BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO

Flowers have always provided joy and vibrancy to people everywhere. When placed in a room, it brightens up the area, and when given as gifts, it holds different meanings that get the message across. 

But flowers aren’t just meant to be as gifts. These can also be a source of income for farmers and other stakeholders who know how to harness the power of flowers as a material for making different crafts and souvenirs. 

Seeing how flowers can provide an income for communities, Care Channels Social Enterprises, Inc. (CCSEI) started an initiative where Filipinos can use their creativity with flowers and other similar materials to create captivating handcrafted products.

Local flowers are sourced from different regions in the country.

CCSEI was established by the Trustees of Care Channels Inc. (CCI), a non-stock, non-profit charity organization, to serve as its commercial arm. CCI is dedicated to holistic work among poor families as well as cultural minorities in the Philippines by providing child education sponsorship, college scholarships, medical aid, and transferring work skills leading to livelihood projects.

Over the years, Care Channels has come up with uniquely designed products like desk calendars, greeting cards, wall frames, Batik planners, journals, notebooks, notepads, bookmarks, and gift tags. 

All these items contain pages that are pasted with real pressed flowers and other plant materials. They also use creative paper die-cut artwork and cross-stitch which serve as an additional livelihood for their beneficiaries.

Gathering flowers from all over the country

To create their products, CCSEI uses flowers and plants that are locally available like bougainvillea, santan, blue pea flowers, yellow bush, yellow bell, cosmos, sunflowers, and more. 

“We have beneficiaries from Metro Manila, Region 4A, Ilocos Norte, Ifugao, and Maguindanao who harvest these flowers from their backyards. Others ask permission from neighbors or school administrators to pick flowers especially during the blooming season since they just fall to the ground and wither,” said Michelle Chua, who handles the local customer sales and distribution of CCSEI’s marketing department.

CCSEI’s goal to promote the local industry is partnered with their objective of promoting the utilization of recycled materials as part of their handcrafted products to support the recycling efforts of the government as well as the other sectors of society.

After the flowers are collected, these are sent to CCSEI’s beneficiaries in NCR, Regions 1, 3, and 4A, as well as in Mindanao State University in Maguindanao for processing. These beneficiaries undergo training each year to make sure that they handle the materials well and are able to craft more creative items as time passes.

The products are handcrafted from beneficiaries from all over the country.

“Our Filipino artists and designers create new designs of desk calendars and other products annually. These designs are also sent to Indonesia and Timor Leste to support the families that are involved in the same livelihood program,” Chua said. 

The process of making handcrafted products 

CCSEI’s beneficiaries in the community are involved in several processes that result in handcrafted products. This involves the harvesting of flowers, separation, and sorting, pressing, microwave drying, packing, and weighing.

Pressed flowers are apportioned accordingly and distributed together with calendar cards, patterns, and glue to trained families that will do the pasting of pressed flowers onto cards.

Flowers are pasted onto the cards and other mediums to create products such as desk calendars, notebooks, notepads, cards, and more.

“When pasting is done, the materials will be submitted to the Production Department of CSSEI for quality control. Walk-in workers are paid on the same day of submission of pasted cards according to the number of cards that passed the quality control parameters,” Chua said. 

After pasting, the cards are sent to the Production Department where they are laminated to protect the pasted plant materials. The laminated cards are then arranged accordingly, ring-bound, and are subject to another quality control test. 

Lastly, the calendars are individually packed with transparent plastic with adhesive, barcoded, and stored at the Finished Goods Room before they are ready to be sold.

“Our products are currently sold at selected outlets of National Bookstore Store, Philippine Christian Bookstore, OMF Literature, Philippine Bible Society, Papemelroti, Pandayan Bookshop, DTI Go Lokal in Makati, DTI Go Lokal in Abreeza in Davao City, as well as Lazada and Shopee online platforms,” Chua shared. 

Providing for local communities 

CCI began its charity work in the Philippines in 2000. The idea behind its livelihood program came from CCI’s Founder and Executive Director, Mr. Yeoh Seng Eng, who grew up in an impoverished family in Malaysia. 

He managed to defy the norm and achieved a promising career with a multi-national company. While working in the Philippines, he was moved by the sight of many desperately poor families that earn a living by scavenging in dumpsites and collecting recyclable rubbish to sell. 

Together with his wife, Dr. Chwen, Seng Eng started a livelihood project to help slum families make pressed flower calendars and other products for sale. He utilized his physics training to create a simple process for drying flowers while retaining their colors and without using chemicals.

Through this livelihood program, the beneficiaries of CCSEI earn an extra income ranging from P6,000 to P15,000 per person, depending on the number of products they finish.

Beneficiaries earn an extra income between P6,000 to P15,000, depending on how many products they finished.

It has also given them a chance to unlock their creativity and open doors of opportunity that allows them to promote local products as well as provide an income for farmers who grew the plant materials. 

Chua added that these beneficiaries are also taught to value themselves, their fellowmen, and the things around them by attending a weekly moral recovery program along with other livelihood workers in the community. 

“It is the aspiration of CCSEI that more families will earn a decent income out of this livelihood program, especially those that have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. 

Local flowers have become more than just mere decorations and gifts. With the livelihood program of CCSEI, it has become a necessary material that allows local communities to earn an extra income and slowly become financially independent. And by using local flowers, CCSEI also promotes the recycling initiatives that have been started by the government and other organizations. 

For more information, visit www.carechannels.org.

Photos courtesy of Michelle Chua from CCSEI