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Late mother inspires Ross-shire teen's India dream; Dingwall Academy pupil Rachael MacLennan aims to teach for a year in Hyderabad; has backing of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes, who spent part of her childhood in the country

By Scott Maclennan

Rachael MacLennan who aims to raise money to help disadvantaged children in India with her father Ali and MSP Kate Forbes.
Rachael MacLennan who aims to raise money to help disadvantaged children in India with her father Ali and MSP Kate Forbes.

RESIDENTS of Ross-shire’s market town rarely need much of an excuse to enjoy a good ceilidh but this festive season a Dingwall Academy pupil has provided a very good reason.

Sixth year Dingwall Academy student Rachael MacLennan is aiming to raise £6000 to fund a year helping disadvantaged children in the Indian city of Hyderabad – in memory of her late mother.

So far she has managed to raise around £3000 but she has to reach a target of £6200 by April and to help her on her way she will be staging the ceilidh at the Legion Bar on the High Street tonight (Friday, December 27) from 7pm.

That money will facilitate the 17-year-old to return to her late mother’s homeland, where she has been accepted by Project Trust as an English primary teacher for the year in Hyderabad.

But as well as helping disadvantaged children, there is an extremely personal reason for her going as well.

Her dad Ali met her mum Priya in India and the pair married before moving back to Scotland, where they lived and had three children before Priya tragically passed away five years ago.

Rachael, her dad and two younger sisters went back to India together for the first time three years ago.

Rachael said: “Going out to India is so important to me because not only have I witnessed first-hand the aid needed, and wish to contribute to this very important cause, but also because I have a personal connection with this amazing country.

“My mum, who very suddenly passed away in 2014, was born and brought up there. The love and passion she had for her country was what drove me to choose to take a year out and visit this extraordinary place.

“My family all supported me in this decision so I immediately began to look for organisations that would let me fulfil this dream. It didn’t take long for Project Trust to come up on my horizon when they visited my school and gave a talk.”

As well as learning Hindi, the 17-year-old hopes to pass on a few Gaelic phrases to children having gone through Gaelic-medium-education in Dingwall.

She said: “I’m extremely fortunate to have had a great education here in Scotland, and I’d like to give something back by teaching English to rural children living in India.”

Priya MacLennan.
Priya MacLennan.

And now her campaign has been backed by local MSP Kate Forbes – who spent part of her childhood in India before returning to Scotland for her secondary education.

Kate, who met with Rachael and dad Ali recently, said: “Rachael is a lovely young woman who wants to help people after she leaves Dingwall Academy next year.

“I am really impressed that she has chosen to raise money to travel to India next year off her own back. She’s got a lot of money to raise and if everybody chips in then it will be a lot easier to get there.

“I am sure that Rachael will make a big difference to all the children she teaches and I look forward to hearing how many young Indian children can speak Gaelic by the time that Rachael has finished.”

The 17-year-old has already hosted a number of bake sales at the academy and at the local gym.

Her online giving page can be found at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RachaelMaclennan

While any local businesses wishing to support Rachael can get in touch with her via Kate Forbes MSP’s office on 01349 863 888 or emailing kate.forbes.msp@parliament.scot

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