Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 1-1-2017


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Jenni Schulze

Committee Member

Moni McIntyre


Community Organizing; Grassroots; Human Capital; Refugee; Refugee-led Organizations; Social Capital


In the nexus of our collective history, it has been recorded that human-induced political and social conflicts play a powerful role in displacing millions of people. The social insecurity produced by conflict persists long after they have ended, as refugees adjust to new circumstances, cope with loss, and attempt to regain a sense of normalcy. This study focuses on two distinct refugee-led organizations, namely a Syrian and a Bhutanese organization. These organizations operate in distinct stages of resettlement, in different parts of the world—one in a state of emergency, the other in resettlement in the United States. However, both organizations share a grassroots community organizing paradigm to address lingering stigma with regards to mental illness. The methods utilized in this study were based on qualitative data sources that stem from interviews with refugee-led organization directors, volunteers, and community partners. Qualitative data, in conjunction with empirical evidence from the field, serve to provide a panoramic view of how refugee-led organizations operate. The findings of this study reveal that the success of refugee-led organizations in their attempts to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, by using community programming and programming evaluations as their main tools, are intricately tied to the amount of human and social capital refugee-led organizations hold within their community and through its members. This paper concludes by emphasizing the complementary nature of community-based programs and international humanitarian aid agencies, suggesting that the combination of both offer a more comprehensive approach to addressing mental health needs of refugee communities.