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Urban Refugees 2: Lost in the crowd

To use photographs of urban refugees from an exhibition by the award-winning photographer Andrew McConnell to encourage pupils to reflect on how it feels to be lost in a crowd.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To use photographs of urban refugees from an exhibition by the award-winning photographer Andrew McConnell to encourage pupils to reflect on how it feels to be lost in a crowd.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. The homepage of the Hidden Lives website (see above for address) has a continuous slideshow of the photographs, which could be put up on a screen during this introduction.

    Leader
    London, Birmingham, New York, Nairobi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Port au Prince … these are just some of the big cities around the world that award-winning photographer Andrew McConnell visited to take photographs of urban refugees.

    These people left their families, their jobs and their homes. They ran away because they were scared. They left their own countries because they had been hurt or put in prison or threatened.

    They moved to these big cities to be safe. They wanted to find a job and a new home.

    I wonder what they actually found when they arrived in the big city. I wonder how life turned out for them.

    Pause the slideshow.
  2. How about you? How do you feel when you visit a big city? In January, the Year 6 children from Lobley Hill Primary School in Gateshead went on a school trip to London. This is how one of those children felt.

    ChildMy name is Jordan and I am 11. I went to London with my class. We went on the train. Some of my friends had never been on a train before. They were scared because it went fast and they thought it was going to crash. Most of my class had never been to London before. They were a bit nervous. I didn’t like the Underground. It was a bit smelly and dirty and there were too many people. I was afraid of getting lost. London was really big and really busy. There were lots of cars and buses and taxis everywhere and I didn’t like crossing the roads. There were a lot of exciting things to see, though, and London is an amazing place. I had a good time but was glad to get back home safely in the end.

    Restart the slideshow.
  3. LeaderA big city can be a scary place. There are people everywhere and yet you can feel so alone. This is how many of the refugees in the photographs feel. They do not know anyone and feel alone. They do not know the language. They have cramped living conditions. They have very little money to live on. They are scared.

    Andrew McConnell took these photographs to show us how urban refugees live.

    They show the lights and traffic and buildings in a big city. This is what captures your attention when you first look at the pictures, but there is a person in each one, too. It is easy not to notice the person. It is easy not to notice individuals in a busy city, too.

    While talking to the urban refugees, McConnell discovered how forgotten these people in cities are. They are often afraid to go outside. It’s hard to find work. They therefore often end up hiding themselves away.
  4. Stop the slideshow and show the picture of Datt Cung.

    What an amazing image this is. The picture is of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Can you see the two towers lit up in the background? These are called the Petronas Towers.

    Can you see a man stood all alone? He is not easy to see.

    There is a story behind this photograph. When the photographer tried to take the photo at street level, he could not get a good shot because of the brightness of the illuminated city. So, he found this rooftop. With no streetlights close by, he could take this amazing picture which conveys perfectly how overwhelming these cities must be to refugees.

    There is another story behind this photograph, too. The story of this man, Datt Cung, from Burma. One day, he was arrested for helping two people from his home village with their shopping. It turned out they were members of the Chin National Front. Datt was questioned and tortured for two months. He was then put in a forced labour camp for more than eight years. When he was released, he was afraid of being captured again, so he ran away to Malaysia.

    Life in Malaysia is still very hard for Datt because he doesn’t speak the language. He is scared to go out. He wants to go home.

Time for reflection

Leader Moving to a new city can feel very scary. Starting a new school can feel very scary. Joining a new dance class or football team can feel very scary. Everyone feels a little scared and a little lost at some point in their lives.

Let us reflect now on what we have heard today. You can make the words of our prayer into your own if you would like.

Prayer
Dear God,
In a city, every face is an individual.
In a crowd, every individual has a story.
We live with refugees around us in our cities, but we don't notice them.
May we remember that people like Datt live in our cities.
May we treat every individual with respect.

In a school, every child has a name.
In a class, every individual has a story.
We are surrounded by individuals in our busy daily lives, but we don’t notice them.
May we remember that our friends have needs.
May we treat everyone with kindness.

Maybe you are that person at the moment.
Maybe you feel lost and sad.
May you remember that finding someone to talk to really can help.
May others treat you with care.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Would you walk by on the other side?’ (Come and Praise, 70).

Publication date: May 2013   (Vol.15 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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