Monday, February 27, 2012

Peace Corps Fair - February 28

Please Come and Join Us
Peace Corps Fair
Tuesday February 28th 4 - 7pm
UA Student Union

Community Education Coordinator, Kathy Zaleski, will be there tabling about her Peace Corps experience in Macedonia from 2007 - 2009 and also have information about Iskashitaa!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Harvest 2-24

Learning English is of utmost importance to refugees who enter the United States. Without at least a basic understanding of English, refugees are unable to find jobs and struggle with daily activities like taking the bus, grocery shopping, paying bills. With this in mind, Annie and I set off to an English as a Second Language class at Las Casitas, taught by two other HCETers. One of my favorite parts of the lesson was when the refugees taught us English speakers a little bit of their native tongue. I’m probably misspelling these words, but I learned “dine`” means right and “debre” means left. I can’t wait to use these words at a harvest, the refugees will be so proud of me! There was a great volunteer turnout this week, which was fantastic because I have never seen such a big tangerine tree in my life! We collected 610 pounds of fruit and we still had to leave some behind on the very top of the tree. Overall it was another very successful week in HCET harvesting land.

-Sam HCET intern

Volunteer Perspective

I've been tutoring a refugee from Bhutan this semester to help her with her psychology course at Pima Community College. She plans to get her nursing degree and return to Nepal when she is finished and work among the poor people to try to help make their lives better. I am very happy to help her work towards this worthwhile goal. She has no problems with understanding psychological concepts, but much of what she needs to do for this class (for example, write a Limerick!) would be nearly impossible for her to do alone because of not having grown up here and lacking a cultural context.

-Erik Shapiro, Iskashitaa Volunteer

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Breaking down Language

On a somewhat unrelated note, I’m currently taking a class entitled “ The Multilingual Subject”. One of the readings we have been discussing and relating to personal experience is Mikhail Bakhtin’s “The Problem of Speech Genres”. What he means by “speech genres” is simply the mode in which one speaks to certain people or in certain situations (as in the difference between language in a scholarly journal as opposed to speaking with a small child). And, of course, this got me thinking about the particular speech genre that is present in our ESL class, the way in which both Taylor and I speak. So, here it goes.

I think this speech genre is characterized by a lot of talking, but not a lot of content. Actually, there is content, but most is lost in the process of crossing language barriers. If anything, the main mode of communication (versus language) would be sign language, gestures, and drawings. There is also a lot of swapping, both in terms of language, but also in culture. This swapping often leads to “Spanglish” or “Franglais” type situations; most sentences come out a mixture of both languages. However, instead of the typical frustration that occurs in other multilingual settings (like my more formal French class) this particular genre is far more light-hearted than that. This is possibly because of the fact that comprehension can be so difficult on both sides of the divide, or maybe because my poorly executed drawings are one of the mainstays of our communicative techniques, but I feel like we are always on the verge of laughter. This laughter extends to the linguistic front as well; on a mechanical level we, the teachers, often can’t accurately produce the sounds of their language, and the same applies to them. For us, we constantly mess up the length of our vowels, for them the fricatives appear to pose problems. Spatial and cultural aspects need to be taken into consideration as well. In a typical formal classroom setting, the teacher is the “head”, they stand at the front with all eyes directed toward them, they instruct from a privileged position, there’s an automatic level of inequality inherent in this spatial relationship. In the context of our classroom, we may have begun the year in a similar fashion, but overtime we have migrated to sitting interspersed amongst our students, implying more equal positioning, as well as making the experience more of a dialogue as opposed to a monologue. Also, I think there is an underlying tension between speaking simply (which we would normally do with children) and portraying the respect we automatically have for people significantly older than us.

-Kelsey Rivers, HCET Intern

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Swim Program Participant Speaks Out!

To play swimming is so fun and we learned to swim more and more and we are better now to swim. First, I don't know how to swim but now I know how to swim and thanks to give a chance to us to learn. I really enjoy and big thanks to all helpers.

- Krishna Gautum from Bhutan

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reflecting on what an intern has learned about her students

I've gained more of an awareness of the refugee community. I'll be honest, before Iskashitaa I wasn't even aware that there were refugees in Tucson, let alone the United States, it was just something I had never thought about. And from gaining that awareness, I'm starting to notice things I hadn’t before, or had never really given much thought to. Like, how we structure our society and the way we run things, and how that will affect certain groups of people. As an example, we are a very writing and reading based society, and if you aren't literate in the traditional sense, it's almost impossible to find a job, and you will be looked down upon for it. And it's not like the English writing system is easy to learn! Especially for people who only have limited knowledge of English. By teaching these classes, I'm more in favor of a completely phonetic system of writing that doesn't make English writing doubly hard to learn.

-Kelsey Rivers, HCET Intern

Sunday, February 19, 2012

HCET Harvest 2-17

This week we returned to the massive tangerine tree from last week with two refugees and two volunteers. Having so much help made a huge difference! Our volunteers and refugees were able to pick the tangerines from even the highest point on the tree and after only 30 minutes the whole thing was picked clean. With their help we even culled the fruit, separating those with fruit flesh open and those with peels completely intact in order to better preserve the fruit. It was also a great time to catch up with our refugee harvesters whom Annie and I hadn’t seen for a couple weeks. Already I can tell Nirmala’s English is improving and Tulsi told us the exciting news that she is travelling to Georgia to visit family! It was wonderful seeing these women again and I’m sure we’ll harvest together in the future. Remember, volunteers are always welcome to come harvest with us HCETers from 2-4 on Fridays!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Materials for ESL Classes DO make a difference

I am really happy about the materials that we have this semester, especially the various whiteboards we have. I think this will make instruction much more streamlined and materials preparation less time consuming for us. I think this could make the lessons more effective. I feel like I will be focusing on whether the lesson will work for the students, and not on how to make the materials, or if I can make materials at all. Also, this may seem insignificant, but because many of the students are older, they have a hard time seeing. In the past, if I wrote something that everyone needed to see, it would be on a piece of paper. This was very difficult for many of our students to see, and made it hard to proceed with the lesson. The opportunity to write parts of the lesson on a larger surface might make it easier for our students to understand and participate in what is going on in the lesson.

-Kellan Smith, HCET Intern

**If you have donations for our ESL classes, please contact Kathy Zaleski

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pumpkin (and fruit) Chutney recipe - YUM!

Pumpkin (& fruit) Chutney

By Joanna Farrow

Modified by Iskashitaa's AZ Refugee Project VISTA team from Phx and Tucson- "Fun with Fruit for VISTAs"


  • 2 lbs. uncooked pumpkin, deseeded
  • 4 local torpedo onions or the equivalent of one large yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped dried apples after rehydration
  • 1¼ cup mixture (if possible) of raisins, halved dried cherries & chopped dried figs
  • 1 ¾ cups local cactus, citrus or pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ oz fresh ginger, grated using micro planes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick, and or cinnamon powder
  • Zest of one medium orange directly into pot
  • 4 loquat halves without seed or sepals
  • 4 torpedo onions or the equivalent of one large yellow onion

Pumpkin station: bowl for pumpkin meat, bucket or large container with garbage bag for compost, tablecloth, cutting boards

Chopping station knives, bowl for compost, bowl for loquats, tablecloth, cutting board

Take ½ blue Cinderella pumpkin (precooked). Cut into chunks or scoop out half of a pumpkin meat without skin or seeds, or stringy fibers into pot or bowl. Set aside or bring to kitchen for chutney cooking.

Defuzz washed loquats and deseed loquats and halve -only small amounts needed for each batch.

Cooking instructions:

In bottom of large, heavy-based saucepan put 1 tbsp of oil and lightly saute onions. Add all the remaining ingredients and precooked pumpkin. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and cook gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the chutney is thick and pulpy. To check whether the chutney is cooked, draw a wooden spoon through the mixture, it should leave a clean trail on the base of the pan that slowly disappears. Spoon the chutney into sterilized jars and lids. Store in a cool place for a month before using.

Makes 2½ lbs- 5 ½ pint jars.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Up with People, !You are the One for Me!

Dear friends:

Allow me to share with you my thoughts and feelings about one of the kind events. Last week I and my family were invited by Iskashitaa to attend a live performance. Barbara was a person whom I heard great thing about from my sister and mother and I didn't have the chance to meet her until that day. She managed to get free tickets for the refugees that she can reach out. My sister was telling me how wonderful it would be to attend this performance and how great it is to be able to attend it with other refugee friends. But I had no idea about that until we arrived there and the show began!

Before I start telling you how that group and their performance made me feel, I would like to describe myself briefly. I am 28 years old young man. I am a foreign dentist from Iraq. I have a compassionate heart but very serious personality. I rarely get driven by emotions or over react, like music and art but to a normal extent. So, for me, writing a letter expressing my feelings about a show I attended is really rare and unexpected.

Let me start by saying that I was kidnapped by this magic group from the first minute, and I am still a hostage who doesn't want to be released! Every single word was precious because it was so simple and so meaningful. Each sound was unbelievable because it has the honesty which is really rare at this time. I was tortured by the fact that we can't take pictures of movies of it, but then I was really convinced that the real movie is the one which my eyes, mind, feelings and heart got. The combination of comedy, tragedy, hope and goals was unbeatable. I felt every segment was connected to the others in such a way, as if it was a play, not different songs and dances. I was sitting fairly far, but each one of these hope-representatives was looking at me in the eye, commanding me to be involved with this great joy campaign. As a tired refugee, I was feeling the bitterness of life dramatic changes, the loss of meaning and identity but it was through simple few words and gestures. I saw the other side of currency that I already have. It wasn't just a show, it was an eye opener for me and dare I say, for all our refugee friends there.

As the show ended, my show began. I rushed with all my friends towards those extraordinary young powers. We tried to drown them with hugs and thankful words, but they were the real flood. They thanked us endlessly for coming; they hugged us, strangers from the other side of the world, and considered standing with us for an hour a real way to rest after such performance! They were the real people, the real kindness and the real humanity.

Thank you for making all of us excited all night, we returned home and had a great dinner with my family; we were eating, laughing and reviewing each moment of that unbelievable night. I can't remember when was the last time we, as a family, had such a wonderful time. Also, thank you Barbra, you are a great heart to be inside; thanks you dear UP WITH POEPLE angels, you gave my heart a beautiful song to sing. I wish I can join you next year, but the registration fee is the big barrier for me from that. I am a refugee and I need a lot of time to be able to afford that amount of money, but I will join you with my heart and feeling, I will join you when you will come here next time, and I hope you will join my family next year if you accept us as a hosting family. I wish I can be the first one from the Middle East who joins your group but that is my situation. I wish you all the best for all of you; you are the best, GOD knows you are, and me too!

Fady Sarkees

Multilingualism or English Only?

Lately, I have encountered schools of thought which advocate for an “English only classroom” when teaching English language learning populations like refugees. For example, some ESL classes allow only English in the classrooms, no use of native language allowed. I am uncomfortable with this idea. I don’t believe retaining their native language inhibits their abilities to learn English. I don’t think this would work in our classroom, for practical reasons and because I would prefer to create an environment where the students are comfortable, rather than one where learning is awkward or uncomfortable. I understand the logic behind immersion practices, and I want my students to practice and converse in English while they are in class, but I don’t think having a class rule that disallows their language is necessarily beneficial.

-Kellan Smith, HCET Intern

Sunday, February 12, 2012

HCET Harvest 2-12

This week I attended the volunteer 101 session that Lizbeth teaches at St. Francis in the Foothills. We did an exercise as a group that simulated the journey refugees go through before coming to the United States. Once again my respect for refugees grew, the strength and courage they have to start all over again in a completely foreign country is overwhelming. I left the session with a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee. The harvest this Friday was huge in terms of fruit. We started out at a small lemon tree that was surprisingly easy to harvest. The fruit was so ripe all we had to do was shake the branches and lemons would come tumbling down! Then we travelled to a tangerine tree that was so big it would probably take up my entire dorm room. Annie, Marcella and I worked on this tree for hours, clipping the stems with our shears, climbing up step ladders to reach high fruits, ducking under branches to pick the fruit underneath. I never realized it, but picking fruit is actually a very satisfying job. By the time we left the tree was picked clean, except for some very tall branches, and we had filled up four crates and two bags full of tangerines. I’m hoping the abundance of citrus will continue and we will be able to have large harvests every week.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Congratulations to Iskashitaa's Resource Coordinator, Natalie Brown!

Today, Natalie will receive recognition for her hard work and dedication towards protecting human rights! This award will be presented to her from the Arizona chapter of Church Women United.

Natalie Brown previously served as Iskashitaa’s Community Liaison, strengthening existing bonds and creating new partnerships between Iskashitaa and community organizations. A U of A graduate with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, Natalie has been involved with HIV/AIDS education in the U.S., Tanzania, and Mexico. She volunteers her time at Clinica Amistad, which provides free health care on a weekly basis. She was the Director of Education and Community Relations for Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network (TIHAN), but stepped down in order to dedicate more time to working with Iskashitaa. As Iskashitaa's Resource Coordinator, she is looking forward to continuing to learn from the diverse refugee population in Tucson.

We congratulate Natalie Brown for her advocacy and continued perseverance in protecting human rights in Tucson and abroad. Iskashitaa is honored to have Natalie working with us.

Making Ties to Kazakhstan

Translating experience can often prove difficult. Walking into the classroom at Las Casitas for the first time brought back memories of teaching in Kazakhstan. The furniture was an odd mix of Victorian gothic, utilitarian, and mid century in a variety of colors, with a twisted leg here and there to add some character. The men in their hats and coats and the ladies with their colorful scarves and long hair and wizened even resembled some of my former students. But theses students brought with them a whole new set of challenges. Whereas my former students grew up under the strict Soviet system, which drilled them in the grammar, literature, and composition of the required Russian language, many of these students had never read or wrote in their native tongue. Moreover, writing the phonetic spellings of new words in their language was out of the question. When all else failed, I always had my Russian to fall back on in Kazakhstan; here it was not so simple.

In some ways, though, this has put me in a better place to relate to my students. One of our frequent class visitors has been a high school student seeking help with her math homework. She often shares how in Nepal she was one of the best math students because she studied for hours. Here, there is too much else to do for her to devote that much time to one subject. The math hasn’t really changed, but the environment has, presenting a whole new set of challenges.

However, I’ve also realized that certain experience do stay the same. Just about any student enjoys listening to their teacher butcher some words in their native tongue. The chance to teach the teachers is always greatly appreciated, whether in Kazakhstan or Tucson. And I think that part of my job this semester as a teacher will be to better learn to translate my own past experiences in order to be a better instructor for my students and to help my students learn to translate their own experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Kara Haberstock, HCET Intern

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Amani Daycare

AMANI is a newly formed Daycare and Learning Center that includes early childhood education with child care in a multi-lingual and multi-cultural environment. Their goal is to provide 24/7 daycare which includes language development as well as after school tutoring (Math, Sciences, etc). They take care of children from newborn to 12 years old. The children have a choice to participate in a second language besides English. They teach early literacy for each child in addition to English in one of the following languages: Arabic, Somali, Swahili, Nepali. Their staff tutor and help children with homework as well as run after school activities.

Iskashitaa is looking for experienced volunteers to help Amani develop a curriculum and activities for this learning process as well as volunteers to help us in the classroom with some experience or interest in English as a Second Language (ESL). We are especially looking for volunteers with Special Education experience in teaching children with special needs. Contact us today to learn more!

Check out our new website!

Joshua Smith is our volunteer of the month. All one needs to do to see the impact of his work is to look at our newly designed website, Josh began working with us five years ago as a summer intern through the UA Eller College of Management's MBA program. Since then, Josh has remained a consistent volunteer, designing and maintaining our website through his own business, Infinite Expressions. He has been a phone call or email away whenever we've had questions about the website, even while living in another state. Most recently, Josh redesigned our website to the much improved version you see today. Thank you, Josh for your long-term commitment and support!

Looking for a website designer? Contact Joshua today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Upcoming Events

Agnes Under the Big Top: February 9-26 at Zuzi Theater (738 North 5th Avenue)
Borderlands Theater and Iskashitaa are in collaboration to offer this play, which examines challenges new Americans face through the voices of Liberian, Indian, and Bulgarian immigrants. Join us to see Laxmi Dahal in his first big acting role in the United States. Visit to purchase tickets.

February 10: Opening Night Celebration with goodies from Iskashitaa Refugee Network, plus meet the performers and director.
February 12: 2pm Matinee w/ panel discussion and Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Refugee 101 Information Night: Thursday, February 9 (6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.)
Come learn more about refugee life, communicating in different languages, and refugee work. 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. Please RSVP to

30th Annual Tucson Peace Fair & Music Festival: Saturday, February 25 (11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
Arizona's largest gathering of peace, social justice and environmental groups, with live music for the family, children's activities, food, a raffle at the Reid Park band shell. Iskashitaa will be there selling refugee-made crafts and food products. We are looking for volunteers to help us at the event. Please contact Emily at for more information.

Get Fit With Paul: Kids' Corridor Celebration and Health Fair: Sunday, February 26 (11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.)
At the corner of Glenn and Stone, at Don's Hot Rod Shop
In partnership with Ironwood Tree Experience, Coronado Heights Neighborhood Association and Community Partnership Prevention. Lots of fun and games for everyone: neighborhood nature tour, Zumba dancing, jumping rope contests, healthy snacks, roller derby, bicycle rodeo, nutritional information, Fun Run, Hula Hoops,soccer shooting accuracy, football throw, beanbag toss, music, and more.....
Iskashitaa will provide local juice, a best in show marmalade/chutney/sauce local preserved food tasting contest - youth and families try our local goodies and vote for the best one! Barbara will do a food mapping exercise. We will also have a local pecan cracking station.

Winter Harvests: Each Week Wednesday - Saturday
Please contact Mike Parelskin (925-330-8775), our new harvesting coordinator, if you are interested in harvesting grapefruit, calamondin limes, and other citrus. Check our Facebook page and our website for more details, or email for more information.

Food preservation workshops with refugees and Iskashitaa: 2nd and 4th Friday of the month
Pumpkin chutney, apple butter, marmalades, & 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:

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! Recycled materials sewn, crocheted, and woven into great new rugs, bags, jewelry, baskets, and clothes.

Sewing and craft supply redistribution day: Friday, March 2nd (11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)
Moved to the 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.

Swimming Classes!

Since the beginning of January, Iskashitaa has been pleased to offer swimming lessons for refugees of all ages and abilities. The lessons, held every Saturday morning at the northwest YMCA pool, focus on teaching safe swimming practices and helping students become more comfortable around water. Beth McMahon, the program director, has played a critical role in the overwhelming success of the lessons. “The classes have been amazing! The students, teachers, and volunteers are all having a wonderful time and no one wants to get out when class is over.I have found it fascinating how quickly fear can become excitement and enthusiasm”.

Bria Dolnick, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, is involved in the production of a radio story about the lessons for Arizona Spotlight’s New Americans series. When questioned about her experience with Iskashitaa, Bria commented that “pool safety is a serious issue that people might not think about in relation to refugees. Iskashitaa is doing a great job in identifying and filling this real need in the refugee community”

As a driver and swim helper, I agree with Beth and Bria’s thoughts on the classes. Swimming is a

skill that I think a lot of Americans take for granted, because most of us learned it at such an early age. However, the first time I assisted with the swimming lessons I realized that explaining how to move one’s arms and legs in a way that will keep them afloat is quite a challenge! It’s been extremely rewarding to watch the students’ abilities evolve and grow with time.

Iskashitaa would have been unable to develop the swimming program without the help of First United Methodist Church of Tucson (, which generously donated funds for the swimming program.Thank you for your support!

HCET Intern, Taylor Corcoran