Saturday, December 31, 2011

Want to put a smiles on the faces of a refugee family?

Want to put a smiles on the faces of a refugee family?

We, Iskashitaa volunteers go to the dentist sometimes. Take your visit as an opportunity to request a tax deductible donation of toothpaste and/or toothbrushes. I have to go to the dentist often and on one occasion I mentioned sponsoring a family of refugees from Burundi. I asked him if he could find in his heart to, perhaps, donate some supplies to help this family of ten. He was more than happy to oblige and after mentioning that to a oral hygiene company they donated as well- 70 trial size toothpaste boxes and toothbrushes. The family has not had to buy toothpaste for over six months, and in a family of ten every penny saved counts. We invite you to contact your dentist today and Iskashitaa will redistribute the dental supplies. I was not expecting such bounties when I first asked, so this relationship has been unexpectedly rewarding.

Make your dentist into a philanthropist today and with permission we will thank them in our newsletters, on facebook, and perhaps even our new active blog which means free advertising for them! Contact if you have questions.

Thank you Fabienne Dupont for submitting this article.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Thank you Church Women United!

Church Women United made a great effort to support us once again through an in-gathering of Iskashitaa refugee sewing and crafts supply donations Nov. 11 which filled the entire van from head to toe! Thank you Church Women United!

FUNdraiser FUNdraiser

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iskashitaa and St. Francis Support Amani DayCare

Iskashitaa and St. Francis Support Amani DayCare

by Barbara Eiswerth

It was a joy to connect St Francis in the Foothills Outreach team to Amani International Learning and Daycare Center and the diverse refugee families they serve. For over six years, Iskashitaa has been involved with and supported the UN refugees who own and operate Amani. We supply them with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other sundry donations whenever possible. We help share resources and challenges with the many families in need. Now we have partnered with them to be the point of redistribution for Iskashitaa monthly diapers, thus introducing more refugees to Amani's multilingual services while continuing to support our global friends. Thank you St Francis in the Foothills UMC for the food and toys and especially for the sorely needed washer and dryer. Stay tuned for the continuing wish list from Amani to support once refugees and soon to be American leaders!

Iskashitaa Diaper Redistribution now at Amani

Refugees who have received diapers from Iskashitaa will now contact Amani after the 25th of each month to request diaper donations after filling out the required diaper form. Amani International Learning and Daycare Center is located at 2014 E Grant Road.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Volunteer of the Month!

Volunteer of the Month
Amanda Cox
ESL Volunteer
Amanda started volunteering with Iskashitaa's harvesting program in the summer 2010 and then began teaching ESL classes as an Honors College intern in the Fall 2010. Although her commitment with the Honors College ended in the Spring 2011, when she graduated with her degree in Anthropology, Amanda continued teaching classes through the summer and has helped Kelsey and Taylor this semester at Oasis Apartments. She has been a wonderful asset to our program, helping out with harvests, community events and also planning fun activities with the kids who live at Oasis Apartments. Iskashitaa staff would like to express their gratitude towards Amanda and thank her for all the wonderful work she has done with our program.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Refugee Voices

The ESL HCET Team's Fall Semester: Refugee Voices

The ESL HCET interns did a wonderful job this semester and showed a great commitment to their classes and especially to their students. The focus of this semester was finding ways to engage their students by using their backgrounds, experiences and culture. Many of interns found ways to incorporate their students' backgrounds in lessons, which encouraged much cultural exchange between the interns and their students. For example, a lesson Kelsey and Taylor held at Oasis Apartments discussed safety in Tucson, focusing on the need to lock doors, using crosswalks and child safety. This lesson turned into a conversation about the culture of safety in Bhutan and Nepal and how there was such a strong sense of community and everyone knew each other, and they did not have these issues like we often have in the United States.

FUNdraiser FUNdraiser

The winter class schedule will be posted on the Google calendar, so stay tuned! We are always looking for donations for our classes including white boards, white board markers, pencils, notebooks, reading materials, crayons and gently used books. Please contact Kathy Zaleski if you have any materials,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Harvesting With Liberata

Harvesting with Liberata

by Mike Parelskin, Harvesting and Food Preservation Coordinator

The month of November lived up to its reputation; we harvested pumpkins like crazy. With over 5 truckloads of pumpkins harvested from Buckelew Farm, we could practically swim in the squash surrounding the Iskashitaa office:


I would like to extend thanks to those who helped with these harvests.

On the last trip to Buckelew Farm, before the frost and the cows got to the fields of leftover pumpkins, Liberata joined me for a harvest. With her fantastic smile and our severe language barrier we headed out in the Fruit Truck towards Three Points attempting to make exchanges about ourselves, where we were from, and what we would be doing for the day. These conversations continued as we arrived at the farm. As we harvested the hefty pumpkins our communications fluctuated between verbal and what I now like to call the universal language: charades. As we acted and made grunting noises followed by a single word, we both were able to learn new words in each other's language, Liberata's being Swahili.

On the adjacent field to ours, a farmer turned on a bird cannon. For those who don't know, a bird cannon is a machine, which runs on propane, and is used to make a very loud bang to keep birds from eating a crop. Well, this constant noise of explosion launched Liberata into a charade I didn't really see coming. As one can imagine, sounds of this nature meant horrific things when they were heard in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Liberata formed an air machine gun in her arms and began to fire away. As she fired away her new charade made air-machine-gun, I made a bird with my hands. My bird began to nibble at one of the pumpkins. Liberata fired her air-machine-gun and my bird immediately flew away. 'Ahhhhhhhh' she gasped as the big smile returned and once again stretched across her face. We had done it. We had both won this game of charades. She understood there was no danger to the loud blast of the bird cannon, and I was able to peek into her past as well as be glad the she was here, safely harvesting pumpkins with Iskashitaa.

If you would like to join us for a harvest and a game of charades, contact Mike.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Emily Ann Jones

Sewing and Crafts Coordinator

Emily Ann Jones, Sewing and Crafts Coordinator

Emily Ann Jones received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Arizona and completed a study abroad program for travel photojournalism in Orvieto, Italy. Although photography is her main passion, she became interested in non-profit organizations, including humanitarian aid while reporting for her senior capstone course, Border, a student-run online publication focusing on U.S./Mexico relations. Emily has also photographed and written for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Tucson and gained an internship at the Tucson Weekly. Since then she has worked as a marketing consultant and client coordinator for a local independent portrait photography business and has also completed several freelance photography jobs. Currently, Emily also works with another non-profit organization, Planet Coexist, as the video editor and fundraising coordinator that puts on the annual Earthwalk event. With a lengthy background in arts and crafts and planning events, Emily hopes to positively impact the Iskashitaa Sewing and Crafts Circle.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Welcome Lizbeth and Emily, New Iskashitaa Staff!

Welcome Lizbeth and Emily, New Iskashitaa Staff!


Lizbeth Gonzalez

Volunteer Coordinator

Lizbeth Gonzalez, Volunteer Coordinator

Lizbeth Gonzalez has just joined the Iskashitaa staff as the new volunteer coordinator. She grew up on the Nogales, Sonora/Arizona border where she witnessed firsthand the dynamics of immigration and international relations. She studied International Studies with a focus on Public Health at the University of Arizona, working directly with Latin American women discussing their health issues in Mexico and Guatemala. She has recently returned from Tanzania after coordinating a HIV/AIDS education campaign in rural villages with the NGO, Support for International Change. Lizbeth is passionate about advocating education as a tool to decrease health issues and increase quality of life. Iskashitaa attracted Lizbeth due to our mission to use local harvests to provide nutritional foods to international refugees as well as working to create connections with refugees within the Tucson community. Lizbeth is excited to work locally with a non-profit organization helping volunteers learn about their community and help create connections with refugees.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Sewing and Craft Supply Redistribution Day: Friday, December 9 (11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)

Has moved to the Oasis Learning Center, 306 E. Navajo #1106, and will now be on the first Friday of every month!

The generous donations of volunteers and friends of Iskashitaa have led to a VERY full storage shed and we want to get those donations back out to our refugee friends! As usual, we cannot do this without your help! Please RSVP online or send an email to Emily at We need volunteers to set up, help redistribute the supplies, and clean up.

C-Cinco's 2nd Annual Renegade Bazaar: Saturday, December 10, (11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.)

657 West St. Mary's Road, Warehouse Unit C-5

Purchase craft items made by Iskashitaa Refugee Sewing and Crafts Circle and other Tucsonans! Shop local! Put your holiday spending dollars toward social justice!


Food preservation workshops with refugees and Iskashitaa:

Second and Last Friday of each Month (excluding holidays and the last Friday in December)

Pumpkin chutney, apple butter, marmalades, and more! Learn about new foods, techniques, and cross cultural traditions. Come for an hour or come for half the day! If you are interested in volunteering please contact our new harvesting coordinator, Mike Parelskin, at

Also contact Mike or check out our facebook page to join us for a harvest!

St. Francis in the Foothills Crafts' Market: Second and Fourth Sundays of the month (8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.)

Every second and fourth Sunday, our refugee-made products are for sale at St. Francis in the Foothills, 4625 E. River Road. Come, browse, and buy our refugee made crafts and local preserves! Items recycled materials sewn, crocheted, knitted, into great new rugs, bags, jewelry, baskets, and clothes.


Thank you for your support at our La Cocina FUNdraiser on November 22!

After much preparation and excitement, Iskashitaa celebrated at La Cocina on November 22nd! The event brought together staff, supporters, and friends as we shared food and music. Between a silent auction, a live auction, and sales Iskashitaa was able to raise around one thousand dollars! Thank you to everyone who attended this wonderful night!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shop Iskashitaa

Shop Iskashitaa!!!


This holiday season, help support refugee families by purchasing Iskashitaa local food products, handmade jewelry, purses, rugs, or baskets for all of your family and friends!


You can buy Iskashitaa products at Poet's Corner local arts sale this weekend! You can also purchase Iskashitaa products at local businesses throughout Tucson! We are happy to announce the addition of several new business to our growing list including Dinnerware Artspace, Deco Boutique, and Mi Casa! Mi Casa on our very own Grant Rd. is going to start carrying our Burundi and Congolese baskets with NO percentage take for their store just support for Iskashitaa!!! The bar has been raised! Thank You Mi Casa!

Click on our Google Map to find a store near you:

Making time for refugees and recycling...
Patchouli Blue will soon be carrying LOCAL jewelry made of recycled magazines and calendars by one of our Congolese friends. What we want from the community is your beautiful 2011 calendars for our future recycled art projects for UN refugees. No old calendars then how about your extra 2012 calendars - often we end up with too many, No? - This is how you can share the abundance!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy Holidays from Iskashitaa!

Happy Holidays from Iskashitaa

Hello Iskashitaa Supporters! We would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season. We have a busy month in store and we hope to see you at one of our many upcoming events.
Please join us for our Volunteer Potluck dinner this Monday from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, 4625 E. River Road. Bring your favorite vegetarian dish to share! The more food the better. Please RSVP with Beth at
General Announcements from Iskashitaa:
Afghani House Burns Down
We are sad to report that the house of an Afghani refugee family has burned down. If you are interested in helping or donating items, please contact Lizbeth, our new volunteer coordinator.
Chickens too!
Do you have a hen that is over the hill? Did you know that in addition to local fruits and vegetables, Iskashitaa also takes donations of live chickens? Contact us to donate!
Iskashitaa Office Hours
We would like to let you know that the Iskashitaa office will be closed for the holidays.
Iskashitaa Office Hours:
Mon-Fri 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Please call ahead to schedule an appointment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our New Truck!

Iskashitaa keeps on TRUCKIN' but now we actually have a truck for harvesting and transporting sewing and crafts donations, thanks to Laura Aldag and Curt Reinbold's generosity! This is a dream come true for Iskashitaa's director, who is finally understanding the old age adage "If you do not ask, people do not know that you need." Many, many thanks, Laura and Curt! Enjoy your newly purchased vehicle as we reap the benefits of the donation of your former truck - recycling at its best!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011





Now on sale! Iskashitaa Apple Butter!
Ingredients: apples, water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, love.

All of our tasty food products make great stocking stuffers or hostess gifts!

Pick some up today at Tu Cocina at Old Town Artisans!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Help Us Re-launch Our Swimming Program
As you may have read in the local news, a four-year-old refugee boy residing in a Tucson apartment complex drowned in the apartment's closed swimming pool on July 31st, 2011. Iskashitaa staff mourned with the family as they spread his cremains and vowed to work to find inspiration in this tragedy. In January of 2012 Iskashitaa will be restarting the pool safety and swimming lessons for refugees. We are hard at work finding funding and volunteers as the date nears. If you know of a local business that would be interested in supporting this life saving programming or if you would like to volunteer please contact Beth at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breaking Down Stereotypes
by Taylor Corcoran, Iskashitaa HCET Intern

Before moving here, most of the individuals Iskashitaa works with likely had preconceived notions of what life in America was like. I had always assumed that my own stereotypes about refugees would factor in to how I interact with individuals during harvests and ESL classes, but I had never stopped to consider what role their ideas about us may play in the acculturation process. When I analyze my stereotypes pertaining to refugees, I realize that my strongest idea is that the majority of refugees come from impoverished, underdeveloped nations with poor systems of education. I am glad that, even within the first month of interning with Iskashitaa, this stereotype has begun to crumble. I have harvested with individuals who ran their own businesses in their former lives, spoken with families who had everything in their home country and lost it all when they moved here, and shared the common experience of being human with those whose language and culture differ from my own.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Volunteer of the Month: Georgia Andersen
Georgia Andersen has been quilting up a storm for Iskashitaa! Her beautiful quilts will be featured in our auction at La Cocina on November 22. Georgia has personally cleaned out her craft closet and donated sewing and quilting supplies for refugees to use. She has also encouraged friends to do the same. In addition, Georgia has helped during Sewing and Crafts Supplies Redistribution days to assist refugees who are receiving the gifts of her generosity. Thank you for all you do, Georgia!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Adventures in Harvesting with Mike Parelskin, Harvesting and Food Preservation Coordinator

With my cup of coffee drained, I hooked up the trailer to my bicycle, wheeled my tiny wagon train through the front door and headed to work. With a hot lead on a pomegranate tree from Barbara, permission granted by the owner, and a picker in tow, I was ready to harvest!

I pedaled northeast navigating across town and eventually made my way to the wonderful Winterhaven neighborhood, where I found the tree shimmering in a light breeze. It was in the middle of a patch of grass growing so green I had to squint to be sure I wasn't having hallucinations of a desert oasis. Softball-sized fruits glowing bright red, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, dangled delicately looking delicious as leaned my bicycle carefully against a fencepost.

I attacked the tree with vigor akin to a kitten and efficiency similar to that of a kindergartener working on a 1,000-piece puzzle. The branches were sharp and every other fruit was either just far enough away that I needed the picker, or just close enough that I had to drop the picker and wrangle the fruit off the branch by hand. Alright, I'm new to this I admit. Next I decided to take a methodical approach; I worked my way around the tree, pulling off a gaggle of pomegranates within arm's reach, and then switched to the picker for the more elusive ones. Then I crawled underneath the low branches into the shade and picked the hard-to-see fruit from the inside out. After a few rounds of this and a few hours, I had harvested close to 100 lbs of big, juicy, sweet pomegranates!

The only problem: my bike trailer's weight limit is 75 lbs. Well, I thought, I have to get this fruit to the office somehow. I loaded my trailer to the brim, fastened my helmet securely, and cautiously eased my bicycle into the street. It felt very heavy. Kerplunk! My bicycle and trailer tipped over and the pomegranates rolled every which way like Iskashitaa volunteers at an apple harvest. A few choice words escaped like the fruit from my trailer. I pushed my bike back up with a considerable effort, moved it to the fencepost to pick up the scattered pomegranates and reloaded it for a second try. This time I successfully worked my way up to speed and slowly made it back to the office.

Limes & Pomegranates
Local Limes & Pomegranates

If you would like to join me for an exciting harvest like this one, by bike or car, let me know! Email me at

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Iskashitaa & Tucson Meet Yourself
Tucson Meet Yourself

What a weekend! Thousands of people traveled to Tucson Meet Yourself during the weekend of the 14th and Iskashitaa was proud to be part of the excitement. Ten refugees worked as artisans exhibiting their crafts and showing visitors their beautiful work. We had basket weavers, loom weavers, knitters, and a bead maker demonstrating with us as Iskashitaa staff helped taught visitors about our work. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to support our work and visit with us. We had a wonderful time!

"Wasn't it fabulous? I loved all your artists and your demonstrations at this year's Tucson Meet Yourself. Your group was engaging and beautifully demonstrated your living traditions. I could have sat and watched Ismail for hours. I liked the way Beth set up the tables and the chairs so the group was more accessible to the visitors. Thank you all for your involvement and for the joyful participation of your artists. I hope they made a lot of money in the store! I hope we work together again, soon!" - Monica

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giffords Staffer Speaks About Volunteering with Refugees

Pam Simon, a community outreach representative of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and longtime friend of Iskashitaa, gave a speech at the 2011 Arizona Refugee Resettlement Conference on September 8th. Her speech was extremely dynamic and eloquent, speaking to the challenge many refugees face when adjusting to life in a new country, how the Tucson community can assist in this adjustment and finally, how much cultural exchange, dialogue and a realization of shared experiences can happen when volunteers and refugees work together.

Pam mentored a family from Africa and shared how powerful meeting with a family can be. "I take very little credit but a friend of mine became that one person that made a difference in the life of our African family."

She helped them get library cards, make trips to the food bank, sign up for boys and girls club, get a physical for soccer, and figure out the bus routes to adult education classes. A year and a half later, the boys all speak excellent English and are getting good grades. One boy is looking forward to college and being able to help support the family. They have dreams that could never even been considered in a refugee camp.

"Knowing this family has been a gift in my life and I share this story with neighbors, friends and relatives. To be a volunteer is a small investment of time with incredible rewards on both sides."

She also spoke to the ways that the community can get involved into the lives of refugees, whether it is a big commitment or small. "My call to action is that we must share the story of the refugee. Whether it is a church, civic group or business we need to share the joy of being involved with these amazing people who share our communities. Maybe all someone needs to be a volunteer is someone else saying, 'I will go with you.'"

Pam's words inspired all of us at Iskashitaa to keep doing what we love, which is working with refugees, listening to their stories, and learning from them. We encourage you to get involved with us to continue the collaboration and exchange. Come harvest and learn Nepali from Bhutanese refugees, cook recipes from Iraq, learn how to basket weave the Burundian way, or become a family mentor and visit with a family each week. Contact the volunteer coordinator if you are interested in learning more about our opportunities.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All Day! November 22: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
La Cocina Restaurant in Tucson, Arizona

Did you tell a friend? Are you bringing a refugee? Stop in and Say HELLO! This is our biggest event of the year and we can't do it without your support!

Photo by Jodi B. Darling

Monday, November 21, 2011


All Day! November 22: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
La Cocina Restaurant in Tucson, Arizona

Photo by Jodi B. Darling

Door Prizes, Great Food, Beautiful performances, All of your Iskashitaa and Refugee friends!!

See you there!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ideas for Pomegranate



Spice up your pasta salad or spinach salad!

They make a dynamite addition to guacamole.

We use them in salads with smoked trout.

Juice and add to smoothies, freeze in ice cube trays.

Use them in pesto and (which also freezes well in ice cube trays)!

Try them on vanilla ice cream or with yogurt and milk.

Cook up a quick compote for pancakes and waffles or with ham, pork chops, or lamb.

Add them to pumpkin muffins in the fall.

They work well in couscous salad, with arugula, pine nuts and crumbled feta.

Use a citrus-y dressing.

Oh, and you can put them in cottage cheese, too.

Make wonderful Chile Relleno with pomegranate seeds.

Or top slices of baguette with slices of brie. Broil until starting to melt (1-2 min) and then top with the pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate and green apple salad: pomegranate seeds, shredded green apple, and toasted slivered almonds, over crisp iceberg lettuce with a lemon, grainy mustard, honey, and olive oil dressing.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friday Harvests


Annie & Tucker

Have you met Tucker and Annie yet? They are working the gardens and trees of Tucson each Friday with volunteers and refugees. In October they have picked limes and pomegranates, explored new types of spinach, and taught us all a bit about Jerusalem artichokes. They even harvested amaranth:


They are learning about Iskashitaa as they plan their own harvests and enjoy the outdoors. Don't miss out on their fun trips from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. each Friday morning!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

laLa Cocina FUNdraiser:
All Day! November 22: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Photo by Jodi B. Darling

Come see the beauty of UNHCR and Iskashitaa's work. Join us at the beautiful La Cocina restaurant at Old Town Artisans (201 N Court Ave) on November 22 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., refugees will demonstrate their crafts and refugee-made crafts will be available to purchase. From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., we will feature refugee entertainment including dancing and singing, as well as a silent and live auction.

FUNdraiserEnjoy a dish from the globally inspired locally conscious dinner menu or a drink from the affordable yet eclectic wine and beer selection. During the event, La Cocina will donate ten percent of all food and drink profits to Iskashitaa! Try the Iskashitaa-inspired dessert made from locally harvested apples and pears from Brown's Orchard.

We will also be collecting canned goods for the Community Food Bank. This is a time of great need leading up to the holiday season. Please clean out your pantry and help us spread our reach further. Learn more about the work of the Community Food Bank by stopping by their information table.

Help us make this night a success! Donate items for our auction! Do you own a business? Show your support for Iskashitaa by donating your services or products. Don't own a business? Then ask your friends! All donations are tax deductible. Contact us to make a donation. This Thanksgiving season, most of us have all that we truly need. Let's work together to support an organization helping new Tucsonans who have survived so much to get here, and now need our friendship and gifts of time and talent.

See you there!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Welcome Calean!

We are excited to welcome Calean Frye to the Iskashitaa Staff this month! He has just finished his first semester at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona and has been working with Iskashitaa through Eller for nearly five months. His main task during these past months were to get refugee made products into local retail stores.

This was a success for Iskashitaa as refugee products are now sold in CRIZMAC and Nurturing Nature, and we are continuing to build partnerships with other local boutiques. He will be helping throughout this summer and hopes to continue supporting Iskashitaa throughout college.

Iskashitaa is excited to work with such wonderful and committed individuals as Calean! If you know of someone who is looking for a part or full time position and has the energy and initiative to work in a non-profit with refugees, please contact us!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A night of FUNdraising

"What a night! As I danced in the night air to a 9-part Congolese band, I felt lucky to have been invited to La Cocina for dinner.

The food was amazing. I enjoyed the best chai tea I've ever had, an eggplant sandwich, and a wonderful bowl of curry. (I might have even ventured back for some soup and a cocktail!) As I ate, I chatted with a few Nepali friends and even won a quilt in the silent auction.

AND when I thought of the money I had spent, I felt good to know that proceeds from my food frenzy and my warm quilt would go to a non-profit that I love."

Did you miss out on the FUNdraiser at La Cocina this month? Don't despair! Iskashitaa will be be celebrating with our friends and supporters at La Cocina on September 27th! Mark the date and check our website for more information!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Perspectives

My name is Danny Mayasich, and this was my fourth semester working with Iskashitaa's HCET team. I continue to grow and learn the more I work with the amazing people who run this organization. From 4-6pm Monday and Wednesday, another University of Arizona undergrad, Amanda, and I taught English as a Second Language to a community of Nepalese refugees at the apartments at 29th st and Alvernon. Our students ranged from grandmothers to grandchildren, fluent English speakers to people who spoke no English at all. It was a different mix every class, and it was a blast.

Our overall goals for the year in the classroom were to aid them in getting around Tucson, expose them to common items and aspects of American life, and most importantly make their transition to this country a bit easier. Our curriculum included a broad range of activities, including board games, card games, puzzles, lectures, writing exercises, oral exercises, trips to the library, and getting out and involved in Tucson. That brings me to the next area of work that Iskashitaa does besides ESL. When we weren’t in the classroom, us teachers were helping out with harvests around Tucson (which ranged from someone’s backyard with a couple trees to a 100+ acre pumpkin farm), culling fruit, making preserves, and juicing. We also spent time with crafts, sewing, and helping out at fairs and festivals where refugees had the opportunity to get out in the community and sell their goods.

Some refugees come here with nothing, and it can be very hard for them to find a job - especially in the current economy. Iskashitaa offers these wonderful people the chance to work with other members of the community and use their skills to get them some.

I love everything about the work that Iskashitaa does, and I have become a much better person because of it. It’s way too easy to take for granted the multitude of blessings I have as a Caucasian American in an upper-middle class family. Mon, Sabitra, Ratna, Sabeka, Samna, Ghana, Bhim, Him, Menuka, Jarna, Arjun, Don, Rogita, and Kirti have given me a new perspective on life, and they have shown me through their smiles and their actions what the true meaning of happiness is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Goodbye HCET

After two semesters of working with HCET interns to teach English, we are proud to be saying goodbye to some strong teachers and welcoming 5 new interns for the fall semester. Thank you to our HCET interns for all of their hard work!

To learn more about what the interns learned this semester, please take a look at their final presentation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Teacher's Corner

Although Iskashitaa is best known for produce redistribution and sewing programs, there is a lot of wonderful work going on in the English Classes as well! Below are a few entries from the English teaching Intern's weekly blog.

In the classes at Las Casitas, Danny and I went over a sizing lesson on Monday that seemed to be very beneficial. Though we had no students the week after Spring Break, there now seems to be a normal crowd of about 5-6 students. On Wednesday of last week, we made our first trip to the library on 22nd street with four students. We spent the entire time filling out applications for library cards and explaining how the library works. The librarians were extremely helpful and found all kinds of books for us. They were even nice enough to give us two copies of the New Oxford Picture Dictionary and forms written in Nepali. We checked out a couple books and simultaneously caused confusion by not checking out the dictionaries that were gifts.

The Oasis Classes ran an extra curricular adventure on Saturday. 5 students (Camille and Amanda included) from Camp Wildcat went to Oasis Apartments and rounded up about 15 kids to go to the park and play. We played basketball, soccer, and frisbee. There was also much hula hooping and screaming "take my picture-- take my picture!" (I brought a camera and didn't realize how photogenic these kids were going to be! It was nuts!) After more than 2 hours and lots of water breaks, we headed back to the apartments where more pictures were taken. All the kids were awesome, but one boy in particular was especially adorable. I think he was the youngest-- maybe 5 or 6 years old. But he made the cutest noises, wanted to carry the hula hoops and made us let him hold onto a tree and watch him jump down from it without blinking. It was awesome. Overall, I think everyone had a great time.

To learn more about what Iskashitaa's Honors Civic Engagement Team is doing, check out their weekly blog. Please contact Kathy if you are interested in volunteering with English classes or donating children's books and teaching manuals.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sewing Needs

Iskashitaa Refugee Sewing and Crafts Circle needs your help! We work with refugee women, men, and children from about 12 countries who receive donated sewing machines, looms, and supplies to make craft items for home use and for sale at events throughout Tucson and a couple of locally owned stores (Nurturing Nature and for a limited time, Toque de Pasion).

What we need:

1. Sewing and Crafts classes weekly teachers
2. Sewing and Crafts classes substitute teachers
3. Quality control/ color selection experts to meet with crafters to improve product lines (once or repeatedly)
4. Donations of items on our wish list
5. Event volunteers for sales days at community events (one time commitment up to several times/month)

More information can be found at: