Friday, June 28, 2013

Foundations Help Us Grow

Iskashitaa Refugee Network is very grateful for two local foundations whose contributions will help us grow this year.

We would like to thank the Long Realty Cares Foundation for its support of our harvesting program.  This support will enable us to continue our harvesting program throughout the summer months during which time we will harvest garlic, pomegranates, figs and Calamondin limes.

We would also like to thank the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and the William and Doris Rubin Endowment Fund for naming Iskashitaa Refugee Network a recipient for the 2013-2014 grant cycle.  Their support will allow us to hire a harvesting coordinator in the fall to lead our gleaning efforts just in time for the apple, citrus and pumpkin harvesting seasons.

Foundations like these make our work possible.  We are extremely grateful.  Thank you so very much!  In the languages of our refugee friends: murakoze, dhanyabaad, mahad sanid, shukran, asante sana, and muchas gracias!

Natalie Brown

Iskashitaa Development Director

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mayor and Council Meeting: Plan Tucson

On the evening of June 10th Iskashitaa Director Barbara Eiswerth and I attended the Mayor and Council meeting with the intention of showing support for Plan Tucson, the most recently proposed general plan for the city. Jurisdictions use general plans to address issues having to do with development, and to set forth groundwork and goals which are to be referenced and built upon in the future. A good plan can give a positive flavor to all forthcoming development and help shape a city’s direction. Arizona state law requires that a jurisdiction either adopt a new plan or re-adopt its current plan every ten years.
Plan Tucson was prepared with the goal of replacing the current General Plan in order to emphasize goals, policies, and language that take into account the future of Tucson’s social, economic, and environmental growth. The plan focuses on relationships, stressing the connections that are inherent between all city systems. This plan incorporates sustainability goals and ideals into the workings of the city in ways that have not been seen here before. Sustainability can be loosely defined as the combination of societal, economic, and environmental factors that provide a groundwork for global operations with the purpose of balancing the needs of the present with those of the future. Iskashitaa played a role in assuring that the Local Food System was emphasized as well as fruit and vegetable gleaning being named specifically. If you are interested in policy and would like to represent Iskashitaa in some of these efforts please contact
 For more information about Plan Tucson, including public comment and upcoming meeting dates, please visit

Monday, June 24, 2013

Childcare Center Thanks Iskashitaa for Healthy Snacks and More

 At the exciting Open House of Amani II in May, Amani International Preschool & Childcare Center II publicly thanked Iskashitaa for its efforts in assisting this community in meaningful ways. Since Amani I opened in October 2012 Iskashitaa has provided it with local fruits and vegetables, educational materials, diapers, volunteers, and more.
Serving refugee and non-refugee families, Amani highlights:
  • 24/7 operations and acceptance of DES
  • PR/ First Aid certified staff
  • Caring for children ages 2 weeks to 12 years
  • Free transportation to and from school
  • Healthy snacks provided with the help of Iskashitaa
Amani is located conveniently at 131 E Mohave Road near Amphi HS and is enrolling now. For additional information call (520) 777-3864. Amani is among the more than 30 organizations to which Iskashitaa donates healthy and nutritious local produce by gleaning Tucson's backyard bounty, Avalon Organic Gardens, and Tucson CSA. We thank all our donors.
Can you suggest other farms or organizations for us to partner with? Please email Iskashitaa at or find us on Facebook.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Entreaty for Advance Warnings

Early in May Iskashitaa Refugee Network director Barbara Eiswerth received notice from Murat Kacira the U of A's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center that the lettuce from two full greenhouses would be sent to the composting facility within two days unless Iskashitaa could harvest it first.
The Refugee Network had never harvested lettuce before, let alone on two days notice! It was a mad scramble to recruit a crew of volunteers, procure vehicles, and muster some mismatched crates, buckets and coolers at the last minute, not to mention the tremendous challenge of finding people and organizations to take the gorgeous heads of lettuce before they wilted in the hot sun.
Upon arrival at the Iskashitaa headquarters it soon dawned on the sleepy volunteers that they would have to fine-tune their fast-paced cooperative improvisation and decision-making skills ASAP! What was the best way to harvest lettuce? Where would it go once picked? There were not enough coolers, or other suitable containers on hand to hold it all. How many trips would it take to transport the delicate greens in the two small pickup trucks available? How would we organize the distribution throughout the city immediately after the harvest? It was truly harrowing, and yet, amazingly, many families in need were ultimately able to enjoy deliciously fresh lettuce that day!
Iskashitaa is extremely grateful to all the people and organizations that afford the Network the possibility of providing people in need with food that would otherwise go to waste. And at the same time, we would like to ask all these generous providers to kindly give us as much advance warning as possible, so that we can actually get the most food to people who need it, without suffering from a heart attack in the process!
Dena Ellen Cowan
Editor Iskashitaa Newsletter

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Iskashitaa Welcomes U of A / Goodwill Intern Anthony Adun

"Hello, my name is Anthony Adun and
I am currently an intern at Iskashitaa.
I graduated from Catalina Magnet
High School, and I am going to be a Sophomore at the University of
Arizona in August of 2013. 
In my time at Iskashitaa I look
forward to working with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well
as supporting the staff here on our mission to give back to the
community and empower individuals
in Tucson.
You can email Anthony at or welcome him when he answers your many calls at (520) 440 0100.

If you are interested in an internship or know someone attending any university who may be interested, contact with a résumé, and request list of available internships and special programs. Later this summer we will introduce interns from Duke, Stanford and ASU.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lively Food for Thought at Café Desta


For May's Food for Thought dinner a record number of us (31) gathered at the hospitable Cafe Desta where we shared a delectable meal, big platters of lovely spiced vegetables and meat. We scooped up our food with traditional Ethiopian injera bread made with teff flour. Our hosts were very attentive and happy to talk to us-Catalina Rotarian and Kirk Reed even tried to put nametags on the refugee staff. We had interesting and lively conversations with the eight guest refugees. I was so happy to see many new people at this dinner.Robbie Dick spoke with Gamiel from Darfur at length but sometimes he had to draw pictures for her to understand as he described some Sudanese marriage customs.

LeVonne Kelly said that she enjoyed visiting with Amani, a young woman originally from South Sudan. She was so excited because she had just graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Development from Pima Community College. She already has a job working with young children, yet plans to further her education soon. Gidday, from Eritrea, was happily sharing a photograph of her beautiful little daughter, which drew lots of oohs and aaahs and smiles from the crowd.
Fourteen-year-old Meteseybia talked about the math award he had just won at his middle school where he has been studying since he arrived in January. He also talked passionately about drawing and how he had learned to fix computers. I was amazed at how his English had improved since I met him last and that he was not so shy anymore. Margaret & Jim Liebig talked with a young Ethiopian lad and found out how much he likes soccer and how he hopes to play at Catalina High next school year. It was good of him to interpret a little for his mother so she could converse with Margaret & Jim.
Several of the waiters kept coming out of the kitchen to talk to Adhanet in her language, Tigrinya. Sarah Griffiths, an Iskashitaa family mentor and ESL volunteer, had invited Adhanet's family to this event. As it turns out Adhanet works at Café Desta and the waiters were surprised to see her at the table eating instead of serving.
Look for information about our next Food for Thought dinner in the Iskashitaa Newsletter or on our Facebook page. We'll gather again on July 10th. Please RSVP to
Joy, Peace & Love,
Annlee Laughlin
Iskashitaa Intern