Star Mum award finalist helps community spirit bloom with mask trees

A mother of five from Merton who organised volunteers to donate reusable masks during lockdown has been nominated for Hello! magazine’s Star Mum award.

Syebvonne Nguyen, 41, was one of five women chosen by celebrity panelists for the award, which honours mums across the UK who have helped others and overcome obstacles while raising their families.

Nguyen has made PPE devices on 3D printers, sewn and cooked for NHS workers and homeless shelters, and started a network of mask trees where people can go to get reusable masks.

She said: “I’m overwhelmed and honoured because all the other families who have been nominated are really deserving. I didn’t expect any of it.

“If something were to come from it I would love to use it as a platform to encourage people to keep the community spirit strong.

“There’s so much goodness in people.

“We can be vulnerable. We can’t be strong all the time but at least it is easier when we are together. Because we are all in this together.”

SEED OF HOPE: Nguyen said she believes in the importance of acts of random kindness, which is how her Facebook page Little A.R.K got its name

Nguyen was nominated for the Star Mum award by friend and fellow volunteer Susan Tomlinson.

Tomlinson said: “In these uncertain and difficult times when there are many struggling, I believe Syebvonne has single-handedly inspired a ‘feel good’ cementing effect for many communities for years to come.”

During the first lockdown, residents travelled across boroughs to visit Blooming, the first mask tree situated on Nguyen’s front drive, so she offered to sew masks and help others set up their own trees.

This led to a whole network being built and there are now trees in front drives and businesses across London.

Around 22 000 masks have been made and distributed to date.

SAFETY FIRST: All masks are individually wrapped so people know they are safe to use

Nguyen has five children aged seven, nine, 14, 15 and 16, three daughters and two sons.

They often help her with projects and are proud of their star mum.

Her nine-year-old daughter recently learned to sew and helped make poppy masks for Remembrance Sunday.

POPPY APPEAL: Little A.R.K also worked with artist Helen Poh to make poppies from fabric scraps which were sold to raise money for The Royal British Legion

Nguyen’s current focus is on providing masks for children eligible for free school meals.

Almost 2,000 masks were donated to schools in one month and work is ongoing.

Funds come from donations made in-person at the trees or through the A.R.K Community gofundme page.

THE NEW UNIFORM: Reusable masks donated to a High School in Sutton in September

The Star Mum celebrity judge panel was made up of Anita Rani, Lorraine Kelly, Vick Hope, Kate Silverton, and HELLO! editor-in-chief Rosie Nixon.

They narrowed a shortlist of ten down to five and now it is up to the public to vote for the first-place winner, who will be announced at a digital ceremony later this year.

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