My grandfather stowed away on a ship to come to Uganda from India. When he arrived, he started working in a shop, then trading, building up a series of businesses. He did very well and sponsored his brothers and their families to join him. 

He died when he was nearly 40, leaving my grandmother with my dad, 12, and his brother, 18. She had to fight the hierarchy of uncles, who took control of the business, and scrape pennies together so my dad could go to university in the US. When he returned, he applied what he had learned to the family business, increasing profitability. He sent money to his brother in India, and the family bought a coffee plantation. 

I was born in 1960. 

Dad was very keen on education. I went to a Catholic school in Tanzania. A very serious, committed student, I thought God watched everything I did. Part of my view of right and wrong came from that.  

Growing up in Uganda was like living in paradise, ‘the land of milk and honey. We had this house on the seaside – not big, but beautiful. Everybody would sit by the pier in the evenings, and the children would play. It was magical, idyllic. 

But president Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of Indians from Uganda, so in 1973 we were turfed out. My dad brought us to the UK to claim our British passport, where he was helped by the Kent Committee for the Welfare of Migrants. He wanted us to have the option to live in the UK if we needed it.

I found it really cold. I remember the milkman calling me ‘love’ and thinking he loved me! People were friendly enough but it was very much ‘us and them’. 

We spent three months here, then once our passports were in order we went to the plantation in India. Because of a family business dispute, we ended up in a tiny, leaking, falling-apart apartment that had rats. Instead of sitting by the sea on the pier, our playground was now the car park downstairs.  

I decided I never wanted to be poor. My parents said eduction was the way out, so I worked hard and did well in school. I also earned money by helping sell t-shirts, and distributing leaflets. 

Dad was very careful with money. His investments paid for our education. I went to university in Mumbai. I also did British O and A Levels because my dad insisted: “you never know”. 

In 1980, when I was 20, my boyfriend at the time got a scholarship to Oxford University. I was heartbroken and wanted to go to England with him.


My maternal grandfather – a cotton trader – had sent my father to set up an agency in London, so Mum suggested I move there. I wanted to be an English teacher, but my dad said “There’s no money in that”, and enrolled me on an accountancy course. 

I also got a job, but by the time I had paid for transport and accommodation, my lunch was a packet of crisps. But I was working, studying and doing well.  

In 1973 we had experienced racism, but there was still some care – people would help you. In 1980 it got darker – overt, direct racism. I remember walking to the tube station and getting spat on. It was really painful. But I was older and understood it for what it was. There was a lot of social deprivation and people resented others coming into their space.  

It taught me how to deal with bullies. Through my career that’s been helpful. It fuelled my determination.

I took a job with Guinness: one of my happiest times at work. I became a good accountant, and at 24 bought my first apartment. 

I also met up again in London with my now husband – a former neighbour and family friend from Uganda.  

We got married and had children. I got a job with the Ministry of Defence Chief Commandant. When he became the NATO Commander I continued working with him, and have worked with NATO ever since.  

My son was struggling with dyspraxia, so I gave up full-time work to support him, but still needed something else to devote my time to.

My husband and I both passionately believe in transforming lives through education. I ran a Sunday school programme called Team India where we charged for accommodation and travel, with a bit on top for the charity. In 2010 we set up the Lifelines foundation, funding projects like these.  

My husband sold his business just before the pandemic. In lockdown, we decided to use our time to build our charity as a grant-making body. I want to do for others what my parents did for me: making sure I could get a good education. 

My son Rishi is a teacher, which inspired me to retrain as a psychotherapist, specialising in child psychotherapy for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.  

When I started to work with refugee children I began tapping into feelings about my own  experiences as a child, being somewhere where I didn’t understand what was happening.  

I’m a very good accountant and administrator, so I felt morally obliged to use these skills too. I became interested in Migrant Help because I wanted to work with an organisation that provides that end-to-end support and ensures that there’s follow-up for people. I didn’t realise until later that it was the same organisation that had helped my family in 1973. 

Migrant Help is my natural home. They work with a deprived community that doesn’t have a voice.  

When I first came to England, it felt like an adventure. But I was lucky. It doesn’t necessarily happen that way for everyone. 

My hope is that at a minimum people can live without fear and survive. Not having to look over their shoulder because somebody’s after them. Having a place to sleep, food and clothing.