The Community is a fellowship wherein each man & woman should find a place of significant service & creative living

  Grovehill, Piccotts End, Woodhall Farm and Phoenix

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Sudha brahmbhatt

I have been living in Britain for the last 37 years. I am an East African Asian. I was born in Arua West Nile which is in the Northwest part of Uganda bordering Rwanda I moved to Lugazi with my husband a professional Chemist working as a Senior Manager in the sugar production factory and three lovely daughters. Our lives were fulfilled and extremely happy. Uganda is a very beautiful, lush and abundant country although poverty and other social problems do exist.


The wind of political change lifted Amin to power in 1972 and one of his key objectives was to Africanise Uganda by ridding it of the Asians. On the 5th of August 1972 Amin announced on national radio that all Asians were to leave Uganda within a period of three months. Our instant reaction was that he was not serious but Amin reminded us every day on national radio how many days we had left before we had to leave. It silenced our laughter, instilled fear and panic.

The presence of the army was intensified, they were seen carrying rifles and guns and their presence instilled fear and terror. Acts of brutality were regularly carried out; people were shot beaten and raped. We were shocked, sad and deeply distressed that we had to leave our beloved home, family and friends, a life that we had built together since we got married and on the 14th of October 1972 we left Uganda with heavy, grieving, fearful hearts. As our plane took off we did not realise that we would never see our homeland again.


Everything was different from what we had known, the language and the food especially. We were shown how to obtain familiar food from Luton.

There were people at Heathrow waiting to welcome us with a friendly smile and a hot cup of tea. Every family was sent to a different settlement camp, ours was Greenham Common Ameriacn Army camp in Berkshire. A large sign had been displayed saying 'Welcome Ugandan Asians'. We had to share a dormitory and bathroom with other families. I was lucky enough to speak enough English and after three days at the camp I joined the Women's group. There were many volunteers from the locality who provided support and whom I came to know. I, in turn, became a volunteer helping teach English to some of the women of the camp. Some of the volunteers and their families befriended us, trying hard to settle us and keep us optimistic. They gave their time, kindness and support to my family and I  will never forget the touch of humanity when we were in such turmoil.


The authorities attempted to find my husband employment but he was depressed and in despair about not being able to return home. After about three months the authorities rehoused us in Hemel Hempstead although my husband still had no job. Major Ward of the Salvation Army welcomed us and helped to settle down. None of us had any intention of going on benefit and he showed us all how to find work and we all found jobs in the factories in Maylands Avenue. I took up a job working in a local factory where I was the first Asian woman to work there and the environment was hostile and difficult and I left and went to work somewhere else. I could speak English and got a job at Kodak and worked there for 10 years. The children went to school but of course they had no English.


Our MP Robin Corbett was very helpful. The Baptist Church helped us as much as they could but were not very confident because they had no experience of asylum seekers at that time.


With few prospects of finding a job similar to the one he had in Uganda my husband had to take whatever job he could find. After some time he eventually found a job working as an industrial chemist and continued working in the same place until he retired.


Hazel Ward obtained a grant for me to improve my English and I studied for one year at Dacorum College and I eventually took up a post working for the Adult Education Service, moving some years later to the Youth and Community Department working with young Asian people. I acted as an interpreter for many services like the police, social services and the hospital, often in a voluntary capacity.


The last part of my working life was where I was employed as Community Development Officer in the voluntary sector. I had made many inroads into getting communities to work together and more importantly getting government agencies to work together to recognise the needs of minority communities in Dacorum. My husband and I are now retired but we still do voluntary work and my daughters have all made successful careers for themselves as did most of the children of Ugandan Asians who settled in Dacorum and throughout the UK.


When the Youth and Community service wanted to employ someone to advise them on what was happening in the minority community I was appointed. We had come from a close community to a place where everyone was a stranger. When people got to know me and trust me I formed an Asian Youth Club at Dacorum College and I earned the trust of Muslem men and Pakistanis.


Being uprooted from their own cultures made life very difficult for some people and domestic violence was one of the problems that we had to deal with. I acted as interpreter in the court and in the hospital, sometimes paid and sometimes on a voluntary basis.


We held dinner parties to bring the community together into greater understanding of each other's cultures as we explained our respective cultures. From time to time we had to deal with harassment but we used to meet at my house and sorted it out over a cup of tea.


I worked for Social Services until I resigned in 1990, but because people continued to come to me I find myself still trying to sort out their problems. The work environment for many of the women meant that they learned little English and after 30 years in England many of them have very limited English.  


It was reported in the Herald newspaper that at one time I was not well and I was very touched that children who lived in the street came see me, one of them bringing flowers for me.


One of the men whose son was teaching English in an orphanage in Calcutta wanted to go to his son and to visit Mama Theresa. Mr Day, the headmaster of Barncroft Primary School encouraged the children to put together an entertainment and allowed the use of the hall and kitchen and gave the rice for a meal to be prepared to raise funds. In this way we were able to send £1000 for the purchase of a computer and other things. Mr Day didn't charge us a penny and everybody helped.


In 2008, with the aid of Age Concern and the Council we also raised £900 for Vision Aid to help blind children. We talked to the people at the shops in Hemel and I talked to a few of my friends and we took kids to the seaside.  


I want to tell parents,

Don't give your children presents, give them love. Sit and talk to them