In the second part of our two-day series on SWOTY finalist Michaela Foster Marsh’s charity Starchild, we feature her vivid, moving and uplifting diaries of her most recent trip.

Michaela, an Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year finalist, set up the charity in memory of her late brother Frankie but she fears unless funding is found, it may have to close.



The Starchild School for Creative Arts is situated in a village called Vvumba in the Luwero district of Uganda, approximately 33 kilometres from Kampala.

I am bringing my friends Iain Andrews, our treasurer, and art specialist Helen MacVey, from Glasgow to Uganda for the first time. As we drive up to our school a procession of children and teachers all dancing, singing and tongue trilling surrounds us as we walk, dance, clap through the Ugandan pomp and ceremony on the red carpet of murrum dust. This is the kind of welcome that keeps bringing me back to Uganda, that keeps me encouraged to keep going despite the enormous challenges this country brings. This is what it is all about.


Helen, Iain, my partner Rony and I are heading to Makerere University to meet with Dr Enock Matovu.

I have been trying to organise a Science Bridge Project with Dr Mhairi Stewart from St Andrews University to empower girls to become scientists in Uganda. The university has a 300 acre campus just a short distance from the city centre and seems like an oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of traffic and pedestrians outside its large gates.

Our meeting goes well and it looks as if Makerere science department are interested in the work Starchild have been doing in Uganda. With any luck, and a bit of outside funding, our science bridge project will be scheduled for the autumn this year.


Our alarm clocks are set for 6am. We have a long journey ahead to Jinja near the source of the Nile. Here, I meet Jessica Norby, who runs the Mango Tree School. Jessica was a child soldier during the raging civil war in Uganda. The first time Rony and I visited her school there were 60 children, one note pad and two pencils. Now we try to support them as much as we can.

This time we are delivering art packs donated by our community at home - Netherlee Parish Church, Adams School of Dance, Williamwood High School Community Project, Stables Studio at Cassiltoun Housing Association, and many others. We collected enough bags and goodies to fill over 258 bags for children who would never otherwise have an opportunity to hold a paintbrush, paint, draw or use crayons.

Day 4

There are as many orphans in Uganda as there are people in Scotland. But it’s not until you are actually there and holding one of these vulnerable souls in your arms that you can really understand the fear and abandonment that grips their hearts. On my first visit to Uganda my heart ached for them - anyone of them could have been Frankie. Our charity believes that every child deserves to be loved, cared for, fed and educated. In Uganda that is not as easy as it sounds.

Day 6

It’s Sunday and we go to Watoto Church. Church in Uganda is like going to a rock concert! The venue is rigged with enough lighting and sound gear for a Rolling Stones concert. The band starts up and the gospel choir sing – 2000 people have come to watch. The lights change on cue, the mood changes. Biblical neon quotes from the old and new testament flash up on the screens to reinforce the word of God. The big wide screen in front of us shows us some well constructed documentaries about the wonderful work Watoto Church are doing for the orphans in Uganda. I’m moved by the films they show.

Day 7

We are visiting schools today, including St Francis School where I’ve been asked to plant a tree in Frankie’s memory. The last time I did that was in Pollok Park in Glasgow. He always finds a way to let me know he is with me in Uganda.

Day 9

It is International Women’s Day and in Uganda that means a public holiday. The schools are all closed and we have an unexpected day off! They take it very seriously here – later we spot a sea of women dressed in red, parading to show their solidarity with the fight women have for equality.

DAY 10

Helen’s first art workshop is a success. One of the reasons Starchild wanted to build a school for the arts was because many children who were not academically gifted were being ignored and abandoned. They didn’t have the chance to hold a paint brush, touch a canvas or play an instrument. And yet, with a good arts program in place, those children can perhaps get back their self esteem and realise that they are of just as much value to society as a doctor or a lawyer.

DAY 11

We are back at the Starchild School today. This time Helen has lots of goodies in her box - paint guns, coloured papers, glitter, glue. It’s not long till our tables look like Jackson Pollok paintings. I stand outside alone for a moment listening to the cacophony of sound coming from the school. I suddenly realise how monumental this project is and the impact it will have on the lives of those who are lucky enough to grace its doors.

Day 12

We visit Hope Kollective Children’s Home. Helen is doing an art workshop with the children this morning. As we leave, we are just about run over by children trying to touch us. With great fervour they touch, stroke and inspect our hair, poke and prod from every angle and all with boisterous hilarity. The best laugh is when they try to rub my freckles away.

Day 13

It’s our last day and we all have mixed emotions. We have rolled with the challenges of Uganda, the dodgy tummies, the sickness, the mosquito bites from hell and the corruption. Part of us is longing for home but another part is sad to be leaving.

If we thought we were going to get anytime to ourselves, we were wrong. Throughout the day everyone shows up at the hotel to say goodbye.The local minister, Reverend Sam, wants one last prayer outside the airport It’s a moving call for our safe return to Scotland and a quick return to Uganda, a thank you for our help. He prays that we will be able to continue. We all do.