When she launched her crusade to bring nature to hospital waiting rooms, Jeannine Lafrenière knew all about waiting in hospitals. After she was diagnosed with basal-cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer in which surgery can leave patients disfigured, she did a lot of waiting in unfriendly rooms. A guidance counselor in a Canadian school called CEGEP, she has spent more than 30 years listening to young adults, a job she loves. During her odyssey as a patient, she happened to meet a specialist of green walls and started thinking that it would be wonderful to have a view on a green wall or a green roof during one’s stay at the hospital. “I love nature and just contemplating nature brings me a deep sense of well-being. I don’t know anybody on whom nature does not have an impact. My overall goal is to reconnect us with nature,” she explained a few weeks ago during a phone conversation from Ottawa, Ontario where she lives. Following up on the green wall idea, she soon discovered the work of Robert Ulrich and started exchanging with one of his colleagues. These exchanges comforted her in the belief that nature can help patients.
In 2012, Lafrenière decided to start Forget for a moment, a foundation dedicated to building natural structures in healthcare settings. Because of the fierce Canadian winters, outdoors green walls seemed out of the question to her. The foundation, which is based in Ottawa, started fundraising to make those projects possible. The first project is now under way at Montreal Children’s Hospital, which is in the middle of a major reconstruction. In the children’s atrium, a green wall will be put in place during the fall of 2015. “When children are having a hard time, attracting their attention on elements of nature allows them to go towards this wonderful thing. It will also be for parents who are perhaps even more anxious during these experiences. “
This project will be the result of a long collaboration with the hospital administration and construction crews. Because the association did not collect as much money as hoped, the project is based on a more modest budget of about $33,000. “Anything is better than cold walls. Let’s do it,” the president realistically decided. In the photo shown here, “the area to the bottom-left, highlighted in red, is where the living wall will be installed. The maximum size of the area we have to work with: 7.85 meters (width) by 2.95 meters (height) by 1.90 meters (depth),” as the Foundation explains on its website.
In parallel, the president of Forget for a moment embarked on the search for a company able to complete the project. She recently announced the composition of the “dream team” that will work on the project: Albert Mondor, a horticulturalist and garden designer who is already the spokesman of the foundation, Malaka Ackaoui and Antoine Crépeau, respectively the president and a partner at WAA, a Canadian firm of landscape architects and urban planners joined by Guillaume Brunet, a student in civil engineering who has experience creating a living wall in his home. The team is providing its help pro bono. “All those people who believe in the project and are giving of their time make me believe in this project. ” Actively present on Facebook and Twitter, Lafrenière enjoys sharing the project’s progress and hopes to inspire others to create programs that bring nature to patients. For the Foundation’s second project, she would like to work with a retirement home. Fundraising is already under way with Forget for a moment’s second annual Charity Golf Tournament scheduled for next month.