Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Joy of Cooking.... COntinued from December's Newsletter

...... "Whenever a friend goes to Africa or is coming to America to visit, I ask them to bring me this stuff," he followed up with. This is undoubtedly one of the best gifts a friend can give, a piece of home.

After nearly an hour of carefree cooking, the much-anticipated dish was nearly complete. All that was now needed was the taste test. "Stick out your hand," Ndikum said. Being the adventurous type, I cooperated and before I knew it, egusi soup was splattered on my palm. "This is how we do in Africa," said Ndikum, as I was instructed to lick it off my hand. The savory base from the cow meat and oil livened my taste buds, while the infused creamy tomato smoothed everything out; I couldn't wait to dig in.  

Just as we sat down and began to pig out, a knock came from the door. Mustafa, a Cameroonian man who lives in the same apartment complex as Armyao, came in and immediately began talking about his car problems that day. "It sucked man, I was so pissed," he said. To cheer him up, we offered him some of the egusi soup and he politely declined. "Mustafa, you must try this," I said, "it is delicious!". "No it is alright, I have been trying that for my entire life," he cleverly stated. This interaction only reinforced my understanding of how ingrained this dish was to the West African culture.

I have always cherished the rewarding nature of cooking; but cooking alongside refugees, asylees, and the like, has expanded this juvenile feeling into something that cannot simply be stated through words in order to fully convey, but instead must be directly experienced. That is, a sense of worldly connection.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Top 3 Reasons to Eat Local Foods

 With all those food choices out there, it is hard to choose the right ones. So Iskashitaa would like the chance to help you make those tough decisions by reminding you why it is important to eat locally:
  • Local produce has more time to ripen. Because local foods don't have to travel long distances, they don't have to be sturdy, solid and harvested too soon like their counterparts. That means we catch those fresh fruits as they fall from the trees and create something delicious for you.
  • It keeps open spaces! If you buy locally, you are encouraging and supporting farmers with open spaces and giving them the means to stay in business. This keeps nature present and discourages industrialization.
  • You are in touch with the seasons. When you buy locally, you are buying based on the harvest calendar. These will not only keep you in touch with the seasons, but can be a great knowledge base for those of you who are aspiring growers!
If these reasons weren't enough to tempt you to buy local, then maybe some of our products will. Currently available are Cactus Pickled Garlic, Garlic Olive Oil, Prickly Pear Syrup, Fiesta Salsa, Cinnamon Loquat Jam, Prickly Pear Jelly, and many more! All ingredients are harvested and prepared locally. They are available for purchase at:
  • Creative Juice located at 6530 Tanque Verde, Suite 160. Operational hours vary, visit for details.
  • Mi Casa located at 3248 East Grant Road with operation hours Mon- Sat 930am to 5pm.
For more information or to contact us through email to order products to

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pictures from Tucson Meet Yourself 2012

United Nations Refugees from all over the world demonstrated their traditional sewing and crafts skills to the public during the annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folk Festival.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Iskashitaa Welcomes New Staff Member, Kristen Vellinger

Kristen Vellinger developed a passion for refugee rights when working on the Save Darfur campaign in high school. Time living with a number of war torn communities in Central America made her realize the power of community leadership in development, and furthered her desire to work with the refugee community. In college, she worked to promote the empowerment of local communities through international investing and microenterprise, but her favorite activity by far was teaching ESL to adult and high school students. Her senior thesis focused on the importance of community leadership in women's development efforts. As the new AmeriCorps VISTA, Kristen looks forward to working as Resource Coordinator to help further Iskashitaa Refugee Network's transformational impact.

Iskashitaa is excited to welcome Kristin as a new staff member in November.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Recipe of the month


Date Syrup - Asel el'taemer  
By Faeza Hillilian

10 lbs of Dates
  1. Wash dates quickly in cold water, wash dates until water is clear
  2. Boil whole dates in pot with water for 2 hours, until date is soft
  3. Remove dates from water and strain dates with a cloth cotton fabric (pillow case). Boil liquid extracted in a pot for 2 additional hours until thick.
  4. Place liquid in plastic or stainless steel trays. Cover and secure with gauze to prevent moister. Leave in sun for 6-10 hours. Until liquid has honey/syrup like consistency.
  5. Package in containers/jars
  6. Ready to enjoy with bread, tajini, etc.
Package in Jars of 1/4 pint

Friday, November 9, 2012

Celebrating United Nations' Day

Thank you all for helping to make our first annual United Nations Day Breakfast Fundraiser on October 24th a success. We look forward to seeing you October 24th, 2013! Thank you for all those in attendance and for donating towards Iskashitaa Refugee Network. I hope you enjoyed the delicious breakfast donated by Whole Foods, MYA Distributing, Bentley's Coffee House and volunteers. We appreciate you taking the time to hear about our mission, accomplishments and refugee stories despite your busy schedules. Thank you for your engagement in this event with the purpose of seeking support and expanding our community and network. If you were not in attendance, you can find out more about Iskashitaa's progress and mission on our website, Facebook page and/or watch this video! You can always donate to Iskashitaa online by clicking HERE!

With your support, Iskashitaa will continue to grow and help refugees reach Tucson resources.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Learning to Finger-weave at Tucson Meet Yourself

Walking through the center of the bustle at Tucson Meet Yourself in search of an Iskashitaa banner, an overwhelming wave of smells, sounds and movement crashed my sense of focus. It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for: the Iskashitaa crafts tables in the Folk Arts and Global Market center. Covered with hand-woven baskets, palm leaves, scarves, and other vibrant merchandise, the color-blasted tables were not hard to miss, much less the smiling and welcoming faces of the Iskashitaa members.

I introduced myself to the craft-makers and asked about their work. After learning about the patient skill behind the palm-frond and recycled plastic baskets, my interest directed itself towards the only child at the table. Expecting a shy character, I was surprised when she jumped at the questions directed towards her. Wondering which method she used to make the colorful scarves, she offered to teach me how she finger weaves each one, putting a whole new meaning behind the phrase "made by hand." Watching her wrap the yarn around my fingers, I began to ask her about herself and how she came to be the sweet Nepalese teen teaching the silly American girl how to make her own clothes. Originally from Bhutan, fifteen year-old Krishna told me about her family's journey.

A sophomore at Catalina High School, Krishna came to Tucson with her brother, sister, and mother in March of 2010. Before coming to America, Krishna's family spent 18 years in a refugee camp in Nepal.
"So why did you come here?" I asked her.
"Why? To have a better education, and to live in peace, freedom..." A nice answer, of course, but an expected answer, almost rehearsed. I wanted to know more, if the stereotypical belief that everyone wants to come to America is a falsifiable truth, or if obtaining the real answer is like drilling someone at a poker table. I drilled anyway.
"Did you always want to come to America or did it just turn out that way?"
"It just happened," she admitted. "We were in refugee camp for 18 years.... People from Bhutan start war and they came (to Nepal) to run away. I stayed in refugee camp for 11 years but them (her family) they stay for like 18 or 19."

Due to the rising population of the Nepali-speaking minority in Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck began a policy that resulted in the expulsion of roughly 100,000 members of the ethnic minority from the 1980s to 1990s by the Royal Ghutan Army. By 2010, around 40,000 Bhutanese refugees in camps in Nepal were resettled in Western countries like the United States due to Bhutan's refusal to allow the return of its citizens (Subba and Mishra 2010). According to a relative 1995 article in the academic journal Pakistan Horizon, the "pro-democracy protests in Thiumphu, a corollary of the democratic movement in Nepal, seem to have triggered the eviction of the ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan" (Shakoor 1995: 33).

"Do you ever want to go back?" I inquired.
"Maybe... probably not" Krishna replied, a serious look on her face. But when asked about the future, her positivism remained undimmed. "I want to go to U of A. I want to be a doctor."
"What kind of doctor"
"Family doctor? Or Dentist? My sister wants to be a nurse, yeah and my brother's study nurse now."

As I continued to weave the scarf on my own, I asked, "So how do you learn to finger weave?"
"Her." She gestured to the women to her right weaving a scarf of her own. "My cousin." Brought to attention, the women I now knew to be named Pompa joined our casual banter, although her limited English produced Krishna as our on-deck carrier pigeon.
"So when did you come here, to Tucson? I asked.
"Uh, I came 2009. March."
"Before Krishna?" I asked for clarification.
"Yes before Krishna."
"And you're originally from Bhutan?
"Yes, yes my country is Bhutan," Pompa answered with an air of pride. When asked about anything related to her experience in Tucson, she would answer simply, "Yes, I like United States," as her face lit up in a smile. Although details were difficult to extract due to the language barrier, the message was clear; her resettlement experience has been a positive one. "It's difficult because the system I think is good and law here is good. Two things I don't like." With the help of Krishna's translations, Pompa then went on to describe her dislike of the common attire by the students at schools in Tucson and the normalcy of street smokers, a lighthearted air to her disapproval.

Resulting in a similar reaction, any questions about their involvement with Iskashitaa Refugee Network, or anything related to Iskashitaa for that matter, produced Pompa's repeated remark, "Too much help, Iskashitaa, too much help, Barbara" Their positive reaction towards Iskashitaa's programs and presence in their lives was undeniable. Krishna elaborated for her cousin, explaining how Iskashitaa provides fabric to make clothes, supplies to make the merchandise they sell at local events such as this festival, and helps her communicate with people in the community. Along with supplies, Pompa also acquires much of her produce from Iskashitaa harvests, including "apples, oranges, pomegranate..." she added with another bright smile.
As I continued my finger weaving, Krishna noticed my length, wrapped one end around my neck and said, "Maybe a little bit more. It's good."
Pompa may not think of America or Tucson as her home, at least not in the way that she thinks of Bhutan as her home, but she appeared happier than most people I know. A constant expression of complacent contentedness rested on her face in the time I spent with her. Other than the expected anxiousness one feels after spending a long day in the heat, Krishna seemed happy too. A feeling that may have been harder to come by without a community, a home, to call her own-a community whose doors were undoubtedly opened through the Iskashitaa Refugee Network.

-Kayla Halsey, Journalism Intern 

Saturday, November 3, 2012



Feeling Stressed?

Not exercising enough?

Attend a yoga session and support Iskashitaa Refugee Network!

Iskashitaa has been selected as the non-profit of the month of November at Session Yoga!  100% of class donations from Karma Sessions, held every Sunday at noon,  will be donated to Iskashitaa.  Karma Sessions have no class fee, but a suggested minimum donation of $5/person.  Session Yoga is located at 123 S. Eastbourne Ave (near Broadway and Country Club).  More information can be found at  We hope you'll attend all 4 sessions! 

Thank you, Session Yoga, for your support!