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Urban refugees 5: Special things

Explores what really matters in life.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore what really matters in life by looking at examples of refugees’ treasured possessions.

Preparation and materials


  1. LeaderIn this assembly, we are going to think about what is special to us. So, let me start by asking you a few questions. (Invite answers from the children.)

    What is your favourite book?
    What is your favourite toy?
    What is your most special thing in the whole world?
  2. Leader Imagine if your mum told you that something terrible was going to happen and you had to leave your home straight away. Imagine if an earthquake or a flood was about to destroy your home and you had to evacuate immediately. Imagine you only had time to pick up one special thing to take with you.

    Imagine if your dad told you that soldiers were coming that night to arrest him and none of the family would be safe. Imagine if he said you had to all run away immediately, that there was no time to pack, your lives were in danger. Imagine you could only take one special thing with you.

    I wonder what that special thing would be. Let’s see what these four children would choose.

    Reader 1I have a special book that my mum has filled in all about me. My birth certificate is in it and details about me when I was a baby. It is my most special thing. I would take that with me.

    Reader 2When I was on holiday in Florida last year, I swam with dolphins and got a model dolphin to remind me of it. It was the best experience of my whole life so far. That dolphin statue is my most special thing.

    Reader 3
    I would need to take photos of all my family. If I got separated from them, I would miss them very much. The photos would be all I would have left.

    Reader 4Last Christmas, my mum and dad bought me a really good guitar. I would take that with me. I want to play in a band some day and I need that guitar.
  3. LeaderFortunately, most of us will never have to make this sort of decision, but for many people all over the world, it is a reality. Refugees flee from their homes because they believe that their lives are in danger. They can only take a few special things with them.

    Let us look now at some photographs by Andrew McConnell of urban refugees who have had to do just that. Every time he met and photographed an urban refugee, he learnt something of their stories and asked if he could photograph their most treasured possession. I wonder what these photographs reveal.

    Show the first image listed above, of Dejana, clicking through to the second slide, of her passport.

    When refugees flee to a foreign country, their most treasured possessions are often their important documents. They need these papers to prove who they are. For Dejana Mekanic from Bosnia, it is her passport. She says, ‘This is freedom. Before, I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t go anywhere.’

    Show the second image listed above, of Nayf, clicking through to the second slide, of a beaded lighter.

    For some refugees, their most treasured possession is a souvenir from their home country. This beaded lighter case from Syria is the only thing Nayf brought with him when he fled to Jordan. It reminds him of home.

    Show the third image listed above, of Amina, clicking through to the third slide, of a photograph of her wedding day.

    Photographs are the most treasured possession of many refugees. They are sometimes the only reminders of happier times and family and friends who have been left behind. Amina Abdi Hassan, a refugee from Somalia, now living in Kenya, has a photograph taken immediately after she got married. She says ‘Those were the days  . . .  I remember being so happy.’

    Show the fourth image listed above, of Ronel, clicking through to the second slide, of a sewing machine.

    Finally, for some of these urban refugees, their most treasured possession is the item that will help them improve their lives. For Ronel Metelus from Haiti, it is his sewing machine. He bought it before the earthquake of January 2010, piece by piece, and rescued it from the wreckage of his home after the earthquake. He thinks that sewing will bring him the money to get him and his family out of the refugee camp they are living in.

Time for reflection

Leader:These are real examples from the lives of real people. Did you notice anything? I did. The special things for our children were very similar to the treasured possessions of these urban refugees. When it comes down to it, people all over the world value the same things. Let us consider those things as we bring this assembly to a close.

Reader 1:Knowing who we are is important.

Reader 2:Remembering where we come from is important.

Reader 3:Appreciating our friends and family is important.

Reader 4:Making the most of our abilities is important.

Leader:Let us conclude our time together with a short prayer. You may make these words your own if you wish.



Dear God,
We remember the refugees who have had to leave everything they value behind and flee to a new country.
Help us to be grateful for all that we have – for our homes, our families, our schools and all our special things. Amen.


‘Spirit of peace’ (Come and Praise, 85)

Publication date: September 2013   (Vol.15 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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