Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bohemians, Bolsheviks and Border Rats Helps Fund Iskashitaa

On the evening of Friday, March 8th, at least a hundred people packed into Solar Culture
for a magical evening of literature and music. Passages from Iskashitaa volunteer Harvey Burgess' new book, Tucson Tales - Bohemians, Bolsheviks and Border Rats  were read in between music segments from local group Combo Westside, and folk singer Pete Sundt.

Refugees also contributed significantly to the event. Young Laxmi Dahal, who came to Tucson directly from a refugee camp in Nepal in 2008, and who starred in the Iskashitaa-sponsored Borderlands Theater production of the play Agnes Under the Big Tent, read from the book with passion and panache. Violinist Fadi Iskandar, an Armenian/Syrian refugee, who fled the Syrian city of Aleppo a few months ago, played solo violin and also performed onstage with Combo Westside. The combination of the group's mellifluous jazz, funk, bossa nova fusion and Fadi's warm, lyrical violin tones, was memorable.
Iskashitaa client, volunteer and friend, Tilahun Liben, an Ethiopian who arrived in Tucson in 2010 after spending ten years in a refugee camp, played the saxophone and the recorder. His deep, haunting sound brought the evening to a wonderful conclusion.

It was a unique event both in terms of the format and the broad cross-section of Tucsonans who attended. The atmosphere was terrific and the interaction between people was lively and good humored.

Iskashitaa was able to introduce refugees and its work on their behalf to the wider community, and for refugees to display their array of talents at one of Tucson's most iconic venues was truly groundbreaking.

Harvey Burgess

We cannot thank Harvey enough for his support through the years and this night was exceptional, with proceeds from his book, and from Combo Westside's CD's and the sales of Iskashitaa products all dedicated to benefiting Iskashitaa programming. Do you have a fundraising idea? Would you like to be a part of our fundraising committee? Please contact eiswerth@iskashitaa.org today.

Got lots of citrus peels? Make Fragrant All-Purpose Household Cleaner


- Local citrus peels
- White vinegar
- Water

 How to make:

1) Cram as many local citrus peels into a jar. I keep a mason jar next to our compost bowl in the kitchen. All other kitchen waste goes into the compost container and the citrus goes into the jar. Once the jar is full, go on to step 2.

2) Pour white vinegar over the peels until the jar is very full. Seal the jar and shake it to get all the air bubbles out. Add more vinegar if needed.

Samson Tsaeda  
Eritrean Volunteer with Ishkashitaa 

3) Put in a sunny window and let it steep for 2 weeks.

4) Pour the contents through a strainer, then funnel into your spray bottle. (After the process is complete you can compost the peels.) Add enough water to your spray bottle so that the mixture is roughly 1/2 citrus vinegar and 1/2 water.

5) Use on everything.

We warmly welcome any and all ideas for making use of citrus!

Why "Like" Us on Facebook?

Iskashitaa is all about community, and an important part of keeping this community together is--you guessed it--Facebook! Facebook is much more than a fad; it has the potential to connect us in new and powerful ways. Social media has been employed extensively to create change, for example when young people in the Middle East used Facebook to organize during the Arab Spring. Facebook allows reaching new people, so "like" us, share and comment! Let's get our voice out there.

If you have any suggestions or questions about Facebook, feel free to contact Laura Kurtzberg, Iskashitaa's Social Media Intern, at laurak2@email.arizona.edu. If you are recovering from a Facebook addiction, we're also on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and YouTube, and our blog is awesome!

Laura Kurtzberg
Iskashitaa Social Media Intern

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tucson's New World-Class Musicians

On Friday, March 15th, I had the joy of accompanying Tamara Khachatryan and Fadi Iskandar to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's performance of Beethoven's "Pastoral". Tamara and Fadi, asylum seekers from Syria, were concert violinists in Aleppo, as well as college-level music educators. Between them, they speak five languages: Russian, Arabic, Armenian, French, and English. They will soon be looking for work here in Tucson.

I met Tamara and Fadi at the Tucson International Alliance for Refugee Communities' fundraiser Violins Against Vandalism. I was so impressed with their talent that I asked them to play at Iskashitaa's fundraiser at La Cocina earlier this year. The crowd loved them! At that same event, I had the chance to meet Dawn Calista, a violinist with the TSO, who, upon hearing their story, arranged for complimentary tickets to the TSO. We are grateful to Dawn and the TSO for this opportunity! After the TSO performance, Tamara, Fadi, and I went backstage to meet the musicians and learn about the audition process. We would not be surprised if someday soon our new friends were invited to join the TSO!

If you would like to hear these talented performers, join us for A Night in the Courtyard at the YWCA on May 2nd at 6:30pm at 525 Bonita Ave. Please click Courtyard Concert to purchase tickets.  They are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Food will be available for purchase from Dishes & Stories, Iskashitaa's joint venture. The concert will begin at 7pm, preceded by a meet-the-musicians reception. For questions about the event, please call 520-884-7810. In the meantime, you can get a glimpse of Tamara's talents on YouTube.

Natalie Brown
Development Director

Friday, April 26, 2013

Honors College Students Step Off-Campus to Broaden Horizons

This spring, Sloan and I came to Iskashitaa through an internship class offered by the Honors College at the University of Arizona, Honors Civic Engagement Team.  We had never heard of Iskashitaa before, but through our experiences volunteering over the past month and a half, we have become well acquainted with the organization and come to love it and the people involved.

Before Iskashitaa, I never realized that Tucson possessed such a large and vibrant refugee community. One of the most amazing things I noticed through my interactions with them was just how cheerful and happy they were to be here. I asked one refugee if he missed his home country, and he responded that he did not because America was his new country. It's hard for me to imagine leaving the US and settling down in an entirely foreign place due to persecution. Perhaps because of this, I find it so unbelievable that after all of their hardships, the refugees are still some of the most positive people I have ever met. Each week during our harvests, we have at least two refugees help us. Our goal is to harvest fruit, distribute some to our refugee helpers, and at the same time, help the refugees improve their English. Many of them have managed to pick up English very quickly. To my surprise, one of our regular refugee harvesters has only been in the States for 3 months, but can already hold a conversation and even text. Besides interacting with the refugees, harvesting itself is also very calming and heart-warming. All of the homeowners are very willing to help and receptive to our work. By the time we bring the fruit back to the Iskashitaa office each harvest, we have encountered several wonderful people that leave us feeling amazed, fulfilled, and positive.

Angela Wu
HCET Intern

The Iskashitaa program has provided me with a wonderful experience to learn more about the culture of the refugees. Angela and I have had the pleasure of planning harvests every Tuesday and having refugees accompany us. They are always so polite and eager to help, and it's so endearing to see how far these people have come since they were forced to flee their countries.

We also attend food preservation workshops to use some of the different fruits we harvest to make dressings, jams, and other yummy items. I never knew you could make so many delicious food items out of normal, everyday fruit from our trees in Tucson! One of my favorite times so far was going to a movie with a refugee and his brother. They taught me a few words in French and talked about how different it was in Africa, where they are from. It has been a lot of fun being able to meet these refugees and working with people from Iskashitaa who dedicate so much hard work and time to keep this program going.

Sloan Sonksen
HCET Intern

Mother's Day with Iskashitaa!

May 12th from 10am-4pm to share our stories and local foods. Mothers and grandmothers will enjoy free admission!

Iskashitaa invites volunteers and supporters who want to treat refugees to a special Sonoran day of outdoor fun at Tohono Chul.

Contact: tucsonrefugees@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Art of Eating with One's Hands

After preparing Lenga Lenga, Mchele and Kuku, Marie Bampamulolwa welcomed the visitors in three different languages: karibu in Kiswahili, kota in Lingala and welcome in English. She started introducing herself in Kiswahili while high-school intern, Rehema Divine, was interpreting. Later on, Marie told the visitors all the ingredients she used to prepare the food. Everyone took a plate but noticed there were no spoons available. The reason why spoons were not there is because we wanted to teach the Borderlinks participants a new technique of using one's hands to nourish the body, which is a common African tradition. Everyone was directed to wash his or her hands before eating. Marie told the visitors how important it is to use one's hands as eating utensils because it whets the appetite and connects people to their food directly.

DIvine and Jordan
Other reasons for using our hands are to communicate with food and earth, and to show our appreciation for the cook's efforts. Using our hands to eat is a symbol of love.

Following the introduction, everyone started practicing. Little by little they adapted to this system, which also saves time because you can put as much food as you want into your mouth when using your hands, as opposed to spoons or other utensils.

Would you like to try this? Come volunteer with Iskashitaa and make the human connection that is so important to newly arrived refugees. Contact volunteer@iskashitaa.org.

Food is one of the common denominators of all peoples. Iskashitaa has hosted Iraqi and Congolese refugees who revealed their culinary wisdom to Borderlinks groups. The next cooks will be a Bhutanese couple. Cooking for Borderlinks is a great way for our global friends to hone their presentation and demonstration skills while also sharing their culture through food. Contact us if you know of any refugees who may be interested in this opportunity.

Rehema Divine, DRC
Rincon High School

Monday, April 8, 2013

Local Honey, Honey!

The masterminds behind Iskashitaa's Food Preservation Workshops are happy to announce a new product, "Grapefruit and Honey Marinade".  We have taken local grapefruits, honey, and chiltipin chilies to create a marinade with a flavorful kick.

The use of local honey has numerous health benefits for connoisseurs. The non-processed form of this honey is loaded with pollen, enzymes and antioxidants. These work as digestive aids, as well as allergy protectants. By digesting the trace amounts of pollen in this honey, you are building a tolerance to the local pollens, and therefore reducing allergies. The enzymes found in the honey work with your own digestive enzymes to aid in the process.

So next time you are cooking chicken or fish, throw some honey-based Iskashitaa marinades on it, and work your way to a healthier you.
Would you like to learn more about this product or how to cook with local foods? Join us for one of our Food Preservation Workshops, which take place regularly every month on the second Monday from 12-5, and the fourth Saturday from 9-2*.

Email iskashitaafoodworkshops@gmail.com for other dates and more information.

*Due to a scheduling problem with the kitchen, there will be no workshop on the 4th Saturday in April.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Got Herbs and Veggies?

Do you have gardens veggies and greens bolting, flowering, or otherwise going to waste in your garden plot? They are screaming to be picked! So much produce goes to waste every year in Pima County. We will help solve this by redistributing excess produce to families through our volunteer network . All you need to do is call and arrange to drop off local food at 1406 E. Grant between Highland and Vine between 9-5pm. Or let us come and harvest your garden plot!

Who are we? We are the Iskashitaa Refugee Network, which is an organization that empowers refugees by
creating opportunities to use their knowledge and skills from Africa Asia and the Middle East to help their
families integrate with the larger Tucson community while gaining life skills that serve them in America.

Currently, less than one percent of the world’s refugees are resettled to a third country (5% are located right here in Arizona). United Nations Refugees are people without countries. Their loss is incalculable: loss of
home, livelihood, safety, belonging, and sometimes family. Our hope is that awareness will inform caring, and that caring will inspire action.

And in this economic recession we will need to band together and help one another. This means budgets are
tight and jobs are hard to find. For recent refugees who are coming to America, it means that life will be even
tougher. Your donations will help many refugee families as well as other families across the city.

We have been harvesting since 2003 and have collected over 1,000,000 pounds of fruit! Right now it is citrus season and we want kumquats, tangelos, tangerines, oranges, lemons, and apples!

We need harvesters to help capture these food resources. If you can harvest once a week or a couple times a month it is a wonderful way to Make A Difference! Contact us.

If you would like to donate or pick up fruit, or you would like to volunteer, feel free to contact us at
www.HarvestTucson.org or information@iskashitaa.org


Barbara Eiswerth, Ph.D.
Director, Iskashitaa Refugee Network
Tel. (520) 440-0100

Motto: No Veggie Left Behind