From Uganda to the UK: My Journey as a Refugee

Pragna Hay, Refugees as Re-Builders Patron, reflects on her own personal journey as a refugee.

I was born in Mbale, Uganda. My journey to the UK as a refugee in 1972 marked the beginning of a life filled with resilience and determination. Settling first in Yeovil, Somerset at the Houndstone resettlement camp, I later relocated to Greenham Common Resettlement camp before finding a home in Redditch, Worcestershire, where I spent my formative years.

I spent a brief period of my life in Toronto, Canada at the age of 18 only to return back to the UK after 2 years. By 1988, as a mother to two daughters, I embarked on my first entrepreneurial endeavour and set up Minitogs Daycare, a private day nursery catering for preschool children. This ignited the fire of my entrepreneurial spirit.

Family has always been a cornerstone of my life. Blessed with four children – three daughters and one son, my greatest joy now stems from my three grandchildren with another due in Oct 2024. My grandchildren bring immense happiness into my life. Through the challenges of single parenthood, my children have been my greatest motivation to strive for a better life, fuelling my determination to build a brighter future for them.

Whilst my educational journey presented its difficulties, I managed to navigate through my “O” level exams before embarking on an early marriage and motherhood. Despite these early responsibilities, my ambition for higher education persisted. Eventually this led me to pursue a degree in Biomedical Science, graduating in 1999 as a Microbiologist. I worked at Smithkline Beecham’s microbiology laboratory before venturing into entrepreneurship with Challenge Recruitment Solutions, specialising in the Audio Visual industry.

Following over a decade of success in the recruitment business, I transitioned to a new chapter, establishing a Service Apartment business before eventually retiring at 51. However, my entrepreneurial spirit never waned, and has now lead me to embark on a new venture focused on Home Intelligence, allowing individuals to control their homes remotely, again a new industry to adapt into.

My journey from Uganda to the UK amidst political turmoil under Idi Amin’s regime reflects a narrative of resilience and adaptation. The challenges faced during the expulsion from Uganda to an unknown foreign land emphasised the strength and unity of our families. Despite the initial trials of racism and being labelled as refugees, the eventual compassionate response of the UK government under Prime Minister Edward Heath showcased a glimpse of hope and belonging in a new home.

On reflection of my family’s experience and that of all those displaced then and now, I feel that success is not solely defined by material wealth but by the way we live, love, share, and contribute to the world around us. The story of displacement is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of one’s dreams.

I thoroughly enjoy engaging in community based projects, especially those that involve providing a guiding hand to others. I am a Trustee of Rabble Theatre, a Councillor with Greenham Parish Council and in my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, long walks, baking, traveling and reading.

Resilience fuels the spirit, and determination paves the way…..

Pragna Hay at the RRB Gala

Pragna has been serving as Patron for Refugees as Re-Builders™, for a year, supporting and accompanying the team in their work. Recently speaking at the RRB™ Fundraising Gala Reception in June Pragna shared  her experiences as a refugee and how she could see how the RRB™ course benefits and enables settled refugees in addressing the root causes of displacement.

Are you a refugee who wants to help rebuild your home country?

Apply to join the Refugees as Re-Builders™ (RRB) programme HERE

Applications close 31st August 2024. For information email  the team HERE

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