Refugee to Entrepreneur
From humble upbringings in Uganda to co-founding a leading, global CAD software company in Canada, Transoft Solutions’ President and CEO, Milton Carrasco, has come a long way, literally.
In August 1972, the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country's Asian population, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda. While Milton’s family was part of this deportation order, many people thought that the regime would change its mind. When governments around the world realized that Amin was following through on his deplorable plan, countries like Canada and the United Kingdom rushed in planes to get people out, many of whom were essentially stateless.
Milton was a naturalized citizen at the time and was one of those who were rendered stateless. “I was the first to leave as my mother wanted to see her youngest safely out of the country – the usual motherly protection instinct, even though I was already of majority age,” recalls Milton.
As a young man with a close family, being deported was a shock to say the least. Every Asian leaving Uganda was taken to the airport in escorted buses, where the army strip searched everyone and ransacked whatever they wanted from the luggage before allowing the refugees to board their plane. “I left Uganda with little more than a bag of clothes and $20 in my pocket,” reflected Milton. His plane touched down on English soil at Stansted Airport in the early hours of October 4, 1972.
He and the other refugees on the flight were welcomed by the local Salvation Army volunteers who kindly offered them warm clothing, coffee, and biscuits, before preparing them to board buses for their accommodations. After a two hour bus ride, the new refugees arrived at a vacated British Army base – Greenham Common, near Reading. It was a controversial choice because of the nuclear armed bombers that both the British and US Air Force had at that location.
The shock of being a refugee did not hit Milton until he arrived at the base. The accommodations were spartan, but they were warm, dry and safe. The resettlement committee had reconfigured the dormitories using plywood partitions into two person rooms with two single beds. With the first snow falls losing their novelty, the reality of refugee status started sinking in. “Like monitor lizards on a sun baked rock, we huddled on a small knoll in the yard in front of the settlement office, absorbing every bit of the English sun that came peering through the normally overcast skies. It was like a clip from ‘Hogan’s Heroes’,” quipped Milton.
Tough times were ahead and Milton had to make the best of it. Read about the new university environment and adapting to British life in the next installment of Our Story.