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World Refugee Week

World Refugee Week is 17 to 23 June 2019

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the experiences of refugees and reflect upon what we can learn from them.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (World Refugee Week) 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 and is available at:

  • Optional: you may wish to have four students read out the information about the people in the ‘Assembly’, Steps 10-13.


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Explain to the students that you are going to show them pictures of five famous people. Ask the students to work out what these people have in common.

  2. Show Slides 2–6 in turn.

    For each slide, ask the students to identify the person. When they have done so, read out a brief description of the person shown.

    - Slide 2 shows Bob Marley, a Jamaican singer-songwriter who was famous for his reggae album, Exodus, released in 1977.
    - Slide 3 shows Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman and singer. He has appeared in over 150 films since the 1960s.
    - Slide 4 shows Freddie Mercury, a British singer-songwriter, record producer and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen.
    - Slide 5 shows Rita Ora, a British singer, songwriter and actress. In 2012, she had the most number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart.
    - Slide 6 shows Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actor. Her decades-long film career ran from 1923 to 1979. She is famed for her Hollywood glamour.

  3. Ask the students to discuss with the person next to them what all of these people have in common. Listen to a couple of responses from students before revealing the correct answer: all five celebrities are refugees.

  4. Explain that you are going to go through the list again, this time giving some information about the celebrities’ refugee backgrounds.

    Show Slides 7–11 in turn.

    - Bob Marley fled Jamaica after being shot during political violence.
    – In an interview in 2013, Jackie Chan said that he was bullied by Hong Kong gangs and had to hide in the USA.
    – In 1964, Freddie Mercury’s family fled to England to escape the Zanzibar Revolution.
    – Rita Ora came to the UK from Kosovo as a baby. Her family needed to leave Kosovo due to the persecution of people based on their ethnicity.
    – Marlene Dietrich was a refugee from Nazi Germany. She was forced to flee after speaking out against Hitler

  5. Show Slide 12.

    So, what does being a refugee mean? The definition of a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave his/her country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. Refugees 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 entitled to find safety and protection in a different country.

    It is a sad fact that in our world, there are difficulties 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.

  6. Let’s try to understand what that might be like.

    Show the small rucksack to the students.

    Look at this rucksack. Let’s imagine that you’re going on a trip and you can only take items that fit in this bag. What would you pack?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    What if you were told that you were leaving home and could never return? Would you pack anything different?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    What if you were told that you weren’t just leaving home, but leaving the country that you call home and travelling to another country, far away? Is there anything that you would pack now?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    What if you were told that, due to the risk of violence or danger, you could not collect certain items and you would face extreme danger as you left? Would that affect what you packed?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Finally, what if you were told that you needed to leave in just one minute? How might that be for you?

  7. The experience of being a refugee can be very difficult. Some of us may remember the tragic image I am about to show you. It was taken in 2015 and shows a Turkish police officer carrying the body of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. His family were Syrian refugees who were trying to reach Europe to flee the violence and horror of the war in Syria. The journey was extremely risky, and this little boy did not survive. This image shows the lengths that some people are forced to go to in order to try to find safety.

    Show Slide 13.

  8. Show Slide 14.

    The short video that we are now going to watch helps to give us a better understanding of one person’s experience of seeking refuge.

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

  9. Every year, in June, World 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. As well as helping us to gain a better understanding of refugees’ experiences of fleeing difficulty, World Refugee Week also helps us to appreciate the ways in which refugees have contributed positively to their country of refuge.

    Like the five famous people we saw at the start of this assembly, refugees have skills, gifts and experiences that can enrich their host country. Refugees have made a massive cultural, social and economic contribution to life in the UK for centuries, despite sometimes negative responses from governments and citizens.

  10. Let’s listen to some of the positive contributions that refugees have made to the UK.

    Optional: ask four prearranged students to read the following examples.

    Show Slide 15.

    In 1665, Jewish refugees settled in England after experiencing persecution. The Jews who settled in England were mostly of Spanish and Portuguese origin, but had been living in the Netherlands. This group of refugees introduced fried fish to Britain, and 200 years later, fried fish was combined with chips to form one of the UK’s national dishes.

  11. Show Slide 16.

    Between 1685 and 1700, approximately 60,000 French Protestants, known as Huguenots, fled to England and Ireland from the persecution of Louis XIV. The Huguenots brought with them an organizational talent, knowledge of industrial processes such as silk-weaving, copper-engraving and hat-making and a determination to succeed in spite of being uprooted. The first governor of the Bank of England, Sir John Houblon, was a Huguenot.

  12. Show Slide 17.

    Between 1880 and 1914, Russian Jewish refugees sought sanctuary in the UK and left a legacy of economic contribution. Many became tailors or shoemakers. Some, having personal experience of appalling employment practices and social conditions, campaigned in the UK for social justice by setting up unions and getting involved in local politics. One of these refugees was Sir Montague Burton, founder of Burton Menswear. Another was Michael Marks, co-founder of Marks and Spencer.

  13. Show Slide 18.

    More recent history has seen people from many different countries forced to seek refuge. The UK has benefited from the wealth of skills, languages, experience and knowledge that have come via refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Iran, Afghanistan, Iran, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Somalia, Turkey, Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Kenya, Algeria, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Colombia, the former Soviet Union and eastern European countries.

Time for reflection

This month, we are thinking about refugees’ experiences. Some of these experiences involve trauma, suffering and loss; some involve the bringing of new skills, talents and a determination to survive and thrive.

Let us pause to reflect on some of these experiences.

We pause to remember in silence that some people in our world face terrible suffering that forces them to flee their homes. We think for a moment about how that must feel.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We pause to remember charities such as the Red Cross and aid workers who support people facing such difficulty. We think about the compassion and generosity of these charities and aid workers.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We pause to remember the ways in which the UK has welcomed refugees through history, and the many ways in which UK culture, business and industry have been shaped by the influence of refugees.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
It is sad to think that people today live in a world where there is persecution and extreme suffering.
We pray for anyone who is facing the prospect of being uprooted to find safety in a new place.
We pray for protection and safety for people who are forced to leave home to seek safety elsewhere.
We pray for strength and wisdom for those people who support refugees
And for charity workers and agencies here in the UK who help refugees.
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.
We thank you for the many ways in which the UK has benefited from the creativity and resilience shown by many refugees in the past.

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