As Sameena Merchant was growing up in Uganda in the 70’s, her parents worked hard to shield her and her brother from the rapidly deteriorating political situation in the country.
But in 1972, things took a dramatic turn as former Ugandan President, Idi Amin — one of Africa’s most brutal despots, expelled about 40,000 Asians — descendants of migrants from the British Empire in India
Sameena was seven years old at the time. The family fled Uganda and resettled to a foreign country and culture in Canada, which had sent planes to airlift refugees.
This country gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted - all I had to do was make the commitment and do the work.
Sameena is a family doctor today in her adoptive home, while her personal life she has built has also blossomed.
“This country gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted – all I had to do was make the commitment and do the work,” she said.
The family was among more than 7,000 Ugandan Asians who sought refuge in Canada.
Sameena’s parents were teachers in Uganda, but their credentials were not recognized so they took whatever jobs they could find.
The doctor says she owes her success to the opportunities she had while growing.
“We were happy when we got here, you know you left everything, but we had an opportunity to start a new life,” she added.
Though several thousand Asians have since returned home, to Uganda, some Ugandans resent them because of their domination in many businesses.