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A Long, Hard Journey

World Refugee Week is 17 to 23 June 2019

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the experiences of refugees and the importance of offering them a welcome.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (A Long, Hard Journey) and the means to display them.
  • You will also need a small rucksack.
  • Have available the YouTube video ‘Dear Habib’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.40 minutes long, but you will need to stop it at 2.58 minutes. It is available at:
  • Optional: you may wish to show a memento from the school that you attended as a child.


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Welcome the children and explain that today’s assembly is going to consider the idea of ‘welcome’.

    Ask the children and any staff members to raise their hand if they can remember their first day at school.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. If you can, explain that you, too, can remember your first day at school. (If you have a memento from your schooldays, such as a school tie or school report, hold it up to show the children.)

    If you can’t remember your first day, tell the children about an early memory from your schooldays. Explain that children are often nervous on their first day at school. They are leaving the preschool that they attended, and parents, grandparents or childminders who have cared for them, and are instead spending the day at school, with new classmates and teachers.

  3. Point out that Year 6 children will be leaving this school soon and going to high school. They will probably feel a bit nervous to start with, too.

  4. However, many things can be done to make a first day at school that bit easier, to make children feel more at ease and to make everyone feel more welcome.

  5. Ask the children if they can remember anything that was done at this school that helped them to feel more welcome.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  6. Depending on the responses given, add to these with ideas such as inviting the children to visit a few times before the first day, meeting their teacher beforehand, being given an older child to act as a ‘buddy’, just doing half-days at the beginning, the teachers being kind and so on.

  7. Make the point that a warm welcome can make a real difference. When we feel scared and nervous, a warm welcome helps us to feel more relaxed and at ease. We feel like we belong.

  8. Explain that today’s assembly is going to consider what a difference a warm welcome could make to someone who was moving to a new country. Not for a holiday, or because they wanted to, but because it had become too dangerous for them to stay where they were.

  9. People who are forced to leave their country because of war or extreme danger are called asylum seekers. This means that they are seeking safety. When people come to a new country and it is agreed that it is not safe for them to return, we call them refugees.

  10. Show Slide 2.

    Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. They are people who would be at risk if they returned to their home country. They are people whose claim for escaping danger has been accepted and are now legally allowed to live in safety in a different country.

    It is a sad fact that in our world, there are problems such as war and persecution. People suffer, and sometimes, to save their lives, they need to leave the place that they call home and seek shelter elsewhere. It is really important to these people that they are given a warm welcome to make it a bit easier for them.

  11. Ask the children to try to imagine packing a small bag with their belongings.

    Hold up the rucksack.

    Explain that people who are forced to leave their home and their country and travel to a safe place cannot take much with them. A few precious possessions may be all that they have space for, together with food and drink to help them survive the journey. That must be very hard.

  12. Show Slide 3.

    Explain that the video you are going to show describes the experience of a young refugee called Habib. It is based on a true story of a 16-year-old who had to leave his home in Afghanistan to come to the UK because he was in great danger.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Dear Habib’. You can access it by clicking the image on the slide. Stop the video at 2.58 minutes.

  13. In the video, we see some of the ways in which Habib was made to feel welcome. Although his experience was difficult, the kindness of others helped him to feel a bit more welcome and at ease. Someone left him some food and drink, and he was helped to find better housing. He got to know a neighbour. This welcome helped Habib to settle and feel at ease. In time, he was able to help his neighbour. He worked hard at college; in fact, Habib won a national education competition. He was able to use his gifts and talents.

  14. Show Slide 4.

    Another example of someone who was welcomed is this woman.

    Ask the children if any of them can tell you her name.

    The picture shows Rita Ora, a singer, songwriter and actress. In 2012, she had the most number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart. Like Habib, Rita Ora is a refugee. She came to the UK from Kosovo as a baby. Her family needed to leave Kosovo because of the fighting among different racial groups. Being given a welcome in a new country helped Rita Ora to live in safety. She has been able to develop her talents and now we get to enjoy her music and acting.

  15. Show Slide 5.

    Ask the children if any of them have read this book.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf is the winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019. It tells the story of a refugee and shows the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense. You may wish to encourage the children to read the book.

  16. Show Slide 6.

    This slide shows some of the posters that primary school children have made to welcome people who are refugees. There are many images and words here that offer a warm welcome to people who have had to escape danger and difficulty. People like Habib and Rita Ora; people like Ahmet in The Boy at the Back of the Class.

Time for reflection

Every year, in June, Refugee Week helps to highlight the experience of refugees. It takes place across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on 20 June. It is a special time to think about the experience of refugees. As well as helping us to get a better idea of how hard it has been for refugees in the past, it also helps us to think about the ways in which we can welcome refugees to support them to a positive future.

Many refugees experiences are very sad and include suffering and loss. It must be very, very hard to be forced to leave your home. It must be difficult to make a long and dangerous journey to find safety. It must feel lonely and frightening to come to a new country.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Lets take a moment to remember the kindness and the welcome that many refugees receive, too. We think about the small acts of kindness such as posters, kind words and sharing food that can help to make people feel welcome.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let’s all decide to be people who welcome others and try really hard to make everybody feel an important part of our communities.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
It is sad to think that we live in a world where there is war and suffering, and where some people are not safe.
We pray for anyone who is forced to leave home to find safety in a new place.
We pray for the protection of refugees and for their safety.
We pray that refugees who need safety might find welcome in a new place, so that they can feel secure and thrive in their new environment.
Help us to be welcoming.

Publication date: June 2019   (Vol.21 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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