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Urban refugees 3: Are you afraid of the dark?

To look at why all of the photographs in Andrew McConnell’s exhibition entitled ‘Hidden Lives’ are shot at night and suggest how the children can shine as lights in the world around them today.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To suggest how the children can shine as lights in the world around them today.

Preparation and materials


  1. Leader Are you afraid of the dark?

    Isn’t it amazing how different familiar surroundings can feel in the dark?

    In the daytime, our bedrooms are fun places – full of our toys and favourite activities. When night falls, though, and darkness invades the bedroom, it can suddenly feel scarier. Our imaginations can run wild. The shadows on the walls look like monsters. Every noise seems louder and more frightening. Sometimes we feel more alone and very afraid. The light in the hallway is all that keeps us calm and helps us get to sleep.

    Walking home from the shops in the dark can feel more frightening, too. We cannot see what is lurking in the bushes. Nothing looks the same. The moonlight makes everything look spooky. Sometimes we feel anxious and can’t wait to get home. Holding Mum or Dad’s hand tightly is all that keeps us calm until we arrive home safely.

  2. Set the ‘Hidden Lives’ website’s homepage slideshow going.

    Leader During 2012, a photographer called Andrew McConnell visited cities in eight different countries around the world to take these photos for his exhibition, ‘Hidden Lives’. What do you notice about these photographs? What do they all have in common?
    Invite responses until someone points out that the photos have all been shot at night.

    Yes, that’s right. All of the photographs have been shot at night. Each photograph shows an individual or small group stood in the dark. I wonder why he would choose to do this. I wonder who these people are.

    Let us imagine that the photographer is here with us now and we could ask him these questions.
  3. Ask the person playing Andrew to step up to the front.

    Thank you for joining us, Andrew. So, who are the people in your photographs?

    Andrew Each of these people is an urban refugee. They have all had to leave their homes and usually their countries. It was not safe for them to stay in their homes so they have escaped to other countries and now live in these big cities.

    Leader Why are all the photographs shot in the dark?

    Andrew I wanted to show how these people feel about their lives. Many feel that they are living in darkness.

    Leader Are these people afraid of the dark?

    Andrew Some of them are. Some of the areas that they live in are very scary after dark. When we were taking photos in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi, in Kenya, we could not stay out on the streets for long. We could not keep still because we were afraid of being attacked.
    Leader Is this what you mean about living in darkness?

    Andrew No, not really. Many of these urban refugees feel that they are living in darkness during the day as well as during the night. They are afraid to go outside because they could be attacked, threatened or arrested. They are often alone and miss their families very, very much. They feel ignored, forgotten and unseen. They have none of their familiar things around them. Everything feels strange – they do not speak the language, they do not know their way around, they cannot get a job and do not have any hope for the future.

    Leader So you are not talking about actual darkness, then?

    Andrew No, what these urban refugees experience feels like being surrounded by darkness. When they feel anxious and scared and despairing, then they feel that there is no light of hope or comfort in their lives.

    Leader That is very interesting. Thank you for explaining.

    Stop the slideshow.

Time for reflection

Leader We need to remember these urban refugees and be aware of those in our cities who feel alone, afraid and without hope. May a light of hope and comfort shine into their lives today.

Remember, too, that there are many friends around us every day who feel that they are living in darkness.

Reader 1 There is Simran, who struggles with mental maths and is scared of being laughed at in class.

Reader 2 There is Melissa, who has just found out that her grandma has cancer.

Reader 1 There is Jack, who has been dropped from the football team.

Reader 2 There is Thomas, who hears his mum and dad arguing every night after he has gone to bed.

Reader 1 There is Jodie, who is scared of going to sleep every night, because she has terrible nightmares.

Reader 2 There is Hakan, who is being bullied.

Reader 1 There is Jon, who has just moved to this school and has no friends.

Reader 2 There is Ellie, whose dog died last week.

These friends feel sad, lonely, afraid and anxious. They feel like they are living in darkness. How can each one of us shine like a light in their darkness?

Reader 1 We can smile.
We can play with someone.
We can invite someone to sit with us at lunchtime.

Reader 2 We can encourage.
We can share.
We can be a good friend.

Leader Please listen to the words of this prayer. You may make them your own if you wish.

Dear God,
we thank you for the work of Andrew McConnell and pray that his exhibition will help the light shine on urban refugees.
Help us to be aware of the darkness around us.
Help us to shine as a light.
Help us to be a good friend today.


‘Colours of day’ (Come and Praise, 55)

Publication date: June 2013   (Vol.15 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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