When I first saw the bouquets for the Vancouver Olympics, I must be honest and say that I thought that they were quite ugly. To me they looked like we had just decided to gift wrap a bunch of weeds. After spending all of this money on the Olympics, the choice of flowers simply did not make any sense.
It seems that the winning design was not selected for beauty (big surprise there). It was selected in part due to the social message that these flowers send. The winning bid was placed by a florist shop called Just Beginnings. June Standberg the owner teaches floral design to women that are leaving prison, escaping domestic violence and recovering from addiction. These are women that society has long since thrown away and her program allows them the chance to gain an employable skill will building their self esteem.
For more than a decade in Burnaby, the Beginnings program trained 160 women in floral design, with dozens of them sticking in the industry. Strandberg’s work earned her a YWCA Woman of Distinction award in 2003. Over the past few years, she nearly retired — but didn’t. Instead, she moved to Surrey and worked to open another shop to help more at-risk women learn the craft of floral design.
“It’s not about what happened yesterday with these women, it’s about what road they’re on today, it really is. They have to be in the right space and aimed in the right direction. That’s how we help them,” says Strandberg
Each time we see a bouquet handed out, we can be sure in the knowledge that it has helped to empower a marginalized woman. The Olympics are full of problematic images and messages; however, the bouquets teach us how much we all have the potential to make a difference in the lives of others. No one is beyond hope, we simply have to care enough to try.