Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Intern of the Month - November 2012

Max Efrein, a Broadcast Journalism and History Major from the University of Arizona, began his internship with Iskashitaa Refugee Network on August 2012. He is working with Iskashitaa staff, Girls Making Media, volunteers and refugees to develop a cookbook that highlights refugee recipes and cultural traditions. Max has used his journalistic skills to proactively collected recipes while creating relationships with refugees, so much so that he has been invited to refugees' homes to share delicious meals that will be featured in Iskashitaa's cookbook. Max is always ready to lend a helping hand and has been a great asset to Iskashitaa.

Thank you Max for all your hard work!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recipe of the Month

Pumpkin Shoots & Leaves Curry
By Indra Chauwan
6 one foot long pumpkin shoots with leaves attached                  
2 medium sized hot peppers                                   
½ tomato chopped                                       
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 onion sliced                     
dash of turmeric for color and smell (optional)
1 garlic clove finely chopped                        
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1)     Strip the pumpkin shoots of all the leaves and stems, keeping the younger, softer leaves for the dish and tossing the larger, older leaves in the trash.
2)     Peel the stringy skin off of the pumpkin shoots and cut into bite size pieces.
3)     Wash the leaves and shoot pieces in strainer.
4)     Heat the vegetable oil on high in a medium sized sauce pan.
5)     Lower to medium heat and sauté onions and peppers until lightly brown.
6)     Add the pumpkin shoots and leaves and continue sautéing.
7)     Then mix in the garlic and tomato, add a little water, turn heat to high, and cover pan for about 3 minutes.
8)     Uncover the pan, add the salt and the dash of turmeric, and stir frequently. It is also good to mash the chunks of tomato in the pan with the back of a spoon to release the juice.
9)     Add a little more water to avoid drying out the vegetables and then cook until most of water is reduced.
10)  Serve over rice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Harvesting to Our Hearts Content at the Conservation Farm in Patagonia

With hunger in our eyes, eight refugees, Joanne Finch, and myself carpooled our way down to Patagonia, Arizona on September 14th to do some harvesting.

Patagonia, a small town famous for its beautiful scenario and 300 plus species of birds that nest or pass through the area during migration seasons, is also the location in which lies a 160-acre conservation farm[1].  

Native Seeds/ SEARCH, a major regional seed bank based in Tucson, Arizona, operates this farm along with The Nature Conservancy. These organizations are known for not only perpetuating the existence, growth, and consumption of native fruits and vegetables, but they are also known for their charitable services.

Without a moments thought, we decided to take advantage of one of these services. By putting a few hours of leisurely work in on the farm, we were compensated with 1/3 of the products we picked. With everything on the farm being 100% organic, we were treated with some of natures finest. The main courses consisted of cowpeas, sunflower seeds, and millet -- all of which never having been harvested by Iskashitaa before--, but that wasn't all we got. Wishing for the refugees to get as much out of the experience as possible, we toured various parts of the farm, gathering bags full of wild tomatoes, hot peppers and even pumpkin shoots. You heard me, pumpkin shoots. With a little ingenuity, one can cook both the leaves and the stock of these shoots to create a delicious vegetable dish.

The eight refugees, coming from Bhutan, Somalia, Cameroon, and Someplace Else, were all experienced farmers and plowed through the fields until we compiled large trashcans full of tasty morsels.
As my first experience interning with Iskashitaa, It was truly heart warming to see the smiles on the faces of the refugees as they plugged away at a task they were so familiar with.

"Farm was great!" said Maryann, a woman from Somalia. "I love those tomatoes we picked," said Indra Chauwan, a woman from Bhutan.  
We all, including Joanne and I, went home with bunches of food so raw and indigenous that I don't even know how to cook much of it. The refugees on the other hand seemed to know exactly how they were going to use their portion of the spoils, and in the end, that's all that really matters.  

By Max Efrein, Iskashitaa Cookbook Intern

[1] "Conservation Farm", Native Seeds/SEARCH, Native Seeds/SEARCH 2011,

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Grace Green

Intern Spotlight
Grace Green
Iskashitaa would like to welcome Grace Green to the Iskahshitaa Team. Grace was picked to pursue the Paul Lindsay Internship through the College of Education this Fall 2012. She will be working directly in our ESL program supervising the Honor's Civic Engagement Teams while developing instructional material to engage and empower refugees.

Grace received her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University Bloomington in 2011.  As an undergraduate she volunteered as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor in public schools, in addition to interning for political campaigns, a congressional district office, and state environmental protection agency.  After graduating, Grace worked for Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, where she conducted environmental education, and as an ESL Instructional Assistant at a junior-senior high school.  Grace is currently a graduate student in the University of Arizona's Teach Arizona Master of Education program, and an intern at Doolen Middle School.  She is excited to build relationships within Iskashitaa and serve the Tucson refugee community. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prickly Preparation

On Friday, Sept 28th Iskashitaa was joined by an amazing group of volunteers from The University of Arizona. With the help of these Public Health graduate students and a few United Nations refugees, we created scrumptious loquat jams and prickly pear pickled garlic (what a tongue twister!). Unfamiliar with loquats? Now is your chance to purchase a product and experience the true delight of this local fruit.          

Despite a "prickly" hiccup of a water-main break, everyone powered through with some bottled water and made the day a success. We would like to extend a particular thank you to our volunteers for their patience and enthusiasm. Our newest interns, Max and Kristin joined us at this workshop to begin their creation of an Iskashitaa cookbook highlighting some of our best recipes as well as refugee stories. Look for our cookbook soon!     

Interested in joining us on the next food workshop? Check out our website at and sign up or join our food workshop mailing list: to stay in the know! Interested in buying a product? Come to Tucson CSA or send us an email.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Mission Continues

Iskashitaa Reaches Out to Veterans
The Mission Continues
Iskashitaa Refugee Network is excited about our partnership with the Mission Continues. We are able to host up to three post-9/11 veterans who will work half-time for six months and earn a living stipend of approximately $900/ month. Each Mission Continues Fellow will work with their choice of the following programs: Harvesting, Sewing and Crafts, and Marketing.  At the culmination of their service with Iskashitaa, each Fellow will lead a service project that unites veterans and the community. We are eager to interview veterans who are interested in this opportunity for experience working within the non-profit sector in Tucson.

On October 20, Iskashitaa will participate in Nam Jam, a family friendly music festival at Reid Park hosted by Vietnam-era veterans. Steve Kreamer, an event organizer, told Iskashitaa that he and his colleagues wish to assist post-9/11 veterans as they navigate the transition back to civilian life and the services available to them upon their return. It is Iskashitaa's desire to offer meaningful, life-changing employment to veterans and hope that Nam Jam will be a venue to make connections to veterans looking for work.

If you know a veteran who has served since September 11, 2001 and is looking for work in Tucson, please ask her or him to contact Natalie Brown at

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Iskashitaa's New Food Preservation Coordinator, Kate Faschan

Iskashitaa's New Food Preservation Coordinator,
Kate Faschan
Iskashitaa warmly welcomes Kate Faschan as the new Food Preservation Coordinator. Kate will be working along-side refugees and volunteers using her expertise to manage Iskashitaa's food preservation workshops. Want to get to know her? Here's her Bio!

Kate Faschan arrived in Tucson in August 2012 as Master of Public Health candidate and a Peace Corps Fellow attending the University of Arizona.  Kate served as an HIV/AIDS educator in Swaziland, Africa. There she worked with orphan and vulnerable children as well as under-privileged adults to provide health education as well as life and business skills to those struggling populations.  Her service in Africa made her aware of the need for people to have a chance to develop themselves. She offered this opportunity to Swazi's by facilitating experiential education in fields such as agriculture and food preparation, language skills, arts and craft skills, nutrition, exercise, and personal empowerment. Kate was thrilled have found Ishkashitaa because Iskashitaa's mission mirrors her Peace Corps efforts.  She looks forward to continuing community development with Ishkashitaa.

The next Food Preservation Workshop is October 26th! Email Kate to let her know you are coming!

You may contact Kate at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ESL Classes in Fall

Honor's Civic Engagement Interns commence ESL Classes
New ESL Classes catered towards refugee needs are underway. The University of Arizona Honor's Civic Engagement Interns started ESL Classes the last week of September teaching students greetings, how to process forms and day-to-day English terms. These highly motivated teachers will continue to give classes and assist refugees in the acculturation process through introducing material that is based on real life-skills in the United States and 'real' material, like coupons, newspaper advertisements, bills, forms and what the students want to learn. Classes also serve to introduce refugees to Iskashitaa's programs: harvesting, diaper donations, food redistribution, food preservation workshops and our Sewing and Crafts Circle.
Know of anyone that can benefit from these classes? We are enrolling new students everyday! Contact Lizbeth at for enrollment information.

Class Schedule:

-Tuesdays from 6:00 - 7:30pm at Desert Tree Apartments
Teachers: Janine Clark and Alexis Lozcano

-Thursdays from 6:30 - 8:00pm at Oasis Apartments
Teachers: Rachel Wehr and Alyssa Caraway     

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NPR story

The Iskashitaa Harvesting Project
Story by Gisela Telis

Photo: Gisela Telis
Marian Ahmed harvests tomatoes with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network. Ahmed is a refugee from Somalia who arrived in the U.S. more than eight years ago.

Download as MP3

When Barbara Eiswerth came back from Africa, all she saw was waste. Walking the streets of Tucson, she found sidewalks littered with oranges, figs and pomegranates-the unharvested yield of people's backyard trees.
Having worked as a researcher in the impoverished villages of Malawi and witnessed hunger firsthand, Eiswerth couldn't stand by and watch the food go unclaimed.

Photo: Gisela Telis
Scientist Barbara Eiswerth founded the Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network in 2003, after graduate fieldwork in Malawi made her acutely aware of how much food is wasted in the U.S.

"As an environmental scientist, the road to sustainability is using what we have right here," she says. "We can do the right thing, which is not let food go to waste." So Eiswerth started doing something she'd trained to do in graduate school: making maps.

With help from teens she recruited through a local high school, she scouted for friendly homeowners and productive fruit trees or garden plots. Then she mapped the unwanted bounty.
That year, her team redistributed the harvest from nearly 200 homes to local soup kitchens.

Then, in 2003, Eiswerth met refugees from Somalia who had just arrived in Tucson, and was struck by the challenges they faced. Like refugees elsewhere in the country, Southern Arizona's refugees encountered language and cultural barriers, few job opportunities and limited resources to pay bills or support their families. Many had left family members and friends behind, and found themselves struggling to adjust to a strange land with little support.

Eiswerth wondered: what if the harvesting could help them? What if feeding people could create community ties too? And she decided to invite refugees into the gleaning.

Photo : Gisela Telis
 Bhakta Khadka, a refugee from Bhutan, shares his story with other refugees in the Iskashitaa Refugee Network office.

Since then, the Iskashitaa Refugee Network has touched the lives of thousands of refugees, who volunteer with the network to glean and cook the city's surplus food together. In the process, they develop some of the language and job skills they'll need to build new lives.

The refugees also form new cross-cultural friendships that help ease the loss of leaving their homelands. Iraqi refugee Faeza Hililian says she found a sense of community and belonging in Iskashitaa that made Tucson finally start to feel like home.

Photo: Gisela Telis
Iraqi refugee Faeza Hililian prepares a dessert made from sour orange peels during an Iskashitaa gathering.

"We get together and cook and have good times, and I feel like I'm giving back to the community and that's a good thing," Hililian says in Arabic. "I wish that people will help and support this organization, because it helps refugees so much."

Almost ten years after its founding, Iskashitaa has grown beyond Eiswerth's dreams. Over its lifetime, the network has gathered about 400,000 pounds of produce and fed thousands with its harvests. It has also grown to include English and swimming classes for refugees, cooking classes for the Tucson community, sewing and craft circles and even catalog sales of the goods Iskashitaa refugees make.

But Iskashitaa's-and Eiswerth's-mission is still simple: to fight injustice and make peace through food.

"How we reach world peace is through communication, through cross-cultural experiences, and that's where the common denominator of food comes in," Eiswerth says. "It's a journey for each of us to learn from each other."

This piece was produced in collaboration with the NPR program State of the Re:Union. Learn more about the Iskashitaa Refugee Network and other local stories by tuning in to the Tucson episode of State of the Re:Union at 3 p.m. on October 7, 2012, on NPR 89.1.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tucson Meet Yourself

Come Celebrate Cultural Diversity in our very own town - October 12-14th!

Iskashitaa will be well represented at this year's Tucson Meet Yourself Festival - crafters, food demonstrations, retail sales of our locally-gleaned and produced specialty items. Come join us downtown, October 12 -14!
Ten refugee crafters will serve as tradition bearers, showcasing their talents and cultures both Saturday and Sunday, from 11am to 5pm, in the Pima County Courthouse Courtyard. Stop by to learn more about crafts from Bhutan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Iraq. Their items will be sold in the Tucson Meet Yourself Store, located nearby.

The Heritage Kitchen, on Jacome Plaza between the Main Library and low-rider exhibits, will also feature refugee talent. Refugee cooks, including Afghani, Bhutanese, Congolese, Eritrean, Iraqi and Russian women, will demonstrate dishes taught to them by their mothers and grandmothers. Samples and recipes will be shared, allowing everyone a taste of these traditional foods. With a table anchoring a corner of the "Heritage Food Pavilion", Iskashitaa will also be well-positioned to retail our newly expanded line of specialty products, among them hot lime pomegranate marmalade, hot chile mango sauce, mesquite syrup and garlic in olive oil.

People and partnerships are at the center of all these Iskashitaa activities. Priscilla Mendenhall, Iskashitaa board member and principal of Crossings Kitchen with which Iskashitaa is collaborating to create a culinary space for refugee and immigrant women and families, is coordinator of the heritage food demonstrations. Santa Rita high school volunteers from the Culinary Program of the Joint Technical Education District (JTED), a recent partner organization, as well as University of Arizona student volunteers and interns, will be on hand to answer questions.

Volunteers are still needed to assist with Iskashitaa's participation at Tucson Meet Yourself. If you would like to help, please contact Natalie at

Monday, October 1, 2012

Upcoming Events for October and November

Upcoming Events

Sewing and Craft Supply Redistribution Day: Saturday, October 6th (11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.)
Oasis Learning Center, 306 E. Navajo #1106!
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.

Tucson CSA: October 2nd, 10th, 16th, 24th, 30th. (4:00pm-7:00pm)
Come purchase Iskashitaa Products made with locally harvested delights or help us sell at the Tucson CSA at the Historic Y, 738 North 5th Avenue. New products include: Fiesta Salsa, Grapefruit Honey Marmalade, Loquat Dessert Sauce, Mesquite Pods, Orange Grapefruit Marmalade Pecan Dressing, Orange Marmalade , Parsi Ko Bien - Nepali Spice Rub, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Stewed Tomatoes, Green grocery bags and Baskets. Contact Lori Coletta at for more information.

NPR Tucson, State of the Re:Union: Sunday,  October 7th (3:00pm) on NPR 89.1
Listen to the Tucson episode of Stare of the Re:Union that features Iskashitaa Refugee Network.

Refugee 101 Information Night:  Thursday, October 11th (6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.)
Come learn more about refugee life, communicating in different languages, and refugee work. Want to learn what Iskashitaa Refugee Network does in the community? Want to become a volunteer? Anyone who wants information can attend and attendance does not commit you to serve. The training is at St. Francis in the Foothills, 4625 E. River Rd. Room 30/31. Please RSVP to

 Short Fall  Harvests: Fridays or when you have time
Harvesting local fruit and vegetables with Iskashitaa Refugee Network!  You would be working alongside refugees picking fruit in backyards or local farms. Currently we are harvesting figs, prickly pear, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, carob, oranges, squash, grapefruit, chilies, calamondins, pomegranates and more. You will definitely have a chance to make new friends from interesting cultures, learn about eating local in Tucson and try some of these delicious fruits of the desert!
Check our Facebook page and our website for more details, or email for more information.  

Tucson Meet Yourself: Friday and Saturday, October  12-13th (11:00am - 10:00pm)  and Sunday, October 14th (11:00am - 6:00pm)
Learn about cultural diversity in Tucson. Eat great food. Watch cultural demonstrations during this Tucsonan festival. This is a free event with multiple opportunities to support local vendors and buy Iskashitaa’s baskets, food products and crafts. Bring the entire family. Want to volunteer? Contact Natalie Brown at

NamJam: Saturday, October 20th  (9:00am - 7:00pm)
This family friendly music festival will be held at Reid Park for a $5.00 donation admission. Iskashitaa will be represented to increase awareness of our Mission Continues intern opportunities.  

United Nations Day Iskashitaa Breakfast: Wednesday, October 24th (7:00am - 8:00am)
Iskashtiaa Refugee Network invites you to join us for a free breakfast to learn more about our programs and services and ways that you can help support our work. Please start United Nations Day with Iskashitaa Refugee Network, an organization that creates opportunities for United Nations refugees in Tucson year round.  A light breakfast will be served as you learn more about Iskashitaa through the eyes of refugees, board members, and staff.  This event will take place at First Christian Church, located at 740 E. Speedway, from 7am to 8am.  We promise to get you to work on time!  There is no cost for this event, but donations will be requested.
Please RSVP to Natalie Brown at or 928-503-7496.

  Food preservation workshops with refugees and Iskashitaa: Friday, October 26th (12:00 - 5:00pm)
Citrus juice, organic chutney, local marmalades, Nepalese pickled veggies, & more!
Learn about new foods, techniques, and cross cultural traditions.  Come for an hour come for half the day! If you are interested in volunteering please email and visit the website for more information: You can also sign up to attend at our website under our Calendar! Please RSVP in advance.

Iskashitaa’s Annual Pumpkin Harvests at Buckelew Farms: November 1st and November 3rd (7:00am-1:00pm)
Ready to harvest pumpkins during our beautiful Arizona Fall weather? Volunteers along-side United Nations Refugees with harvest and load 18 wheelers for the Community Food Bank and Iskashitaa Refugee Network that will feel tens of people. We will harvest pumpkin flowers, leaves/greens, squash, pumpkins and seeds. Participate in our race for walking the farthest and fastest with a pumpkin on your head and win an awesome Iskashitaa prize! This volunteer opportunity is great for groups, families or individuals. Register online at or contact Lizbeth at  or call 520-331-6585.

Annual Green Living Fair: Saturday, November 3rd (10:00am – 2:00pm)
Mark your calendars! Want to become “green” and live a more sustainable lifestyle? This is the event for you. Iskashitaa along with 30 other agencies, groups and businesses will showcase during this event with products and information. Want to help Iskashitaa at our table? Contact

*Interested in volunteering in Iskashitaa’s various programs? Contact Lizbeth Gonzalez, our Volunteer Coordinator at or call 520-331-6585