Perspectives of a Refugee
  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.

Students reflect on how it must feel to quickly pack up and leave home with little warning and few possessions and then come to an unfamiliar new community. They read the stories of five refugees from four different countries and gain empathy and an understanding of their needs and struggles. Students assess the needs of refugees through a local nonprofit and plan a service project to address one of those needs.

PrintOne 50-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • analyze his or her feelings about the life of a refugee.
  • compare the experiences of five different refugees through their stories and discussion.
  • investigate the needs of refugees.
  • design and carry out a service plan that addresses the needs of refugees.

 UNHCR website: Refugee Stories

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Give each student a copy of Handout One, "Just Imagine: Free Write" or display the writing prompt on the board. For the free write, give students approximately 2-4 minutes to respond to the free write prompt. Students should NOT stop writing until they are told by the teacher.They may record whatever comes to their mind including mental pauses (ex: ums). The key to a free write is students are recording their feelings without stopping the thought process until the teacher calls "pencils down." Free Write Prompt: Just imagine if today you and your family were forced from your home with only the clothes on your back. You had to run for your lives not knowing where to find help or safety. Once you found a place to stay you might have to start life all over again in a new country. How do you feel?

  2. Read the essays from refugees from four different countries. Students work in groups of three to read and discuss the perspective of a refugee. Each group reads one essay and answers the questions on Handout One: Perspective of a Refugee, Group Response. The group members share three roles: reader, recorder, reporter. When the groups have completed the group response, they share their response with the rest of the class. All students take notes about the individuals. More than one group may read about the same refugee.

  3. Student groups work for approximately 20-30 minutes to read the refugee's story and to discuss and answer the questions. Each group member should remember his/her role, but all students contribute to the small-group discussion.

  4. The reporter from each group reads the group's responses to the questions. While each group is sharing, the remainder of the class records one fact about each individual.

  5. Discuss the students' feelings about these stories. How do they feel about the way the refugees were treated in their new communities? Is there anything we can do help refugees feel comfortable in their new community? How can we educate people about how and why to make refugees feel welcome?

  6. Guide the students to organize a service project. Have some students contact local groups that work with refugees to find out what their needs are. These students can report back to the group so they can decide what they can do to help. This may include a fundraiser, a collection drive for needed items (blankets, clothes, toiletries, shoes, boots, etc.), helping a refugee family settle in and learn about the area, or an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the need for acceptance and empathy for people who have lost their homes and everything familiar.


Assess students on their attention to the refugee stories. Did they capture the big idea and record a response that shows they see the needs of refugees?


As a reflection ask students to write about one thing they learned about refugees after reading/hearing the stories of their lives (at the bottom of Handout Three).

After the service project, have students stand in a circle. Toss a beach ball from student to student. As a student catches the ball, he or she expresses one reflection about the service: how it went, what could be changed, what impact they had, how they feel about refugees, how they feel about service, etc.