Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Honors Civic Engagement Team Concludes Fall 2012

Iskashitaa Refugee Network's three University of Arizona Honors Civic Engagement Team (HCET) interns-Alyssa Caraway, Janine Clark, and Rachel Wehr-have completed their Fall 2012 semester.  HCET interns were responsible for planning and teaching weekly ESL classes at apartment complexes, building community within those complexes, and involving refugees in Iskashitaa's work. 
Over the course of the semester, Iskashitaa's ESL classes (of which there are three) served 97 refugees, and had a total attendance of 184.  In addition to serving refugees through ESL class, HCET interns also contributed 60 hours of community involvement, attending local events, harvesting produce, participating in food preservation workshops, etc. 
We are currently accepting ESL interns for next semester!  If you're passionate about empowering refugees through education, and are ready to immerse yourself in a local refugee community, please contact Lizbeth Gonzalez, Program Manager and Chief Operations Officer ( or Grace Green, ESL Coordinator ( 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interning at Iskashitaa


If I had to describe my time as an intern at Iskashitaa Refugee Network in one word, it would be rewarding. My mission: immerse myself in the organization, compile cooking recipes as well as photos of those recipes, and design a cookbook with what I have gathered that properly reflects Iskashitaa's involvement in the local food community.
Immersing myself in the organization couldn't have been easier. Not only are the staff members, volunteers and other interns some of the nicest people I've ever met, but I can also tell they do what they do because they truly want to, not just because they're paid to or are trying to get some community service hours under their belt. Because of this self-driven mentality, Iskashitaa's network is simply remarkable. It is this sort of nurturing environment that keeps this grassroots organization running strong.
When it comes to the cookbook, some of the recipes I recorded myself by going to refugee's homes. As they cooked dishes from their homelands that were clearly close to their hearts, I meticulously documented every move they made down to the last teaspoon. This above all was the highlight of my experience, for it permitted me to closely observe the intimate relationship between refugees and their native food - not to mention I got to eat a lot of really good food too. My only regret was that I didn't go to more homes. For the remaining recipes in the book, all it took was diligent research.
Finally, it was time to design the cookbook. Designing the cookbook had its own challenges especially formatting and graphic design. This is where I must sincerely thank Lizbeth Gonzalez, Iskashitaa's Programs Manager. She is an amazing woman with a tremendous work ethic. Thanks again Lizbeth for lending me a hand when I needed it most.  
Coming into Iskashitaa, I brought with me enthusiasm, a positive mindset, and an unrivaled love for food, and came out the other end with such intense feelings that I must tackle each one individually. First of all, I have an entirely new respect for the amount of work that it takes to run a non-profit. The staff members at Iskashitaa are some of the hardest workers I know. Secondly, I realize how much I love working with people who care about what they do. Such work environments are breeding grounds for inspiration and personally make me want to work harder so as not to be a drag on the team. Thirdly, it feels great to work for a cause that you know for a fact is helping good people live better lives. Lastly, all of the refugees I personally worked with were unbelievable people, who, despite the horrible hardships they have been subjected to in their lives, maintain positive outlooks concerning their futures and always bring a smile to my face whenever I see them.
All of this has inspired me to not only continue working with Iskashitaa, but to expand my volunteer work to other regions of the world. This coming spring break, I will be travelling with a number of other U of A students to Ghana where I will have the opportunity to personally work with under-resourced communities to increase their access to safe drinking and cooking water. I ask for your help to fund my service with Global Water Brigades, to make a donation please click here.
Once I return from the trip, I will make sure to post pictures of my experience on Iskashitaa's Facebook page!
By: Max Efrein, Cookbook Intern 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Update from Arizona Refugee Resettlement

Update from Arizona Refugee Resettlement
Here are some notes from the Refugee Resettlement Quarterly meeting, where the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program provided members of the resettlement community with information on resources and arrivals for the upcoming year.
  • Pima County is expected to receive a little over 1.000 refugees in 2013, the majority of whom will be coming from Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Congo (in order of greatest to least).
  • Given the increased violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) predicts that the United States will be resettling around 50,000 Congolese refugees over the next few years.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Iskashitaa's Food Workshops

As many new and old Tucsonians know, we have just entered into the fruitful citrus season. With the help of generous home owners and hard-working volunteers, Iskashitaa is happy to announce the arrival of new and delicious preserves. For a light and refreshing salad, look for our Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Grapefruit Pecan Dressings. Want a twist on your morning pancakes? Try some Date Syrup. Need something to compliment teatime? We have Lemon Curd, made with the Cadillac of lemons, the Meyer Lemons. Meyer lemons are a cross between oranges and lemons, darlings of the citrus world, and are sweet enough to eat. Meyer Lemon Zest is also available. Our preserves are available for purchase at our office on 1406 Grant and at various sales events. See our event listings at for future purchase opportunities.
Interested in learning more about how to make citrus season last all year? Join us at one of our Food Preservation Workshops. You will work side-by-side with refugees to cook and can our Iskashitaa Preserves. For more information or to sign up, find us on Facebook, check out our calendar at, or email Kate directly at
Can't make our workshops and still want to learn the cooking secrets? Here is our Harvest Chutney Recipe:
  • 2 lbs Pumpkin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large cooking apple, cored and grated
  • 1.25 cups of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, figs)
  • 1.75 cups of light brown sugar
  • 1.5 ounces of fresh, grated, ginger
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Cut pumpkin into .75 inch chunks
  • Place pumpkin and remaining ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Enjoy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Valentine's Day Gifts

Love is in the Air...

Purchase Your Valentine's Day Gifts from Iskashitaa!
Iskashitaa is hosting a jewelry sale on Saturday, January 26 from 2pm to 7pm at 1406 E. Grant Road.  This event is just in time for Valentine's Day, so come purchase lovely items for yourself and/or your sweetie. Beverages and light refreshments will be served. Iskashitaa food products and craft items will also be available for purchase.  Please join us!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Citrus Season Has Begun

Tens of boxes and crates fill the Iskashitaa storage area, catching the eye of all who come through our office door. Bins overflow with thousands of pounds of citrus fruits - Meyer lemons, Calamondin limes, Navel oranges, Valencia oranges, Seville oranges, tangerines, mandarins, pink, white, and ruby red grapefruit. It is difficult to imagine such a variety and difference existed amongst fruit types, all locally grown.
In the past month, Iskashitaa has harvested over 6,245 pounds of the diverse citrus fruit mentioned above and 150 pounds of fresh pecans.  
How can you join the movement to allow this great success to continue?
*Come harvest with us! Make your day unique and unforgettable, and provide an undeniable impact on refugee individuals and families in a single day. Enjoy the smiles you will bring to refugee harvesters' faces and your own as you find newness and strength in your day.
Harvested produce is distributed to refugee families and local non-profits, and is utilized in cooking workshops that teach our refugees vital kitchen job skills for new life success in America.
*Donate your tree's excess citrus or tell your neighbors and feed families instead of landfills. We will graciously come to harvest your fruit on location.
By: Sheila Carsky, Harvest Coordinator -  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Years Resolution

As you create your list of resolutions for 2013, we hope you'll consider making support for Iskashitaa a new habit this year.  Automatic monthly giving is an easy way to help us sustain our programs.Your donations and volunteer hours helped us serve hundreds of refugees in 2012 through our produce donations, food preservation workshops, and sewing and crafts program.We harvested over 100,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in 2012, most of which was redistributed to refugee families and to a dozen local non-profit partners with hunger programs.Please help us continue to expand our reach by contacting Natalie Brown at or 928-503-7496 to discuss monthly giving. Five minutes of your time is all that is required to set this up.Many thanks to our supporters who have already chosen to do so!We are so grateful for your support!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's your New Years Resolution?


Are you working on a list? Iskashitaa Refugee Network can help you!

-Eat WELL by purchasing Iskashitaa local food products

-Make a DIFFERENCE in someone's life by welcoming them to the United States

-Create new RELATIONSHIPS with United Nations' refugees while volunteering in our harvests and food workshops

-Eat LOCAL foods by purchasing Iskashitaa locally gle
aned fruits and vegetables and lower your CARBON footprint

-Give a small monetary DONATION to help Iskashitaa continue to provide services to our clients

-DELIVER nutritious FOOD to those in need in our community

-EDUCATE yourself on refugee resettlement by attending REFUGEE 101 in 2013

-Brush up your RESUME and make yourself more employable by INTERNING at Iskashitaa

-DONATE your fruit trees - we'll go harvest them at your home and prevent food WASTE

-EMPOWER an individual by mentoring them to navigate through Tucson

Contact Kristen Vellinger at for more information or call 520-440-0100

Monday, January 14, 2013

Food for Thought


Ever attended a Food for Thought event? Here is your chance: Thursday, January 17th 6:00pm at Zemam's Ethiopian Restaurant  located at 2731 E. Broadway.

Join Iskashitaa refugees and volunteers as we share a meal and great conversation. Zemam's makes their own injera and beautifully seasoned Ethiopian food. Cost of the event is the cost of your meal plus a bit to help cover refugee meals (usually no more than $15 total).  Participants must RSVP to Annlee Laughlin at 520-299-9063 (St. Francis) or520-299-3298, by Monday, Januray 14.

Reunited with his family after 13 years


Reunited with his family after 13 years Tilahun held a bouquet of roses and stared at a monitor with anxious excitement. He was waiting to see his son, Metasebia, and wife, Yewbdar, come down the arrival stairs at the Tucson International Airport. He hugged
his wife with tears in his eyes and was astonished at how much his son had grown, now taller than him. Tilahun was forced to flee Ethiopia in 1999 after spending three months in prison for refusing to take part in his country's politics, he left his country to ensure his wife's and infant
son's safety.

After ten years of living in a refugee camp, he was resettled in the United States since March 2010. For years Tilahun felt pain and doubt for his family's well being, yet he would never lose hope of seeing them again. December 19 marked the date when Iskashitaa's client, volunteer, and friend, Tilahun Liben, was reunited with his family after 13 years of separation."This is my gift for me, a Christmas gift", Tilahun told KVOA reporter on December 19th, "I don't need any Christmas trees; they [my wife and son] are my Christmas gift." We welcome Metasebia and Yewbdar to our Iskashitaa family and Tucson community.

Tilahun has participated in harvests and cooking workshops, tutoring, and is a member of Iskashitaa's internal speakers bureau, sharing information about the refugee experience with community groups.  We look forward to welcoming his family into our diverse programs and connecting them to community resources as well.
To watch KVOA's coverage of the Liben's family arrival click here.
By: Lizbeth Gonzalez, Programs Manager