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Living in a Strange Land

What is it like to leave home and live in a different place?

by Kathy Lee

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To look at Roman times to consider what it would be like to leave home and move to a different country.

Preparation and materials

  • Note: The story in this assembly is fictitious, but there may be children present who have lived through wars and may have been displaced from their homes. Sensitivity will be required.


  1. Ask the children if they have ever felt lonely. Maybe they have started a new school or moved house. Maybe they have even moved to a different country. When any changes like this happen, it can leave us feeling worried, insecure, sad and lonely.

  2. The following extract is taken from A Captive in Rome, a book by Kathy Lee. (This is available for purchase at: It is about a young British boy called Bryn, who is ten years old. He belongs to one of the Celtic tribes living in Britain 2,000 years ago. Bryn is captured when the Roman army defeat his tribe in a great battle. He is taken to Rome and sold to be a slave in a rich man’s house. He is in a strange place, where he doesn’t speak the language, or understand what is going on.

    My new master shouted something, and two slaves hurried towards us. He gave them some orders in the Roman language. The slaves led me off to another room, small and warm, with a square pond set in the floor. The two slaves cut off all my hair, which had grown long and tangled while I was a prisoner. Then, they made me take off my ragged clothes. They pointed to the pond.

    Show the image of the Roman bath house.

    There were steps leading down into the water. When my foot went in, I gasped, for the water was warm. Did they mean to boil me and eat me, like barley in a pot?

    I refused to get in, although the slaves yelled at me. I fought and struggled with them. Finally, one – with a sigh – stepped into the water himself, to prove that it was safe. He pretended to wash, showing me what to do as if I had never washed before in my life.

    So that was what this place was for. In Rome, there were no cool, rippling streams to bathe in, like we had at home. You could only wash yourself indoors, in stale, warm water.

    When I’d finished washing, I found my own clothes had been taken away. The slaves gave me a Roman tunic. I didn’t want to wear it, but I was too tired to argue. Without my trousers, my legs felt chilly and bare. The tunic hardly reached to my knees.

    Show the image of a boy in a Roman tunic.

    The two slaves seemed pleased with their handiwork. They led me through the house to a hot room full of food smells. There was a fire burning under a stone archway. A small, middle-aged man was busy stirring pots of food on a ledge above the fire.

    Show the image of the Roman kitchen.

    This must be the cooking-place. Why did the Romans need a separate room for everything they did? It meant they had to walk a long way from cooking room to eating room to sleeping room.

    The two slaves talked to the cook. Although I couldn’t understand their words, it was obvious they were talking about me and finding me funny. I stared at the ground.

    The small man beckoned me closer. Without stopping work, he looked me up and down. Then, he pointed to the cooking pots and showed me he wanted me to stir them. I hung back. At home, cooking was women’s work. A man would never be seen stirring pots!

    The cook spoke to me in a stern voice. I turned away, ignoring him.

    Whack! He hit me hard on the ear, almost knocking me over. Although he wasn’t much taller than me, he had rock-hard fists and a temper as hot as his cooking fire.

    So I did what he wanted. I reminded myself that none of my people could see me. They would never know I had been made to do women’s work.

    All at once, I felt desperately lonely. I was in a strange place, surrounded by foreigners. I couldn’t understand them; they couldn’t understand me. It was like being a dumb animal. And if I didn’t obey them, they would beat me like an animal, too.

    A rich meal was being prepared for the master. The cook scurried around, doing several things at once. He showed me how to chop up vegetables, but then got angry when I didn’t slice them the way he wanted.

    When all the food was ready, it looked like a king’s feast. Two serving boys carried it out of the kitchen, a few dishes at a time.

    Show the image of Roman feasting.

    Show the image of the interior of a rich man’s house in Roman times.

    The cook made me wash out the empty pots. I was very tired by now, but we still had work to do, for the household slaves had to be fed.

    When I entered the slaves’ eating place, every single person turned to stare at me. One or two of them tried to be friendly, but I kept my head down and said nothing. There was only one thing I wanted – a place to sleep.

    At last, I was led to the slaves’ sleeping place. It held a row of strange-looking objects set on wooden legs. Other slaves lay down on these things and covered themselves with blankets. Not knowing what else to do, I copied them. The thing I lay on was soft – but not as soft as a heap of straw, like my bed at home. And why sleep up in the air? No use wondering, it was just one more weird Roman custom.

    I wished my brother was there so that I could talk to him about the day. It had felt like the longest day of my entire life. But there was no one I could talk to – no one who would understand.

    (From A Captive in Rome, Book 1 of the Tales of Rome series by Kathy Lee)

  3. Ask the following question.

    - What would it be like to suddenly find yourself in a faraway country, where you didn’t know anyone?

    Listen to a range of answers.

    Point out that you wouldn’t understand what people were saying to you, or be able to tell them what you needed. The food that people ate would be different, as well as the way they dressed and the work they did. In fact, it could seem like everything was totally new to you.

  4. Explain that this is happening to many people right now. They leave their own homes and countries because of war or poverty. They end up in places where many people don’t want them. They find it hard to get work, hard to find a place to live, hard to find friends and hard to understand what is going on. Some of them are young children, even younger than the children attending the assembly.

Time for reflection

Ask the following questions.

 What could we do to make life a little easier for people who have come to this country from far away?
- What could we do to make life a little easier for children who have come to this school from different schools or different parts of the world?

Listen to a range of responses.

Maybe we could be friendly to them and not push them away. We could be patient when they don’t speak the same language and we find them difficult to understand. We could try to imagine what it is like for them, being far away from their home and the life that they are used to.

Dear God,
We thank you for friends all over the world.
We pray for people who have left their homes because of war or violence or poverty.
We pray for people who are a long way from their families and are lonely.
If they are frightened, help them to feel safe.
If they are homesick, comfort them.
If they are lonely, bring them friends.
Please help us always to play our part in making others feel welcome.


When I needed a neighbour (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: July 2016   (Vol.18 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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