grandparents until high school. Her parents who were immigrants who didn’t speak English or French and had 4 girls (Christine is the youngest) and it was hard for them. Unfortunately, her grandmother had an accident and passed away. In the last years of her grandfather’s life, she sensed the solitude in his life. At every supper, he would teach her a Chinese proverb. There was one that he repeated often and the general meaning of it was that it is important to respect parents to have a long life.
Floranthropie was founded in October 2014 after she began to wonder what happened to the flowers from weddings. After some research she found out that flowers were being thrown away after not only weddings but corporate events and funerals. Florists and distributors also got rid of flowers too. She called some friends about any weddings and if they were willing to donate the flowers afterwards. She was lucky and there was one. She and her friends drove there at midnight and everyone was drunk. It was quite funny. She brought the flowers back home and put them in water right away in bags and whatever she could find. The next day they brought the flowers to a long term care facility for the first time. What followed would make a big impression on her.
Immediately when they arrived with a cart full of flowers, people were asking who the flowers were for. There was one woman especially who had a big effect on Christine. The woman said, “You got the wrong room. I didn’t order any flowers.” and Christine replied, “No, it’s really for you.” The woman was very happy to hear that and welcomed Christine into her room where they chatted for 30 minutes or so. After that Christine realized that the woman had Alzheimer’s. Maybe she’ll remember or maybe she’ll forget but at least the flowers will still be there. Christine believes that the color of the flowers has a positive effect on people and indeed, a few days later, the employees said that the flowers really made a different and the seniors were very happy. After this, Christine decided she had to continue with this endeavor.
The NPO started out with close friends helping her. She found a bursary online that offered a promo video, branding and a website to the winning entry. They won and it really opened doors for them. People began offering flowers and volunteers came forth. At first they would work at her house. In Floranthropie’s second year they began building relationships with distributors of flowers and hope to solicit some funeral homes too although they tend to throw away the flowers but small objects like tubes needed for flower arrangements are also useful and needed. The volunteers don’t just drop the rearranged flowers at the reception and leave. They bring the flowers directly to the seniors and they talk to them. It’s the most important part of the process. Some seniors are not very welcoming or don’t really want to talk. For those who are more welcoming and talkative, the volunteers spend time to converse with them. Volunteers must be prepared for these varied reactions.
Christine recalls one of her own experiences where a man asked what she was doing there and then told her to just put the flowers somewhere. She persisted in trying to talk to him, to which he responded that she reminded him of his kids who never visit him. This made her feel bad. Her 6 year old niece was nearby and came by out of curiosity. The moment the man saw her, he burst into tears and pinched her cheeks while exclaiming how cute she was. He became very happy. It’s a story she makes sure to tell her volunteers. There are easy and difficult moments.
In the future, she hopes the organization can operate more on a full-time schedule. She would also like to have a permanent location where the volunteers can assemble and where more able-bodied seniors can also come and help arrange flowers. Of course, they need a truck, without one, they can’t do a lot.
Guylaine Tremblay, the interviewer, closes the interview by calling Christine an angel.