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Hidden Lives 5: I will survive

To remind students that they should never give up hope of a better life.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To remind students that they should never give up hope of a better life.

Preparation and materials


  1. Leader What do you hope to be when you grow up?

    That was probably an easier question to answer when you were younger. When you were five, maybe you wanted to be a ballerina, a footballer or a fireman. Some of you probably wanted to be a spaceman or a superhero. Then, as you grew older, real life started to get in the way. Your dreams became just that – dreams. You became more aware of the obstacles in your way.
  2. Let’s ask these three students what they think. What do you hope to be when you grow up?

    Reader 1 Are you asking what job I will get in the future? Well, that’s easy. I won’t get a job. No one on our estate gets a job when they leave school. What’s the point in trying at school and getting decent exam results when there is no chance of getting any kind of job at the end of it? Not worth trying at all, if you ask me.

    Reader 2 I wanted to go to university and study law, but now I’m not so sure. The course fees are so expensive and the competition for places is fierce. I’m not sure if I want a huge loan to pay back in the future and I’m not sure I’m good enough anyway.

    Reader 3 I really want to travel and see the world before I have to settle down. I had it all worked out – how I was going to fund it and everything. It’s been my dream for years, but now my dad’s company has just closed down and he doesn’t have a job any more. I need to get a job otherwise we might not be able to stay in our house.
  3. Leader When there are obstacles in our way, it becomes harder to follow our dreams. When we experience failure, we can lose hope. When we make a mistake, we can find it hard to get up and try again. When bad things happen, we can become discouraged.

    I am going to show you some photos now. The individuals in these portraits know what it is to be discouraged and badly treated. They know how hard it is to hold on to the hope of a better life. They are all urban refugees. They have all had to leave their homes and escape to big cities in other parts of the world to make new lives for themselves.

    Show the first image listed above, of Tikaram.

    Reader 1 Tikaram had to leave his home in Bhutan in 1992. He then spent 16 years living in a refugee camp in Nepal. That’s right, 16 years! Imagine that! How would you hold on to hope that life could be any different after 16 years? When he arrived in New York, it was like a different world. His wife cried for three months, but then they slowly started to adapt. After four years in America, he and his wife now have jobs and his son has a scholarship to go to college. Looking back, Tikaram can say, ‘We were successful in our journey. Of course we still struggle, but we are not failing, we are succeeding. We are making our life.’

    Show the second image listed above, of Wakil.

    Reader 2 Wakil is 17. He had to leave Afghanistan because his life was in danger. He arrived in London in February 2012. The journey took around seven months. First, he travelled to Iran, where he had to walk in the mountains with others every night. He travelled in a small car with 12 other people. He had to hide in forests by the border with Turkey. He stayed in Greece for three months in a small room with lots of other people. The boat he took to Italy broke down and could not be fixed. Eventually the passengers were rescued and taken on to France. He then travelled to London in a refrigerated lorry. He was so cold he thought he was going to die. How scared and lonely he must have felt, going through such an ordeal all alone, without his family. He says, ‘I was thinking my life is in danger. I came here for a better life, what is happening to us?’ He does now have a better life, but still misses his family terribly. He is safe, though. He survived the journey.

    Show the third image listed above, of Seneque Rosier.

    Reader 3 Seneque Rosier’s home collapsed during the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010. His mother and sister both died in the earthquake. He has been living with his family in a refugee camp ever since. He now has a job so that he can provide for his family. He says, ‘I feel very proud of this job. I didn't have any hope before but now I do.’ What a job it is, though! Seneque’s job is to empty the latrines, the toilets in other words. He actually has to enter the latrine and it is so bad for his health that he can only spend one hour in the latrines at a time. When he has finished, he showers with special soap and sanitizer. He buys second-hand clothes and throws them away after each shift. None of his family knows that he does this work, but he is proud that he has a job at all. Even so, he still hopes for a better life one day.

    Leader These three individuals have had to work hard and endure much to achieve a better life. They have had to cling on to the hope of a better life despite the odds. According to Adelina from Kosovo, now living in London, many refugees do well. They settle down. They follow their dreams. They achieve. They get good jobs . . . but it takes time. ‘We don't have magic wands, we can't change our life in a couple of years.’ It also takes a huge amount of determination.

Time for reflection

Leader So what can we learn from the lives of these people we have been introduced to today?

Reader 1 Tikaram has shown me that even if you struggle, you do not have to fail. You can succeed. My life feels like a struggle a lot of the time, but maybe I do not have to fail. Maybe I can succeed.

Reader 2 Wakil did not give up on his dream, even though the journey was full of difficulty. Maybe I should not give up on my dream either.

Reader 3 Seneque does an awful job for the sake of his family, but he has not given up hope. Maybe I need to put my dream on hold for my family for the moment, but I do not have to give up hope. One day, I will travel around the world.

Dear God,
We give thanks for all the refugees all over the world who have not given up the hope of a better life.
Give them the strength to endure their struggles and the encouragement to follow their dreams.
We pray for ourselves, too, that we may learn to overcome the obstacles in our lives and realize our hopes as we head towards the best future possible.


‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there?’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: August 2013   (Vol.15 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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