The flower arrangement that sits in front of Faith Kweh, 44, is like something out of a fairy tale — a single pastel-pink rose, surrounded by an assortment of lush white flowers, encased in a glass bell jar.
Small, illuminated LED lights hang around the flowers, basking them in a warm and dreamy glow. Equal parts intricate and beautiful, the arrangement is all the more wonderous because it was created by someone who is visually impaired.
“Flowers aren’t just material items — they can speak,” Faith says. “Their colours and all their foliage, there’s meaning in them. When you put them all together, they make a very beautiful arrangement. It’s like a story about yourself.”
When she was just 10, Faith was diagnosed with hearing impairment following a school check-up. Then later when she was 30, she was diagnosed retinitis pigmentosa, a group of rare genetic disorders that affects her hearing and vision.
This resulted in symptoms like tunnel vision and distorted vision, as well as an approximate 70% loss to her hearing. Recalling her early years, Faith describes herself as an impish girl who loved to play, but would often fall and hurt herself, unaware of her condition until later in her childhood.
When she eventually learnt about her condition in 2007, she fell into depression due to the various challenges, including difficulties in finding a job as well as a broken marriage.
Finding New Purpose
To help cheer her up, Faith’s younger sister, Hazel, 36, brought her along to an event hosted by a friend in 2017. Faith quickly fell in love with the beautiful decorative flowers at the event, and the two sisters decided to bring the flowers — a whole two cartons — back home with them.
Having learnt how to wrap floral bouquets previously, Faith and Hazel repurposed the flowers into small bouquets and went door-to-door gifting them to the elderly, vulnerable, and those living alone along Beach Road to brighten up their lives.
“One of the moments that was unforgettable was when we came across a family supported by a single mum. Upon receiving the flowers, she cried, because she recalled that before her husband’s departure, he gave her flowers every day,” Faith shares.
“This is how and when I managed to find a purpose to live on. I never thought that such a simple act of mine would be able to plant a smile on a stranger’s face.”
“It let me know that I can make a difference in somebody else’s life, and to spread love and hope,” Faith adds.
Unity in Diversity
This experience also led Hazel to found BloomBack, a social enterprise committed to empowering marginalised communities and spreading love through exquisite flower arrangements from sustainable, preserved flowers.
About 30% of the BloomBack team comprises women with special needs — including Faith as a floral designer — and the company tailors its working environment to accommodate their needs, enabling everyone to work well together.
Faith laughs, “We are like a big family — we help each other, we are there for each other, and we encourage each other. I’m like the happy pill in this family!”
“Since working together in BloomBack, I’ve always told Hazel that I love her and thank her for everything that she does for me.”— Faith Kweh, about her relationship with her sister, Hazel Kweh.
“Now we are in a better relationship, and we’re able to share (not only) our troubles, our stress, but also our happiness together.”
Inspiring People to Do More and Dream Big
As the founder of BloomBack, Hazel is determined to empower women. She explains, “Living with my mum all these years with my brother and sister, we really experienced first-hand how a single mum would work really hard to raise a family of four.
“Back when I was a child, I really couldn’t help her much. It has always been my desire to grow up, so that I can get out there and work and really support her. So, I feel that it would be really meaningful for everybody to come together, doing what little we can, to spread awareness of how we can be that pillar of support.
“I think to have a like-minded community out there, it’s really very empowering to know that ‘if she can do it, why not me?’ Faith is like a living testimony of how she has overcome her depression, and how, being deaf-blind, she can still do what normal people do, like teaching a floral workshop,” says Hazel.
However, it’s not easy being an entrepreneur. When Hazel discovered that DBS Foundation wanted to support BloomBack, she was very appreciative and grateful for the wide range of resources that DBS Foundation could provide — including development and mentorship programmes, as well as meaningful connections with fellow entrepreneurs and social enterprises.
Beyond tackling everyday problems and expanding the business, picking up various skills and learning from the experiences of her industry peers has helped Hazel bring BloomBack closer to its ultimate goal — touching more lives.
This story first appeared in Portraits of Purpose by DBS Bank.