Ongoing Project:

Weathering the Storm: Engaging Refugee Families During the Covid-19 Self-isolation

Researchers: Stacey Wilson-Forsberg1, Oliver Masakure1, and Jeremey Horne2
Affiliation: Wilfrid Laurier University1 and Adventure 4 Change (A4C)2
Research Partner: A4C
Keywords: refugee families, youth, parents, high school, teens, school work, social isolation, service users, Covid-19, Waterloo, community organizations, qualitative research


Objective: This study aims to assess how refugee families are coping with the challenges associated with Covid-19 and the loss of access to important services, such as A4C. Specifically, this study examines how parents are keeping their teens motivated and engaged with school work. The study focuses on A4C’s pre-Covid clients, many of whom are single mothers with refugee backgrounds from the Horn of Africa and Sudan.

Justification: In Waterloo, Ontario, many refugee youth and parents rely on Action 4 Change (A4C) for tutoring, programming, and bridging between parents and school administrators. With Covid-19 taking school online and hindering face-to-face delivery of services, refugee families are facing increased stress and challenges. A4C has encountered refugee mothers who are unable to help with their children’s schoolwork due to limited English language skills and a limited understanding of the Canadian education system, resulting in tremendous stress and anxiety.

Practical goal: to connect families virtually with A4C’s resources and to build A4C’s capacity to respond in a coordinated and caring way to crises in the future, developing best practices for small community organizations to engage with vulnerable families and continue to deliver services.

Primary audience: service providers, policy makers, educators, and academics


This study will use e-technology, phone conversations, note taking, and parent diaries to help refugee teens and their parents as they navigate the educational, social and leisure challenges associated with Covid-19 self-isolation. The research team will train two refugee high school students to lead online discussions with other refugee youth, who will share their experiences during isolation. Researchers and A4C staff will provide counselling to youth and parents. Parents will be trained on how to write therapeutic diaries in their own language about their at-home experiences. They will later be invited to share the diaries with A4C and our research team. The dairies may touch on the following questions: how are they spending their days; are they still working outside of the home; how do they feel; how are they interacting with their children; how are they helping their children with homework; how are they receiving information about the pandemic; and how are they communicating with family and friends?

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