Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Harvesting Unconditional Love by Girls Making Media and Iskashitaa

Girls Making Media's has been collaborating with Iskashitaa and four amazing young women to make a movie about Harvesting Unconditional Love. This video will be submitted to the MLK Day Film Fest in January. Enjoy watching the video below:

This video is a collaboration between Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network and Girls Making Media in Tucson, AZ. It was created for entry in The Third Annual MLK Day Film Festival offered by the Southern Arizona Volunteer Center


The girls will participate in a photo shoot for a special edition of the magazine, featuring them as real role models for tweens and celebrating 10 years of DG!

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (December 1, 2010) – Not many young girls can say they started their own charitable organization at the age of 7, reported live from the middle of a hurricane, or were raised in Madagascar – but for some of the 12 girls who recently won Discovery Girls magazine’s Role Model contest, these experiences are just a part of growing up.

Now these 12 girls, all between the ages of 9 and 13, can add being featured in a national magazine to their lists of accomplishments. For the first time since being chosen as DG Role Models in October, the 12 met as they arrived in San Francisco for their photo shoot on Dec. 6 and 7, 2010.

A trip to San Francisco was just one of the prizes for the tweens, who traveled from 11 different states and Nova Scotia to meet at the photo shoot. The real prize: being featured in a special 10-year anniversary edition of the magazine, scheduled for release in the summer of 2011. Their accomplishments will be highlighted in the issue, giving them the chance to inspire their peers—an entire generation of girls.

Get to know our Role Models:
Abigail, 11, Missouri– Created, where she sells her hand-made t-shirts and original art to raise money for children in the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Calista, 11, Pennsylvania– Determined to make a difference, she founded Calista Cares at the age of 7 to raise money for Special Olympics and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She makes and sells crafts, holds bake sales, runs lemonade stands and hosts raffles.

Cameron, 12, California– A talented writer, Cameron has already had a story published in an international children’s magazine. She plays tennis and lacrosse, and makes the world a better place by baking cupcakes for the elderly and packing food at her local food pantry.

Cannelle, 11, Arizona- Born in Africa, adopted by an American mother and a French father, Canelle speaks 4 languages and has moved 7 times, on 3 continents.Her personal experiences fuel her passion for helping others adapt to new lives—including volunteering for a local group that assists African refugees (Iskashitaa).

Carmel, 11, Illinois– A “friend magnet” who has a gift for making people laugh, Carmel loves to write, andhas been creating her own stories since kindergarten. She also plays two instruments and is in her school band.

Erica, 11, Nebraska– Erica is an actress and singer who is active in local theater productions, plays the cello in a youth orchestra, and sings in a choir that gives performances around her state. She also volunteers for Operation Christmas Child.

Jenna, 11, Iowa –Teaches baton twirling at a studio she runs with her sisters. Loves to teach girls baton because it boosts their self-confidence and raises their self-esteem. Frequently donates her time as an entertainer at fund-raisers.

Kate, 11, New Jersey– With a smile that lights up a room, Kate is known for persevering when things get tough, and always going that extra mile to brighten someone else’s day. She plays the violin and loves basketball.

Kennedy, 13, Pennsylvania At age 6, she founded Kisses for Kaeden, an organization named for her baby brother, who was born with a hole in his heart. To date, the group has raised over $100,000 to help children with hear defects and special needs.

Maia, 13, Nova Scotia, Canada– Canada’s youngest-ever co-chair of the junior board of CISV, an international peace organization that promotes children’s cross-cultural friendships. Maia reported live on Hurricane Earl for her own video blog.

Mary Margaret, 12, Maryland– The founder of Kids Are Heroes, a non-profit organization that inspires kids to start community projects that help people, animals, and the environment. MaryMargaret has also spearheaded efforts to raise thousands of dollars for her own causes.

Sophia, 9, Michigan Our youngest role model, Sophia loves playing piano at senior centers and volunteers for a variety of causes, including raising money for Haiti and helping out at a local food bank. She even picks up trash on her school’s playground during recess!

About Discovery Girls and the Role Model search:
The San Jose, Calif. based magazine has an international readership, is produced bi-monthly and is in its 11th year of production. The magazine strives to empower girls to celebrate who they are and to realize their potential.

The Role Model contest was announced in the June/July 2010 issue of the magazine. The editors invited readers who believed they embodied the mission of the magazine to enter. After receiving thousands of entries and narrowing the choices to 30 finalists, the magazine waited as the world voted daily for their favorite role models. Voting concluded on Sept. 30, 2010 and the winners were announced the first week of October

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tucson Street Fair December 10-11

Thank you to everyone that stopped by the Iskashitaa booth at the Tucson Street Fair. We were tucked back in the Sky Bar parking lot, but we made the most of it. Friday we had two amazing refugees displaying the way the make the handbags and rag-rugs. Saturday we jumped on the taste test band wagon and had people tasting the marmalades and olives. I imagine that it was because of this that we sold out of the Fig Marmalades. Also, I finally was able to purchase a big jar of the olives, which are way more delicious than anything I can purchase at the store. It's been one day and I think I've eaten 50 of those things. Seriously, anyone who is not coming by Iskashitaa's table is a fool. These products are too good to pass up, probably the most unique stuff you'll find at any table at any event. For information on where Iskashitaa will be next, check out the calendar at Best Regards... Kenny Nelson

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Submit Your Favorite Recipe!

We all have that favorite pumpkin or squash recipe that we wait all year for.

Share a recipe with us and you could win!

The most original recipe submission will receive a free squash of their choice from our 22 varieties of locally gleaned squash.

This season 7 harvests yielded some ~12,000 pounds of squash from two farms (Native Seeds/Search & Buckelew) and one local urban pumpkin patch (St. Mark's UMC). Thank you to our donors for allowing us to feed families!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Something For Nothing By: Luvmoni Biswa

Human wants are unlimited but the resources available are limited. People always want more and more everyday no matter what is going on in the world. Everywhere in the world,life is very different. I am a refugee boy and things have always been very difficult throughout my life.

When I was back in the refugee camp in Nepal. The camps are made up of clusters of huts made out of bamboo, thatch, plastic, etc. All the huts are made in rows, having little or no gaps. Between the rows, small gaps are kept where doors of the huts are facing. The size of each hut is very small and hardly four or five people can live. Sometimes, seven to ten people are forced to accommodate which becomes very congested.

During the summer, nearly sixty percent of the rain leaks from the unsafe roofs of the huts soaking all the materials including bedding and foods. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) used to provide some limited food-stuff every fourteen days. Including kerosene oil and coal for cooking food. People cook food by themselves in each family and share it to others in their family. They do not have any choice of food.

Without the electricity in the camps, the nights are complete darkness. From the bedroom we could see the moon at night and feel the chili dewdrops early the next morning. People eat and go to bed early. The clean water is not enough, and people often have to fetch water from nearby streams. Stream water, which contained many kinds of bacteria was not purified or treated and killed some thousands of innocent Bhutanese.

The life in camps are really miserable and monotonous. They are out of reach from digital modernized world and anything going on outside. We have suffered a lot in silence and God became greedy to us in spite of our undeniable needs. On the other hand, the life in the United States is completely different than the life in the refugee camps in Nepal. The life is luxurious in warm and nice apartments. The apartments have everything, such as water, air conditioning, electricity, and a gas stove for cooking food. The rooms are big enough to live with lot of furniture. People have many choices for foods.

People in the United States can go anywhere as they wish. They have many kinds of media for the circulation of news like cell phone, radio, and TV. There is very strong security for the people to live.

I am very happy in the United States than in the refugee camps. The life is easier and safer in the United States than in the camps. I have never thought of coming to this country, USA even in my dream and spent life freely and luxuriously like today. So I am always very grateful to this country for bringing me in and giving a new life to a refugee boy who had no destination in life and had no hope to live. These are the great things this country has done me for nothing. THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD…USA!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scholarship Help

Many of the refugees Iskashitaa is connected with are pursuing college degrees. I'm currently a university student, and I know that it's hard to obtain information about this process. It's hard to even formulate the questions you need to ask in order to have everything explained to you. For example, when I applied to University, I didn't know how to get financial aid, and I didn't even know what my problem was, so I didn't know what questions to ask. Also, I didn't figure out until the end of my senior year that if you apply for financial aid very early in the spring semester that you are more likely to receive federal grants. It's awarded on a first come, first serve basis but nobody tells you these things. So, I thought it might be good to share a useful tool with everyone who follows this blog. The tool is called "Scholarship Universe and it's on the UA Financial Aid Website:

On the main page you will see two things: a button to enter the site and a box displaying at least a thousand scholarship opportunities. Now, the actual website requires a UA email, but as a reliable scholarship guide the main page is adequate. If you don't have a UA email, then just ask someone at Iskashitaa and they will be able to help you look through the site. Once you login to the scholarship universe the website takes you through a questionnaire that narrows down the number of scholarships that are out there to a few that work with your qualifications. This is pretty handy. It can be a huge ordeal looking for financial assistance, and sometimes you just don't have the time. So check out this webpage if you are interested in applying for a scholarship or a grant. -Kenny Nelson, Intern

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Smashing Pumpkins!

On Saturday I picked up some of Camille and Amanda’s English students at Oasis, then we drove to a pumpkin farm to collect pumpkins after meeting at Iskashitaa. I got to meet Neema, who I thought was really nice, and I had a really good time at the harvest. For the last 30-45 minutes I got to walk around smashing pumpkins so we could collect the seeds, which was way too much fun…When we got back to Iskashitaa we formed a long line and passed the pumpkins from the truck to back against a wall in the front yard. I had a good time, and all of the refugees seemed to enjoy the event.

-Danny (Honors College Intern)

What's Cooking at Iskashitaa?

Calabaza en Tacha is a trditional dessert that is prepared during the Fiestas de Muertos. It is very easy and delicious!


1 4 to 5 lbs Pumpkin approx.
8 Cinnamon sticks
Juice of 1 Orange
4 cups water
2 lbs Piloncillo ( you can use brown sugar or raw sugar)


Cut the pumpkin into medium (2½" to 3" squares or triangles). Remove seeds and strings. With a sharp knife make diamond designs over the pulp

Put the sugar in a pan with the cinnamon, orange juice, and water. Bring to a boil and stir until the piloncillo has dissolved.

Place the first layer of pieces of pumpkin upside down so they absorb as much juice as possible. The second layer should be with the pulp upwards. Cover and simmer. When ready the top of the pumpkin pieces should look somewhat glazed, and the pulp soft and golden brown.

Let cool and serve with syrup. You can also add cold evaporated milk. I prefer to have the pumpkin after it has been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

-- Recipe from Keren (Tested by the Iskashitaa Staff who are getting fat eating it!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Music that defines the experiences in Somalia

Around the time of the World Cup over the summer, I heard of a Somali rapper named K'naan on National Public Radio (NPR) and downloaded some of his music. He is a rapper from Somalia and speaks of his and other Somalis day-to-day experiences of survival in Mogadishu and the emotional consequences of war. His lyrics are powerful, evoke emotion and gasps at what some people have experienced there, like in his song, ABC's and discussing the experience of children in education. "They don't teach us the ABCs, we play on the hard concrete, all we got is life on the streets." He said in an interview that this is very true for the youth in Somalia. He left Somalia when he was 13, first to join relatives in New York City and then to settle in Toronto, Canada. He has tried to avoid using gangsta rap, he explains, since "gangsterism isn't something to brag about," especially with other Somalis. His music includes influences from Somali music and traditional instruments, Ethiopian jazz samples and American hip hop. Check him out. (Information taken from NPR interview and Wikipedia)
--Kathy Zaleski, Iskashitaa Community Education Coordinator

Monday, November 1, 2010


Little Dorothys, masked superheroes, princesses, astronauts, birdwatchers, miners, a dog dressed up as a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz and more spent last evening at St. Francis in the Foothills 'trunk-or-treating.' I had never heard of trunk-or-treating before this event which involved gracious volunteers dressing up in costumes and decorating the trunks of their cars while passing out candy. Along with trunks for trick-or-treating, there were booths set up with games, an inflatable bouncer that was very popular with the young children and beads for making jewelry.
I have been out of the country for Halloween since 2005 and I forgot how much fun the holiday is and how it's a great escape to become something only found in fairy tales, cartoons, or in one's imagination. I brought two children with me from Bhutan for their second Halloween. One of the children, Krishna explored the entire carnival and went trunk or treating a few times and had a very full bag of candy by the end of the night. I doubt he got much sleep last night since I kept hearing him munching on candy throughout the entire event. Pankaj helped in handing out candy and we discussed how Halloween is somewhat of a strange holiday with people wearing crazy costumes; we discussed this while my face was painted as a cat and I was wearing large, floppy ears on my head. My favorite part of this event was seeing the large amount of refugee youth present with the kids from Tucson and having interactions with one another.
Среќен ден на вештерките! (Happy Day of the Witch! In Macedonian)
--Kathy Zaleski
(Iskashitaa Community Education Coordinator)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teaching and Learning Together!

At class this week we brought in two large maps: one of the world and one of the United States. One student seemed to understand the maps and general geography fairly well, as he was the first to point out Bhutan and Nepal. We discussed the different continents, countries, and oceans, taking time to spell out each one. Also, we practiced cardinal directions by directing each other to countries on the map. I was surprised that so many of our students had family in other American states and all over the world. Another student excitedly pointed to different states stating such titles as “mother brother,” “brother sister”, or “in-law” to describe the relations she had in each state she recognized. By the end of the class, the United States map was populated by shiny star stickers affixed to each recognizable state that housed family members.
-Camille (U of A honors college Intern)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tucson Meet Yourself

Tucson Meet Yourself went off this weekend without a hitch, in other words, it was incredible! So many people and so many cultures. I enjoyed walking past a Swedish table representing my heritage, but I was on my way to the Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network table. On my way I passed many food vendors. I especially enjoyed my Samosas at the Guryasamo booth.

The many smiling faces brought a good feeling to my heart, as everyone was so different from each other and equally enjoying themselves I felt I could also enjoy myself. These kinds of events are why I do what I do.

Oh, and did I mention the fantastic smells of all the food! If anyone missed out on this event I hope the sublime look on her face as she smells her corn makes you jealous. Mark your calender, this is an annual event!

In this picture you can see two friends exchanging interest in one example of Refugee craftwork. They are holding a Burundi Basket weave. Iskashitaa had these on display, and they were available for purchase. The technique behind these handicrafts is fascinating; the basket is made from dried palm leaves and threads of recycled plastic, the leaves are bound into a cord and then spun into a spiral and intricately wrapped in plastic. I was amazed by the patterns they formed.

Walking away from Tucson Meet Yourself, I feel excitement. I'm excited by idea that Iskashitaa connected with many new people through the crafts of Tucson's amazing refugee population. I'm excited to hear if new volunteers will join because of the booth at TMY. Most importantly, I'm excited that people are so involved in their cultures and customs that they work to make Tucson Meet Yourself an annual event. Good job Tucson!

Kenny Nelson

Iskashitaa Intern

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tucson Meet Yourself is starting today! Please make it a point to support these refugee entrepreneurs!

Food Vendors:

Sahra Hirsi will be selling Somali food including sambusas and Somali tea at the Guryasamo stand near the library.

Sultan Palace, a local refugee-owned business, will sell Afghani food.

Iskashitaa Refugee Sewing and Crafts Circle (IRSCC) will feature Burundi baskets, rag rugs, plarn water bottle holders, and much more for sale, and refugees from many countries will sell and demonstrate how to make these beautiful items. Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network will also have available local fruit and preserved food items from locally gleaned produce. Stop by their booth at Pennington and Church by the library.

The Somali Bantu Association of Tucson, Arizona will have a booth on the grass on the main library plaza. Stop by to learn about SBATA and purchase jewelry.

International Rescue Committee MicroE participants:

Aita Gurung: Demonstration – 10/9-10

Artiest from Bhutan, he would like to demonstrate his art paintings and introduce the Bhutanese art culture.

Charlotte African Tailoring: Demonstration - 10/9-10

Charlotte, a tailor from Congo, will demonstrate her African tailoring styles and introduce her African dresses made for male and female.

Morad Ceramic: Sale - 10/9-10

Morad uses special paints on ceramic bowl, plates and more. This type of art originated in Turkey and called the Art of Izink Ceramic. Morad has learned and master this type of paintings and started his own small workshop business. He is planning to sell his products at Tucson Meet Yourself.

Tatari Import: Sale - - 10/9-10

This is a small family business owned by Ejaz Bhakshi and his wife, who are both from Afghanistan. They sell clothes for men and women, accessories, antiques from the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Paradise Fashion Design: Demonstration – Only Sunday October 10th

Teddy Mambulu is from Congo. He designs and tailors African clothes for men and women.

This is his first year in the USA, and he would like to show his product to the public.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Volunteering at the click of a button!

Volunteering with Iskashitaa has never been quicker or easier! Iskashitaa now has all of our events listed on the internet with quick links to signup sheets. All our wonderful volunteers need to do, is go to our website: and click on the events tab. Now you can sign up for all of our fun events at anytime of the day or night. Our volunteer coordinator will update you as the event gets closer and if you decide you cannot come, just return to our website and “undo” your signup. Don’t forget to check back often because we are always finding new ways to spread our mission throughout Tucson and we cannot do it without your help!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesdays are foodie days!

On Wednesdays Iskashitaa is busy harvesting limes, making olives, culling mesquite beans, or canning home made preservatives. No matter which week you join us, you will always have fun learning and enjoying time with other local volunteers and refugees. Join us this week at 8am at the Iskashitaa office and experience our community first hand. To sign up, please click here and follow the directions on the site. You will be contacted on the Monday before your harvest with more details! Hope to see you harvesting with us soon!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Iskashitaa graciously welcomes monetary donations of any size. See how your donation can help:

Kumquat level- $25:
Buys vital tools for Iskashitaa - a new fruit picker for our green work
We desperately need to replace our worn out tools!

Lime level- $75:
Buys us 5000 minutes of cell phone time – the amount of time the director spends on the phone in a month

Meyer Lemon level- $200:
Buys a month’s worth of gas for one vehicle for harvesting and redistribution trips

Tangelo level- $500:
Supports harvesting coordination through the AmeriCorps program

Pumpkin level- $1,000:
Supports volunteer and resource coordination through the
AmeriCorps program

If you would like to make a monetary contribution to Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network, please make checks out to St Francis in the Foothills UMC and write Iskashitaa RHN in the memo line. Mail checks to: St Francis in the Foothills UMC 4625 E River Rd Tucson, AZ 85718. We also accept credit cards. Contact us for more information. All donations are tax deductable!
Thank you for your continued support!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How can your group Support Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network?

We have been receiving support from Tucson faith communities and other Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) for years now. We are grateful for that support, and want to explain how you might be our next liaison between your FBO or civic group to enable Iskashitaa to assist even MORE refugees in our community. How can groups work cooperatively with us? Become that missing link for Iskashitaa today!

Catalina United Methodist Church’s youth group organized a day of harvesting. For weeks, they advertised the project in their bulletins, requesting members and guests to provide addresses of fruit trees to harvest. On the designated Sunday afternoon, the youth harvested the fruit and delivered it to the Iskashitaa office from 8 different properties. The youth and volunteers ended the evening with a celebratory dinner at the church.

During this citrus season the members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson regularly organize fruit harvests of their own trees and their neighbors’ trees. Each week the members bring the bounty of their harvests to their Sunday services, and one volunteer brings the crates to our headquarters. You could organize something in your neighborhood through the neighborhood association or among friends or other civic groups.

Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Parish takes another route to support Iskashitaa efforts to improve Tucson refugee lives. Iskashitaa Refugee Sewing and Crafts Circle provides opportunities for refugees from many countries with a wide variety of languages and faith backgrounds to socialize, enhance their crafting skills, practice English, and make products for use in their own households or to sell to create sorely needed income. FBOs and other groups can sell refugee-made crafts at their organizations' meetings several times each year. All you need to do is arrange for the selling event to be announced ahead of time, pick up craft items, set up a table, collect money, and record sales!

Iskashitaa means “working cooperatively together”, and it truly does take a communal effort to keep us up and running. If you’d like to increase your current level of involvement, please call Natalie Brown at 928-503-7496 or email her at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spend Time with a Refugee Family

One of the greatest things that you can do to help a refugee family is simply to spent time with them. One of our volunteers, Ron Bayes, recently took fourteen refugees to the Grand Canyon in a rented 15-passenger van. Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

We assembled at the apartment complex where many of the group lived and began our journey on Friday, at around 6:30pm, as many of the participants were required to work that day. We got to Flagstaff around 11:00pm and took a quick tour of the massive house where we were to stay. The owner of the mansion-like home is my friend of many years, Tom, a Flagstaff general contractor. While Tom and his family were absent, he was generous enough to allow all of us to stay at his luxurious home and use all of its many amenities.

Saturday morning, we awoke to the sun and the cool Flagstaff morning air. Many enjoyed the morning by wandering the spacious premises or hanging out in the lush manicured backyard overlooking a large pond. Some others performed meditation or yogic morning rituals. The women made a savory breakfast, all participated in the cleanup, then we hit the road for the Grand Canyon. The route from Flagstaff to the south entrance of the Canyon was stunning. In Tusayan, the town just outside the park entrance, we watched a gorgeous panoramic IMAX movie highlighting the many treasures within the Canyon. The group could hardly contain their excitement to get into the national park.

It's always a pleasure to show people the Grand Canyon for the first time, marveling at this larger-than life chasm cut by the mighty Colorado River and geologic upheavals over many eons. Using a combination of our rental van and the park shuttle, we made many stops to several spectacular overlooks.

On the way back to Flagstaff, we took a detour to behold Sunset Crater, stopping at a beautiful volcanic overlook to take pictures and play amidst the volcanic rocks and sand. Once we reached Flagstaff, I showed the group several sites and took them to a popular overlook up near Lowell Observatory. Eventually, we all retired back at Tom's house, each person a bit tired from being in the sun for most of the day. Through group effort, we ate a satisfying Nepalese meal and cleaned up, played some billiards, talked, and went to bed early.

Sunday morning, we once again awoke to the Flagstaff sun, and had a relaxing breakfast. After packing up and giving the house a quick cleaning, we were off to Sedona. The weather was perfect for the meandering drive through Oak Creek Canyon, where we stopped to gather some refreshing spring water from a lesser-known well along the side of the road. Continuing our journey, we stopped in uptown Sedona to get some ice cream and admire the sculptures from local artists. On to Airport Mesa, where we could see a panorama of Red Rock formations in all their glory, then through the Village of Oak Creek to view even more spectacular Red Rock natural sculptures.

Arriving in Tucson early in the evening, we bade or farewell to one another, and recovered from a very fast but enjoyable trip. Not a single person was left behind, injured, or worse. It seems that everyone had a great time, experienced new places, and enjoyed the company of the rest of the travelers. What a beautiful adventure!
I hope this information is helpful and encourages other volunteers to share their time in this way. It was incredibly rewarding and has added depth to my relationship with many of these refugee families!

Thanks to the Adhikari family for help with organizing the trip.

Exciting Harvesting Update from Barbara Eiswerth: Tomatoes, Grapes, Peaches, Pears, Apricots and More!

Iskashitaa has never seen a July like this before (by far). Not only did we harvest more variety of fruit in record poundage from backyards and local farms but new fruits and new opportunities are happily stressing our redistribution systems and food preservation knowledge. University of Arizona farms contributed tens of thousands of hydroponic tomatoes, then two weeks later 7 million grapes! How do you handle/harvest peaches, pears and apricots? How do you store grapes and make raisins? 50,000 tomatoes is a lot to handle for this little operation with no cool storage or freezer space. We survive with your help, and swapping food for cool/cold storage with Southside Presbyterian and the Community Food Bank. Refugees benefit all around contributing to their families and the Wellness Center at Catalina Magnet High School. We learn to preserve, dry, pickle and ferment from refugees. Have you ever made raisins before? Call us now to harvest your fig and peach trees! Pomegranate season is just around the corner, and soon we will be harvesting apples and pumpkins from local farms. Contact us to donate your fruit or to get involved with our exciting harvesting activities!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cultural Exchange with Up With People

The Iskashitaa Refugee Sewing and Crafts Circle joined Up With People alumni at the recent Up with People reunion. The Refugees taught basket weaving, finger weaving, knitting, and crocheting in a wonderful exchange of cultures. The scarves and other crafts that were made that afternoon were later for sale along with other refugee-made craft products at the Up with People marketplace during the reunion.

Later, Iskashitaa volunteers and refugees were invited to Up With People's 45th Anniversary Premiere “A Song for the World” on Friday, August 13th. Here is what one recent refugee from Iraq had to say about her experiences, "Dear friend: if are planning to attend the show, let me warn you! You are about to have a once in a lifetime event, something I can't forget and will not forever!"

To read more about the Up With People event and Dalia Sarkeis' experiences, don't miss the most recent Iskashitaa Newsletter!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Congratulations Sahra Hirsi

Sahra Hirsi (with bell), Barbara Eiswerth (to Hirsi's left in white shirt) and volunteers from Iskash*taa Refugee Harvesting Network. Hirsi was nominated by Eiswerth.

Advocate gives voice to refugees

Kimberly Matas
Arizona Daily Star Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2010 12:00 am

The recipient of this week's Ben's Bell is Sahra Hirsi, an advocate for refugees living in Tucson.

Hirsi was nominated by Barbara Eiswerth, executive director of Iskash*taa Refugee Harvesting Network, who said: "Sahra is a voice in a community that has so little voice. Sahra's spirit of cooperation, innovation and generosity has made her an inspirational and impactful leader.

"Her dedication to the women, many single mothers that have survived war, persecution, and loss beyond most our imaginations is demonstrated with her gentle way, her kind understanding, and her devotion to helping others," Eiswerth wrote in her nomination.

Hirsi and her family moved to Tucson four years ago after being exiled from Somalia in the early 1990s and living in Kenya for 15 years where she worked with refugees.

She works for the Amphitheater School District as a family and student mentor and volunteers in the community teaching parenting classes and serving as an interpreter and a mentor.

"I help the families to understand the system and I do whatever I can to support them," Hirsi said. "I do it because I feel very, very happy when someone else is helped because when you don't speak the language it's very hard.

"It doesn't matter what time it is, if it's one in the morning or I'm at work, I always make time for my community and there are a lot of people who do the same thing."

"We want to better our community," Hirsi said. "We want to give back to Tucson."

The project

The Ben's Bells Project to promote kindness, compassion and community was started in 2003 by the family of Ben Maré Packard as a way to honor the 2-year-old who died of croup a year earlier. In 2005 the project began "belling" those who make the community a better, kinder place. Go to www. to submit a name. Go to or call 628-2829 for more information.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at or at 573-4191.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Refugees and UA Students' Successful Uberharvest

In our recent UberHarvest, Iskashitaa partnered with The Community Food Bank (CFB), the University of Arizona Returned PeaceCorps Volunteer Fellows program and the U of A Blue Chip Program, leadership education club. Neighbors from Sunset Ridge Neighborhood, near Orange Grove and Oracle arranged for us to harvest 86 trees. Four hundred-eighty pounds of tangelos, tangerines, lemons and a few grapefruit went to Isakshitaa refugees and the rest was donated to Tucson’s Food Bank. Thank you Susan Brown for helping out at this harvest with refugees from Burundi, Somalia, Congo, Bhutan and the Sudan!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Harvesting Volunteers Needed!

Iskashitaa is looking for volunteers who can dedicate a couple hours of their week to harvest fruit from Tucson’s backyards alongside refugees. We have harvest sites all over the city, and can set up harvests around your schedule. Harvesting is a great activity for groups and individuals, young and the young-at-heart. You can enjoy the sunshine and mild spring temperatures while getting some exercise. Give us a few hours of your week, and help feed hundreds of families. If you are interested, please contact us at (520) 440-0100.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Harvest That Helps Many

Check out this article about Iskashitaa harvesting fruit trees published last week by the local news source, The Explorer.

The Explorer - The Voice of Marana, Oro Valley and Northwest Tucson Archives El Sol A harvest that helps many

Refugees pick unneeded fruit from NW trees

By Steve Renzi, Special to The Explorer

What was Walid Gamarelanbia, a refugee from Sudan, doing, climbing up in Lynne Ingalls front-yard cumquat tree in northwest Tucson – a tree her son had planted more than 30 years ago?

Harvesting fruit, of course.

On Saturday, Gamarelanbia (whose last name translates as "prophets of the moon") climbed up a ladder and, wearing a harvesting sack that looped around his left shoulder, proceeded to fill it with perfectly ripe and delicious cumquats.

Cumquats are "the little brother of the orange," according to Gamarelanbia. He and a small group of people rode up to a couple of households near Ina and Shannon roads and proceeded to harvest the citrus trees growing in two Northwest yards.

The group is called the Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network. The word Iskashitaa means "working cooperatively together."

Barbara Eiswerth is the director and founder of the refugee harvesting network.

"I speak food," Eiswerth said. "Our group is the only one in the nation that has fused welcoming refugees and harvesting.

"Food is a common denominator among all cultures. Harvesting food is a concept that the refugees are familiar with. The food that we harvest is divided up in three ways: some of it is taken home, some of it is donated and some of it is sold. We recently filled two 18-wheeler trucks with harvested food and donated it to the Community Food Bank."

Last Saturday, Eiswerth and Natalie Brown, community liaison for Iskashitaa, came with refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Bhutan and other countries, along with volunteers from Catalina Foothills High School and college students to pick fruit from the citrus trees of two Northwest-side homeowners.

"The cumquats would have fallen on the ground and just gone to waste," said homeowner Ingalls.

"I don't like to waste things," said homeowner Ruth Denholtz, watching people harvest her lemon and grapefruit trees. "It helps me out, too. Anytime you can help people with something you don't need, it's a good thing."

The group worked quickly, cooperatively and efficiently. Some climbed ladders, some reached under the tree and others took long-handled fruit pickers to reach the fruit on the top. In short order, crates of lemons and grapefruits were filled.

"A refugee is a person who has fled their home country due to persecution or fear of persecution because of their religion, ethnicity or political activity," explains Natalie Brown. She has experience working with AIDS projects in the United States, Mexico and Tanzania, and points out there are three refugee resettlement agencies in Tucson.

Qamar collects lemons growing near the bottom and that have fallen down under the tree. She is from Somalia and her family fled during the war. Thirteen-year-old Fahima is from Sudan. She easily picks up a crate full of lemons and carries it, balancing the load atop her head. Lun Xu is tall; he can reach the higher areas easily. Sanz Ghalay, from Bhutan, reaches toward the top with a long-handled pole that has a basket on the end.

Benjamin Matiella is a volunteer from Catalina Foothills High School. He is considering an Eagle Scout project with the Fruit Harvesters Network. Jena Decker and Talia Chonover are college students on winter break.

Harvesting and saving food that would otherwise go to waste is just one of the benefits of the harvesting network. The refugees learn English, life skills, how to navigate through the city, friendship with each other and Americans, physical activity and better nutrition, according to Eisworth.

"By donating much of the food that is picked to organizations like the Food Bank or the Gospel Rescue Mission, they are giving back to the community right away," she said. Anyone interested in being a fruit donor can call (520) 440-0100, or e-mail More information about Iskashitaa and a catalog of items the group creates and sells, such as marmalade, mesquite flour, prickly pear vinegar and harvesting sacks, can be viewed at

Within an hour, the trees are stripped bare of fruit and the filled crates are loaded into the back of a truck.

"Many hands make light work," said Brown.

"No fruit left behind, no refugee left behind," adds Eisworth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Volunteer Celebrating Two Years of Commitment to Refugees

Approaching her two year anniversary as a volunteer, Joanne Finch’s list of accomplishments and experiences could fill the page. She’s assisted in nearly every program, interacted with hundreds of refugee clients, and practically knows all the Department of Economic Services employees by name. But her commitment to refugees extends beyond the walls of the IRC and into the community; in fact it was at her local church where Joanne’s eyes first were opened to the plight of the refugees living all around her. Encouraging each other along the way, many of her fellow members at Christ Church United Methodist have also become tireless supporters of refugee rights and well-being, shown most clearly in their partnership with Goshen Ministries, an African congregation which includes many IRC clients.

Reflecting on her experiences Joanne identified a couple “Mosts”:
  • Most Dangerous: Teaching refugee friends how to drive her car!
  • Most Enjoyable: Pumpkin picking with IRC Clients and Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network.
  • Most Challenging: Learning how to say “No” in order to promote client independence.
  • Most Pleasant: Working on Financial Literary with Lisa at the IRC.
  • Most Fulfilling: Witnessing the reunion of two close friends after years of separation.

Joanne is eager to share her father’s advice with anyone who will listen: “We have no right just to sit around and enjoy life.” Considering all the issues Joanne could have chosen to fulfill her father’s commission and all the organizations she could have worked with, we are so thankful that she is with us at IRC Tucson, creating opportunities for refugees to thrive in our community!

Andy Jenkins, IRC Volunteer Coordinator

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CWU Prayer Service for Christian Unity

Church Women United (CWU) Prayer Service for Christian Unity was Wednesday, January 20 at 7pm at St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church, 4725 E. Pima Street. This year, Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network was selected to be the recipient of the offering, and director, Barbara Eiswerth had a few minutes during the service to share about our work. More than sixty people attended and we thank you CWU and our community for your financial assistance and support during these difficult times.

Peace and Hope,
Natalie Brown
Community Liaison, Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Indian girl’s journey from begging to giving

Dear friends of Iskashitaa and Balamani Mariana Madden:

Balamani, a volunteer with Barbara Eiswerth and Iskashitaa for 4 years is asking for your support. This year she was nominated Youth Volunteer of the Year for her tireless efforts helping refugees in the community and assisting in many aspects of work with Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network. More importantly she gives selflessly to put a smile on my faces and hundreds others as well as bring tears to our eyes. In fact, right now, I am having trouble typing for just that reason. Her life story is aptly entitled “An Indian girl’s journey from begging to giving”.

I cannot think of a more well deserving youth for recognition and education through international travel. I am honored to have worked with and learned from her over the years.

Thank you Balamani for sharing of yourself.

Dear friends please support me by voting on my digital video, it’s a 2 minute video of my life and how I help others in my community.

U.S State Department Exchanges Connect Video Contest Change Your Climate, Change Our World." Your "climate" is not only the air you breathe, but also the people, places, and relationships that affect your daily life. Tell us in a video what you or someone you know is doing to make your community a better place, and in the process, contributing to a healthier, safer, cleaner, and more peaceful world. The four (4) winners will receive the grand prize: an all-expense-paid, approximately two-week cultural exchange program to the United States or from the United States to a country to be determined.

I have put in a lot of work making this video just for two minutes. Even if I do not win, I am proud of myself and inspired by making it.

You will need to sign in and register on the site to watch and rate the video if you need more information, email me thank you for your support. The Deadline for rating is January 26th, 2010.

Mariana Madden has submitted this video entitled Volunteering is a Simple Gift” to the Exchanges Connect 2009 Video Contest the thumbnail shows a picture of Balamani Mariana and her parents. Please sign in to rate this video

Time is precious; use your time to make a difference in the world. When I was in India, I used to go door to door with a bowl begging for food and money, but was often turned away with a grumbling stomach, not knowing when I would be able to eat another meal again.

At a very young age, my birth mother was murdered. Losing my mother was an experience no young child should face. In a strange way, I found freedom through the pain. My mother gave life to me twice, the first time when I was born, the second time when she died.

I was put in two orphanages and later adopted by an American couple, who became my parents. The opportunity of being in a family and the having a free education helped me revel myself and open doors I had shut for many years.

Because of my life experiences, I wanted to help those who have experienced similar hardships. When I was sixteen, I started volunteering with Iskash*taa Refugee Harvesting Network. For the past four years, I have helped harvest and distribute backyard produce that feeds refugee families, sell refugee artwork, teach refugees English, and present at public events. I welcome many young refugees to be part of my family, being there for them when they need someone to talk to, or just a safe place to be.

I also work with refugee and immigrant students at school as part of the Finding Voice Project, where I share my voice through writing, photography and digital stories to empower other youth to share their voices to make a difference in their communities.

Volunteering to me is an important and simple gift I can give as unconditional love to my community.