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Hidden Lives 4: Treasured possessions

To remind students what really matters in life.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To remind students what really matters in life.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

Leader: ‘Oh, I’d give anything for a bar of chocolate right now.’

‘I have to get the new Justin Timberlake CD. I can’t live without it.’

‘I’ve seen some trainers I absolutely have to have. It’s a matter of life and death!’

We’ve all said things like this. Material things, desirable objects and must-have gadgets become the most treasured possessions in our lives. In a world of plenty, it is so easy to lose track of what is really important.

I’m sure you’ve all come across this question before, but let us consider it again today. If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be? In other words, what is your most treasured possession?

Pause for reflection.

Reader 1: I know it sounds boring, but I would save the family’s important documents. My Dad has all the passports, birth certificates, health cards and bank details in a special place. It would be terrible to lose them all and have no way of proving our identity. Everything else can be easily replaced, but it would be a long process to replace all these documents.

Reader 2: Well, I come from a strong Jewish tradition and what matters most to us are the religious items that have been passed down through the generations. These things are irreplaceable. They are a link to our roots and our heritage. Our Shabbat candlesticks have been in our family for centuries. I think I would have to save them.

Reader 3:
I couldn’t bear to lose all my photos. All the recent ones are stored online so I could retrieve them, but the old ones could never be replaced. My parents’ wedding album is very special and the book my Mum made recording my first years. It would be heartbreaking to lose them.

Reader 4: I suppose it sounds a bit selfish, but I would want to save the folder with all of my certificates that I have received over the years. All the piano exams, swimming awards, maths challenges  . . .  and my flute, of course. My flute is my life and my future. It’s my ticket to success.

Leader: For most of us, the question is merely hypothetical – most of us will never have to face that sort of decision for real. For many people all over the world, however, that situation is a reality. The house may not be burning down, but they will have had to run away in fear of their lives, leaving all that they own behind, only able to take their most treasured possessions 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 each of them if he could photograph their most treasured possession. I wonder what these photographs reveal.

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

Reader 1: For many of the refugees, who have had to flee their homes and seek asylum in a foreign country, their papers are their most treasured possessions. For Dejana Mekanic, from Bosnia, this is true and she chose her passport, which we see here. She says about it, ‘This is freedom. Before, I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t go anywhere, I felt like a second-class citizen.’ For others, it is their identity card or their visa. They need these papers to prove their identity. They need these papers to be able to stay. They need these papers to live in freedom.

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

Reader 2:
For others, their most treasured possession is something that they have brought with them from their home country. It provides a link with their tradition, like this beaded lighter case from Syria. This is the only thing Nayf brought with him when he fled to Jordan. It is his only link with home.

Show the third link listed above, of Ahmin, clicking through to the third slide, of a sword and bag.

A traditional Kachin sword and shoulder bag are all that Ahmin Lahpai has to remind him of his roots in Burma. A national flag from Albania, a traditional Syrian pouch, a religious icon, prayer beads and the family Koran  . . .  these are all important souvenirs of a home that may never be revisited.

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

Reader 3: For some, photographs are their most treasured possessions. 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 fifth link listed above, of Fawaz, clicking through to the second slide, of a photograph on a mobile phone.

Fawaz Rarhail Turkey, a Syrian refugee now living in Jordan, has a picture on a mobile phone of a relative of the family who was killed by the Syrian army.

Reader 4: Finally, for some of these urban refugees, their most treasured possessions are the items that they consider to be their ticket out of poverty, their means of improving their lives  . . .  a school certificate as proof of qualifications, an engineering study book, a ‘learning English’ book – all are important when finding a job.

Show the sixth link listed above, of Kurubusangw, clicking through to the third slide, of a radio.

Kurubusangw Gaspard, a Rwandan refugee now living in Burundi, treasures his radio as a way of keeping up to date with what is going on, so that he can react quickly to new events in the region.

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

For Ronel Metelus, from Haiti, it is his sewing machine. He bought it before the earthquake of January 2010, piece by piece, as he could afford it, and built it himself. He rescued it from the wreckage of his home and now believes that it provides the only way to get him and his family out of the refugee camp they are living in.

Time for reflection

Leader: Did you notice anything there? I did. Did you notice a connection between what our students here would choose to save and what these urban refugees did in fact take with them?

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: Identity matters. Knowing who we are and where we come from is important.

Reader 2: Our roots matter. Respecting our traditions and valuing our upbringing is important.

Reader 3: Family and friends matter. Appreciating the people who love us and never taking them for granted is important.

Reader 4: Education matters. Working hard and 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.

Prayer
Dear God,
We remember the refugees who have had to leave everything they value behind and flee to a new country.
May their identity, their roots, their family and friends and their education be protected.
As for us, may we recognize our identity, appreciate our roots, value our family and friends and make the most of our education.
Amen.

Music

Play a track from the ‘latest Justin Timberlake CD’, as mentioned in step 1 above. Remind the students of it and ask, ‘Do we really need this?’

Publication date: January 2013   (Vol.15 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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