IT’S time to meet our sensational six.
Over the next three days, we will reveal the final shortlist for the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year 2016.
From an initial mailbag of dozens of nominations, the judging panel of representatives from the Evening Times and our generous event partner St Enoch Centre, have whittled it down to a final heroic half-dozen.
Today we reveal the first two names on the shortlist, with the other four being announced tomorrow and Thursday.
The winner will be revealed at a glittering gala dinner in the City Chambers on February 23.
MICHAELA FOSTER MARSH, FOUNDER OF STARCHILD
When she discovered the story behind her beloved brother Frankie’s adoption in Uganda, Michaela Foster Marsh could have returned to Scotland, reassured she had completed the task he had started just a few months before his tragic death.
Frankie, who was adopted at 13 months old, died tragically in a house fire at the age of 26 when a power failure started a blaze on Govanhill’s Allison Street.
But Michaela’s horror at the levels of poverty she saw inspired her to help a community build a brighter future for its children.
“I was overwhelmed by what I saw out there, where many children die before they are five, and many orphans live in terrible poverty – and it struck me that if Frankie had not been adopted by my parents he might have faced the same fate,” says Michaela, a singer songwriter who lives in Newlands with her partner Rony Bridges.
“I wanted to do something, but I had no idea what. Through talking to people out there, I realised that many families push their children to be lawyers and doctors and dentists which is fine for those who are academically capable of doing that.
“The children who cannot, however, are just cast aside and it made me think of a school which helped those children find other talents and skills in the arts.”
Starchild was born – a charity, says Michaela, which comes simply out of the belief that every child deserves to be “loved, cared for, educated and fed.”
She smiles: “The name comes from Frankie’s favourite song, by Level 42 – we played it at his funeral and I knew as soon as I had the idea for the charity, that it would be called Starchild.
For the last five years, Michaela has been fundraising to build a school for the creative arts in memory of Frankie.
Michaela has held art auctions, charity nights and teamed up with local businesses and renowned Scottish artists to raise the cash to build the school in Uganda, banking thousands of pounds.
Last year, the school opened its doors to the first 100 pupils who now learn everything from sewing and art to music and drama.
“So many children who had perhaps been pushed aside are now flourishing,” adds Michaela. “The dream now is to keep building, keep developing the school to help more children.”
She laughs: “The experience has made me use skills I didn’t know I had. Working in Uganda is extremely challenging at times, so you have to be pretty resilient. It can also be a dangerous place to be at times.
“But for some reason, somehow – I don’t know, maybe it was Frankie sitting on my shoulder. I kept going.”
Michaela’s partner and fellow board member Rony says: “Michaela’s tenacity, her compassion and her generosity are astounding and I’m very proud of what she has achieved.”