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.