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 natalie.sue.brown@gmail.com.

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!