Refugee-Led Organizations' Crisis Response during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authors

  • Odessa Gonzalez Benson University of Michigan https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9707-4601
  • Irene Routte University of Michigan
  • Ana Paula Pimentel Walker University of Michigan
  • Mieko Yoshihama University of Michigan
  • Allison Kelly University of Michigan

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40879

Keywords:

COVID-19, pandemic, crisis response, practice with refugees

Abstract

Scholarship on disaster response and recovery has focused on local communities as crucial in developing and implementing timely, effective, and sustainable supports. Drawing from interviews with refugee leaders conducted during the spring and summer of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this study examines crisis response activities of refugee-led grassroots groups, specifically within Bhutanese and Congolese refugee communities in a midwestern metropolitan area in the US resettlement context. Empirical findings illustrate how refugee-led groups provided case management, outreach, programming, and advocacy efforts to respond to the pandemic. These findings align with literature about community-based and strengths-based approaches to addressing challenges stemming from the pandemic. They also point to local embeddedness and flexibility as organizational characteristics that may have helped facilitate crisis response, thereby warranting reconsideration and re-envisioning of the role of refugee-led grassroots groups in crisis response.

Author Biographies

Odessa Gonzalez Benson, University of Michigan

Odessa Gonzalez Benson is an Assistant Professor in Social Work at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at odessagb@umich.edu.

Irene Routte, University of Michigan

Irene Routte is a Doctoral Student in Social Work and Anthropology at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at routte@umich.edu.

Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, University of Michigan

Ana Paula Pimentel Walker is an Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at appiment@umich.edu.

Mieko Yoshihama, University of Michigan

Mieko Yoshihama is a Professor in Social Work at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at miekoy@umich.edu.

Allison Kelly, University of Michigan

Allison Kelly is a Master of Social Work student at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at arkelly@umich.edu.

References

Amnesty International. (2020, August 19). Refugee-led organizations need support and funding so they can continue their vital work. Amnesty International News. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/refugee-led-organizations-osf-asylum-access/

Bell, H. (2008). Case management with displaced survivors of Hurricane Katrina: A case study of one host community. Journal of Social Service Research, 34(3), 15–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/01488370802085932 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01488370802085932

Boin, A., Lodge, M., & Luesink, M. (2020). Learning from the COVID-19 crisis: An initial analysis of national responses. Policy Design and Practice, 3(3), 189–204. https://doi.org/10.1080/25741292.2020.1823670 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/25741292.2020.1823670

Brickhill-Atkinson, M., & Hauck, F. R. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on resettled refugees. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 48(1), 57–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pop.2020.10.001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pop.2020.10.001

Bromley, E., Mikesell, L., Jones, F., & Khodyakov, D. (2015). From subject to participant: Ethics and the evolving role of community in health research. American Journal of Public Health, 105(5), 900–908. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302403 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302403

Brown, D. L. (2002). Migration and community: Social networks in a multilevel world. Rural Sociology, 67(1), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1549-0831.2002.tb00091.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1549-0831.2002.tb00091.x

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 in newly resettled refugee populations. Retrieved January, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/resources/refugee-populations.html

Cheng, Y., Yu, J., Shen, Y., & Huang, B. (2020). Coproducing responses to COVID‐19 with community‐based organizations: Lessons from Zhejiang Province, China. Public Administration Review, 80(5), 866–873. https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.13244 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.13244

Clarke, J. (2014). Beyond social capital: A capability approach to understanding RLOs and other providers for “hard to reach” groups. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 10(2), 61–72. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-11-2013-0039 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-11-2013-0039

Clarke, S. K., Kumar, G. S., Sutton, J., Atem, J., Banerji, A., Brindamour, M., Geltman, P., & Zaaeed, N. (2020). Potential impact of COVID-19 on recently resettled refugee populations in the United States and Canada: Perspectives of refugee healthcare providers. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 23(1), 184–189. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-020-01104-4 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-020-01104-4

Dempster, H., Ginn, T., Graham, J., Guerrero Ble, M., Jayasinghe, D., & Shorey, B. (2020). Locked down and left behind: The impact of COVID-19 on refugees’ economic inclusion. Centre for Global Development, Refugees International, and International Rescue Committee. https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/locked-down-and-left-behind-paper-71320.pdf

Dyal, J., Grant, M. P., Broadwater K., Bjork, A., Waltenberg, M. A., Gibbins, J. D., Hale, C., Silver, M., Fischer, M., Steinberg, J., Basler, C. A., Jacobs, J. R., Kennedy, E. D., Tomasi, S., Trout, D., Hornsby-Myers, J., Oussayef, N. L., Delaney, L. J., Patel, K. …. & Honein, M. A. (2020, May 7). COVID-19 among workers in meat and poultry processing facilities―19 states, April 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(18), 557–561. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6918e3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6918e3

Evans, S., & Bahrami, H. (2020). Super-flexibility in practice: Insights from a crisis. Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management, 21, 207–214. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40171-020-00246-6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40171-020-00246-6

Faas, A. J., & Barrios, R. E. (2015). Applied anthropology of risk, hazards, and disasters. Human Organization, 74(4), 287–295. https://doi.org/10.17730/0018-7259-74.4.287 DOI: https://doi.org/10.17730/0018-7259-74.4.287

Gilgun, J. F. (2013). Grounded theory, deductive qualitative analysis, and social work research and practice. In A. E. Fortune, W. J. Reid, & R. L. Miller (Eds.), Qualitative research in social work (2nd ed., pp. 107–135). Columbia University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/fort16138.8

Gleeson, S., & Bloemraad, I. (2013). Assessing the scope of immigrant organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(2), 346–370. https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764011436105 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764011436105

Global Compact on Refugees. (2020, June 25). Kızılaykart: “Our model is an effective tool especially in times of crisis.” UNCHR: Good Practices. https://globalcompactrefugees.org/article/kizilaykart-our-model-effective-tool-especially-times-crisis

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020a). Refugee-run grassroots organizations: Responsive assistance beyond the constraints of U.S. resettlement. Journal of Refugee Studies, 34(2), 2124–2141. https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/feaa010 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/feaa010

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020b). Welfare support activities of grassroots refugee-run community organizations: A reframing. Journal of Community Practice, 28(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2020.1716427 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2020.1716427

Hakiza, R., Betts, A., Easton-Calabria, E., & Pincock, K. (2020, April 29). Refugee groups fill gaps in COVID-19 response, and they need support. The New Humanitarian. https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/2020/04/29/coronavirus-response-refugee-camps-humanitarian-aid

Hasel, M. C. (2013). A question of context: The influence of trust on leadership effectiveness during crisis. Management, 16(3), 264–293. https://doi.org/10.3917/mana.163.0264 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3917/mana.163.0264

Hooper, M. W., Napoles, A. M., & Perez-Stable, E. J. (2020). COVID-19 and racial/ethnic disparities. JAMA, 323(24), 2466–2467. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.8598 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.8598

Kitching, G. T., Haavik, H. J., Tandstad, B. J., Zaman, M., & Darj, E. (2016). Exploring the role of ad hoc grassroots organizations providing humanitarian aid on Lesvos, Greece. PLoS Currents, 17, Article 8. https://doi.org/10.1371/currents.dis.bd282cd90ade7d4eb63b6bbdb1904d10 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/currents.dis.bd282cd90ade7d4eb63b6bbdb1904d10

Kluge, H. H. P., Jakab, Z., Bartovic, J., d’Anna, V., & Severoni, S. (2020). Refugee and migrant health in the COVID-19 response. The Lancet, 395(10232), 1237–1239. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30791-1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30791-1

Koch, H., Franco, Z. E., O’Sullivan, T., DeFino, M. C., Ahmed, S. (2017). Community views of the federal emergency management agency’s “Whole Community” strategy in a complex US city: Re-envisioning societal resilience. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 121, 31-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2016.12.009 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2016.12.009

Lalonde, C. (2004). In search of archetypes in crisis management. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 12(2), 76–88. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0966-0879.2004.00437.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0966-0879.2004.00437.x

Langlois, E. V., Haines, A., Tomson, G., & Ghaffar, A. (2016). Refugees: Towards better access to health-care services. The Lancet, 387(10016), 319–321. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(16)00101-x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00101-X

Lawrence, E. (2020, July 26). “Love and solidarity”: Amid coronavirus, mutual aid groups resurge in New York City. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/07/26/895115149/love-and-solidarity-amid-coronavirus-mutual-aid-groups-resurge-in-new-york-city

Lein, L., Angel, R., Bell, H., & Beausoleil, J. (2009). The state and civil society response to disaster: The challenge of coordination. Organization & Environment, 22(4), 448–457. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026609347190 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026609347190

Lind, B. E., Tirado, M., Butts, C. T., & Prahova, M. P. (2008). Brokerage roles in disaster response: Organisational mediation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. International Journal of Emergency Management, 5(1–2), 75–99. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijem.2008.019908 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2008.019908

Maglajlic, R. A. (2018). Organisation and delivery of social services in extreme events: Lessons from social work research on natural disasters. International Social Work, 62(3), 1146–1158. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020872818768387 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0020872818768387

McEntire, D. A., Kelly, J., Kendra, J. M., Kelly, J., & Long, L. C. (2013). Spontaneous planning in the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion: A case study of anticipation and improvisation during response operations. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 10(1), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2012-0055 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2012-0055

Mendonça, D., Beroggi, G. E. G., & Wallace, W. A. (2001). Decision support for improvisation during emergency response operations. International Journal of Emergency Management, 1(1), 30–38. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2001.000507 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2001.000507

Miranda, D. E., García‐Ramírez, M., & Albar‐Marín, M. J. (2020). Building meaningful community advocacy for ethnic‐based health equity: The RoAd4Health experience. American Journal of Community Psychology, 66(3–4). https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12443 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12443

Misra, S., Goswami, R., Mondal, T., & Jana, R. (2017). Social networks in the context of community response to disaster: Study of a cyclone-affected community in Coastal West Bengal, India. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 22, 281–296. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.02.017 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.02.017

Ogie, R. I., & Pradhan, B. (2019). Natural hazards and social vulnerability of place: The strength-based approach applied to Wollongong, Australia. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 10(3), 404–420. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-019-0224-y DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-019-0224-y

Pimentel Walker, A., Sanga, N., Gonzalez Benson, O., Yoshihama, M., & Routte, I. (2021). Participatory action research in times of COVID-19: Adapting approaches with refugee-led community-based organizations. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. Advance online publication. https://preprint.press.jhu.edu/pchp/preprints/participatory-action-research-times-covid-19-adapting-approaches-refugee-led-community

Pincock, K., Betts, A., & Easton-Calabria, E. (2020). The global governed? Refugees as providers of protection and assistance. Cambrigde University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108848831 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108848831

Pipa, T. (2006). Weathering the storm: The role of nonprofits in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort (Nonprofit Sector Research Fund Working Paper Series). https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/NSPPNonprofits20and20Katrina.pdf

Quarantelli, E. L., & Dynes, R. (1977). Different types of organizations in disaster responses and their operational problems (Preliminary Papers No. 41). Disaster Research Center. https://udspace.udel.edu/handle/19716/414

Rowlands, A. (2013). Social work training curriculum in disaster management. Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation, 12(1–2), 130–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/1536710X.2013.784602 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1536710X.2013.784602

Seelos, C., Mair, J., Battilana, J., & Dacin, M. T. (2011). The embeddedness of social entrepreneurship: Understanding variation across local communities. In C. Marquis, M. Lounsbury, & R. Greenwood (Eds.). Communities and organizations: Research in the sociology of organizations (vol. 33, pp. 333–363). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X(2011)0000033013 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X(2011)0000033013

Shove, E., Pantzar, M., & Watson, M. (2012). The dynamics of social practice: Everyday life and how it changes. Sage Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446250655 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446250655

Smith, S. L. (2012). Coping with disaster: Lessons learned from executive directors of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Administration in Social Work, 36(4), 359–389. https://doi.org/10.1080/03643107.2011.604401 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03643107.2011.604401

Truell, R. (2021). Promoting the importance of human relationships: 2020 end of year report. The International Federation of Social Workers. https://www.ifsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2020-IFSW-End-of-Year-Report.pdf

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Staff. (2020, December 31). 5 ways refugees helped battle COVID-19 in 2020. UNHCR: News and Stories. https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/stories/2020/12/5fec70154/5-ways-refugees-helped-battle-covid-19-2020.html

Webb, G. R., & Chevreau, F.-R. (2006). Planning to improvise: The importance of creativity and flexibility in crisis response. International Journal of Emergency Management, 3(1), 66–72. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2006.010282 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2006.010282

Published

2022-04-29

How to Cite

Gonzalez Benson, O., Routte, I., Pimentel Walker, A. P., Yoshihama, M., & Kelly, A. . (2022). Refugee-Led Organizations’ Crisis Response during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 38(1), 62–77. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40879