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Two people seated on the ground holding flower arrangements

In an effort to show support for those who are struggling with mental health issues, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students, faculty, staff and community members participated in the second annual Valentine’s Day ikebana flower arrangement workshop. Individual mental health can be challenging during holidays such as Valentine’s Day.

The February 12 event, hosted by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Home Garden Network (HGN), attracted 150 participants who created one ikebana arrangement to take home, and another to donate to Mental Health Kokua, an organization that serves adults who are striving for mental wellness.

Three keiki with adult arranging flowers on a table

“To me, an ikebana flower arrangement can help people connect, learn from each other, and inspire people to grow plants at home,” said Sothy Eng, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) and HGN founder.

“Acts of kindness like this remind us that we have the ability to make a positive influence on someone’s life and the importance of being kind,” added Norman Tansey, Family Education Centers of Hawaii, Inc. (FETCH) executive director.

Large flower arrangement

Roses, chrysanthemums, daisies, pompons and many other plants were harvested from UH Mānoa’s free garden and FETCH’s garden in Mānoa. Some flowers were sourced from local flower shops, and participants also donated greenery and mason jars for the arrangements.

“I’m happy that the event was a huge success (thanks to everyone’s contributions) and I got to be a part of putting it together,” said Kylie Maemori-Yoshida, a HDFS student and HGN intern. “It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves and creating their flower arrangements for their loved ones and Mental Health Kokua.”

The event was created in partnership between HGN and FETCH, a community organization that provides parenting and community garden training programs on Oʻahu.

Student-led event

Person flashing shaka at a table full of flowers. Other people are selecting flowers for their arrangements

Four HDFS undergraduate students, who are interns at HGN and FETCH, provided significant contributions in the planning and execution of the event, with the help of three current HDFS student volunteers and two HDFS alumni volunteers.

“Seeing friends, families and loved ones coming together, while spreading kindness and love with their own creativity in the flower arrangements was very heartwarming to witness. The memories being created and shared will last,” said Rosalynn Rico, a HDFS student and HGN intern.

“Being a volunteer for the flower arrangement event was a wonderful experience,” said Laura Bartholomew, a HDFS student and FETCH intern. ”It was great to see everyone’s creativity and individuality blossom. I was humbled by their willingness to donate their time to make arrangements that would go on to be donated to Mental Health Kokua for Valentine’s Day. The whole event perfectly encapsulated how beautiful community service can be.“

Orville Baldos, an associate researcher in CTAHR’s Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, also shared with participants the role of florals in food sustainability in Hawaiʻi.

Diana Morales, a HDFS student and FETCH intern, expressed her gratitude saying, “I was amazed by the turnout, there were so many families and students making such beautiful arrangements. We were very grateful to have so many people share their creativity by donating arrangements.”

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