Using floristry as a tool for social good with Bread & Roses

We are delighted to be able to highlight the amazing work of Bread & Roses, an award-winning social enterprise on a mission to help women from refugee backgrounds flourish.

Bread & Roses was founded back in 2016 by Olivia Head, Sneh Jani-Patel and Livi Wilson after the trio were inspired by refugee and asylum-seeking women they met through their voluntary work. Bread & Roses harness the therapeutic benefits of working with flowers, offering women a forum to be creative, build their confidence and learn a new skill. In addition, their programmes provide an opportunity for women to practice their English, form new friendships and to learn more about local support services.

We spoke with Sneh Jani-Patel and Livi Wilson, to find out more about this wonderful social enterprise.

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1. Tell us about Bread & Roses – why did you start this charity?

We use floristry as a tool for social good, supporting women from refugee backgrounds. We were inspired by previous experiences working in frontline charities in the UK, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Berlin, and volunteering in Calais. 

2. What are your core pillars and what do you want to achieve?

Our mission is to provide a forum for women to gain skills, knowledge and confidence to better navigate the challenges of rebuilding their lives in the UK. We use floristry as a tool to do this: our support is centred around an eight-week training programme, where participants enjoy the therapeutic nature of creating floral arrangements. This also helps build their conversational English, increasing their awareness of local support services. The arrangements created during each of these workshops are delivered to sponsors, who help us to cover our running costs.

Since launching in 2016 we’ve delivered eight programmes in London, working with more than 80 women and have seen our work expand to Paris and Tel Aviv, securing volunteer placements and employment. This year sees us building on our learning and experience, as we prepare to expand nationally, supporting local community organisations to deliver their own in-house Bread & Roses programmes over the year ahead, benefitting refugee communities in the UK beyond the capital.

3. The theme of British Flowers Week for 2020 and 2021 is ‘healing’. What positive effects does working with flowers have on the women?

We have been struck by just how many of our participants have commented on how much joy being around flowers brings them. Creating a supportive environment where women can be creative and benefit from the calming effect of being surrounded by flowers is crucial to our programme.

4. How can the public and businesses help support your charity? Where can they find further information?

You can sign up to our newsletter to find out more about ways to support our work in the future. You can also register your interest in becoming a programme sponsor by getting in touch. Each week you will receive a beautiful bunch of seasonal blooms, created by one of our participants, as part of the training programme.

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5. Can you explain a little about the concept of floristry for social good and how
it works?

The holistic benefits of working with flowers are well documented. We make the most of that fact, using floristry workshops as a vehicle to support women from refugee backgrounds to improve their confidence and wellbeing, as well as offering the opportunity to develop skills
and practice English.

6. Can you tell us about where you source flowers from at New Covent Garden Flower Market and where you grow your own flowers?

We buy flowers from the fantastic British flower wholesale specialists at Pratleys, Zest and GB Foliage. Our floristry director Liv grows on fields in Hertfordshire and we use flowers from her fields as well as supporting the community of other UK market flower farms for our programmes.

7. Why is buying British flowers and supporting British flower growers and
suppliers important?

Buying British flowers and supporting British farmers is hugely important to us – we are trying to keep our supply chains as environmentally friendly and ethical as possible. Working directly with British flower suppliers allows us to ensure that we reduce our carbon footprint, the damaging effects of pesticides and have transparency that we have a slavery-free supply chain. Ensuring fair wages and working conditions are fundamental to our ethos: the exploitation of a mainly female and people of colour workforce in countries where pesticide use and working conditions are less regulated is of huge concern to us.

8. Tell us about your campaign for the British public to buy a Bread & Roses bunch of British flowers for World Refugee Day (to show their solidarity to women rebuilding their lives in the UK). Where can they purchase them from?

We are offering people the opportunity to stand in solidarity with women from refugee backgrounds and buy a seasonal Bread & Roses bunch bursting with British-grown blooms this World Refugee Day by ordering from our website. All the profits will go towards funding their next floristry programmes, supporting women from refugee backgrounds to build
their confidence, practice English, gain new skills and access local services.

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by British Flowers Week Team