How to use this site   About Us   Submissions   Feedback   Donate   Links - School Assemblies for every season for everyone

Decorative image - Secondary

Email Twitter Facebook


Itís Not Where You Start . . .

The power to change things

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To consider that whatever our backgrounds, we can, with determination and effort, live successful and productive lives.

Preparation and materials


  1. All of us have something in common. No matter who we are, where we live or what we look like, we were all born. There is nothing that we can do about the circumstances in which we are born. We begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent upon someone taking care of us, for there is nothing that we can do at the start of our lives to care for ourselves. However, as we grow older, we all need to begin to take responsibility for the way in which our lives unfold.

  2. Some of us have had privileged upbringings. Some of us may be considered rich financially; others are in families where there are financial difficulties. Some of us have grown up in our birth families; others have grown up in different settings. All of our families are different. However, we all have choices to make that can enrich or damage our lives.

  3. Let’s think about some well-known people who have made choices that have turned their lives around.

    Show Slide 1.

    J. K. Rowling wrote most of the first Harry Potter book when she was a single mother living on benefits and suffering from depression. However, her choices and hard work changed her circumstances so that today she is one of the best-known authors in the world.

  4. Show Slide 2.

    Roman Abramovich was orphaned at a young age and brought up by his extended family. From humble beginnings, he is now a billionaire on the Forbes rich list and is well-known as the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

  5. Show Slide 3.

    When St Paul is first mentioned in the Bible, he is called Saul and is present at the death of the first Christian martyr, called Stephen. Saul then begins to be a key person in the persecution of Christians. However, after an experience of God, Paul becomes a leader in the Christian Church, and his writings form a large part of the New Testament.

  6. Show Slide 4.

    At the age of 15, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton was living on the streets of Newport, South Wales, and barely surviving. She was often hungry, cold and frightened. By the time she was 17, she had been to the funerals of seven people she knew who had died on the streets. She had little support, but managed to get a job as a Big Issue seller. She worked from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and although most people walked past as if she wasn’t there, she managed to get by, even saving a little from her earnings. Eventually, Sabrina had saved enough money to rent a small flat in South Wales. She was determined to make something of her life.

    When Sabrina was 18, she joined the fire service at Risca, near Newport; she was the first female firefighter in the divisional area. Sabrina stated that the job appealed to her after the experiences that she had had on the streets. At that time, she had been living her ‘worst possible day’ and, as a firefighter, she knew that she could help people who were having their own ‘worst possible day’.

    Sabrina is now 36. She has gained a PhD, written a book and is Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Surrey Fire and Rescue. She is also an ambassador for The Big Issue.

Time for reflection

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has said, ‘I want to tell others in that place that your start in life doesn’t determine where you end up.’

Ask the students to consider this statement.

Show Slide 5.

Ask the students to raise their hand if they have seen people selling copies of The Big Issue on the streets.

Point out that Big Issue sellers are not begging, but trying to earn a living. All Big Issue sellers have to sign an agreement that The Big Issue Foundation takes very seriously.

Optional: refer to some Big Issue sellers’ stories, available at:

We may not know the circumstances of these sellers, but we do know that The Big Issue Foundation is trying to make a difference to people’s lives and give them hope for the future.

Show Slide 6.

Ask the students to consider again the statement by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton: ‘I want to tell others in that place that your start in life doesn’t determine where you end up.’

Ask the students to consider the idea that whatever their start in life and whatever their situation right now, we all have choices to make that will affect our futures. We cannot make our circumstances an excuse for not making something of our lives.

Encourage the students to make good, well-considered choices that will lead to a brighter future.

Dear Lord,
We pray for all who live in difficult circumstances:
The homeless, the poor, 
Those who are sick, the confused and the fearful.
We pray for all those who work to bring help and support to those in need.


When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: August 2019   (Vol.21 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
Print this page