Child burn survivor from Hackney who founded body confidence charity praised by Theresa May

Sylvia Mac with her letter from the Prime Minister.

Sylvia Mac with her letter from the Prime Minister. - Credit: Archant

A child burn survivor who founded a charity to help people live with scarring and disfigurements has been praised by the Prime Minister for her “tireless campaigning”.

Sylvia Mac, of Hackney, this week received the Points of Light award, which is given to people who make a change in their community and inspire others.

Having hidden her own scars since childhood, Sylvia experienced depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. So two years ago she founded Love Disfigure to raise awareness and inspire others to be proud of their bodies. The organisation now supports more than 3,000 people with skin conditions, burns, scars or disfigurement.

Sylvia, a former competitive swimmer and mother-of-three, has also run free swimming sessions to boost the confidence of people with disfigurements or skin and health conditions. This year she also arranged a swimwear photoshoot to challenge the fashion industry to become more inclusive.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled [with the award]. Body acceptance and confidence is something we should all learn about, so we are able to move forward and progress in life.

“As a child burn survivor who almost died twice, I went on to suffer daily pain, severe depression, anxiety, lacking confidence and self-body hating for almost 40 years, not fitting into society. I was unable to accept my body and never felt beautiful, so my mental health was affected to the point of suicidal thoughts.

“Two years ago, I decided to change my mindset so I was able to accept my uniqueness and finally feel beautiful. My vision is for society to become inclusive of everyone with visible or hidden differences, and for those people to feel accepted in our growing diverse communities.”

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In a letter to Sylvia, Theresa May said: “You have bravely responded to a difficult personal experience by creating a network where people with burns, scars and skin conditions can support each other and know they are not alone. Your tireless campaigning is sending an important message about the importance of self-confidence and diversity and I wish you every success.”

MP Meg Hillier said: “I am delighted Sylvia’s selfless work has been recognised. She provides a lifeline to people and shows a strength of character that makes her a great role model.”