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Coming Home

For the sake of the child

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore understanding of child migration schemes (SEAL theme: Empathy).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and one reader.
  • Have available the TrueTube video ‘For the Sake of the Child’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 8.4 minutes long, but you will need to be able to stop it at the 1.31 minutes mark, then continue to the end.

  • Note: sensitivity should be shown to children present who may live in care or in a children’s home.
  • Have available the song ‘He ain't heavy, he's my brother’ by The Hollies and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


Leader: What makes a home?

Probably, you're thinking of a place where there are one or more adults who care for you and who provide security, resources and comfort. A place where there is room for you to be yourself, escape from the pressures of the rest of life, a place that is yours. Thankfully, that's the experience shared by most of us. Sadly, however, it is not so for everybody.

Throughout history, there have been those who have made it their duty to provide a substitute home for children who, through no fault of their own, haven't been able to live with their parents. Initially, people had the bright idea of creating children's homes. Later, certain people decided that it would be a good idea to send these children to start new lives in the then developing countries of the British Empire, where they would be provided with the possibility of new homes.

Show the TrueTube video ‘For the Sake of the Child’, stopping it at the 1.31 minutes mark.

Leader: The motives seem very good. As the priest says here, ‘It is all done for the sake of the child’. It had the aim of giving children the opportunity to grow and develop.

Reader: (Interrupts Leader.) Hold on a minute. Let's not be naïve about this. Didn't you notice the way the children were selected? They had to be of 'good character'. In other words, very conventional. They had to be 'in good health', so nobody with any form of disability. They had to believe in Christianity, so nobody who was uncertain about their faith. What was the economic motive for this, the real driving force in the minds of these Empire builders? It was to create 'a class of farmers' - in other words, a cheap labour force for the then developing countries such as Canada and Australia. I wonder what the experience of those children was actually like.

Show the remainder of the TrueTube video ‘For the Sake of the Child’.

Leader: It's estimated that, over the centuries, more than 300,000 children were sent to other countries on these child migration schemes. More than 3000 were sent in the period after the end of the Second World War. In fact, the final group went to Australia as recently as 1970.

Looking at these facts with hindsight, there appears to be so much wrong with the schemes. How insensitive it was to the real needs of the children. If it were to happen today, it is likely that there would be a public outcry.

Reader: Excuse me for interrupting again, but that's exactly the point. It is still happening today. It's not being organized by governments, it's fair to say, but nowadays it's part of the migration issue. As huge numbers of people move around the world, fleeing the poverty and wars in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, children lose touch with their parents. Some never find them again. Others are orphaned as their parents die in fighting, disasters and of starvation and disease. These are the modern child migrants.

Just imagine yourself arriving in a new country without anyone to protect or advise you. You may not speak the language. You have no official documents to confirm your identity. You have no money and your possessions are few. That is what it is like today for thousands of boys and girls of your age and younger. It leaves them feeling sad and very vulnerable.

Leader: In Africa, Eastern Europe and the Arab states, there are many children who are unwilling child migrants. Sometimes there is no legal protection for them, no access to education or healthcare and they are at great risk of exploitation. Just like those children who left the UK for Canada and Australia, many find themselves employed in dangerous and degrading work. Pay is very low, working conditions are unsupervised, the hours are long. It doesn't feel like the new home they were hoping for when they first left their native lands, fleeing a horrible situation.

Reader: So, what can we do, besides simply feeling sorry for them? All the sympathy in the world isn't, on its own, going to change their situation.

Leader: Thankfully, there are organizations working with children in refugee camps and at immigration centres. The main organization is Save the Children, although most of the other major aid agencies have child support specialists. These charities need clothing, food and money to provide for these children. Maybe raising some of these resources could become a project for you and your friends. Also, there's the opportunity to write texts, emails and letters to our MP, reminding him/her of the problem and appealing to the conscience of the government. We ourselves really can be part of the system that helps child migrants find a new home.

Time for reflection

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the work of Save the Children and other organizations.
Help us to walk in the shoes of child migrants, both in the past and today.
Please let our imaginations lead us to do something that will help.


‘He ain't heavy, he's my brother’ by The Hollies

Publication date: February 2016   (Vol.18 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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