Friday, December 5, 2014

Iskashitaa Refugee Network
Possible Volunteer Positions

1. Geography Volunteer - Map maker for a Good Cause - Iskashitaa has over ten years' worth of data of the location of food resources including fruit trees and gardens at local homes and farms in and near Tucson. We need maps and we need a volunteer to make maps that would help us forward our mission to reduce food waste . The volunteer would be charged with increasing the number of entries by community to input their own data through our website. This position is ideal for a graduate student who can continue for a second semester.

2. Data Entry Volunteer - This volunteer would be responsible for entering data into our current data base in Google Drive. In addition to entering data into our computer system, this volunteer would also be responsible for organizing and entering data into our paper files. Data includes but is not limited to: sign-in sheets from a harvest, event, food workshop, also, volunteer hours and sales-sheets, etc. The most desirable candidate for this position would have experience with the following programs: Google Drive, Excel and SalesForce. This volunteer would also help Iskashitaa report data by converting data into charts, graphs, etc. to share with the greater Tucson area.

3. Journalism Volunteer - Volunteer would review past newsletters, published and unpublished articles about Iskashitaa Refugee Network, identify publications where Iskashitaa Refugee Network could be featured, write articles, conduct interviews and submit them for publication. Volunteer could connect with publications and companies such as: Edible Baja Arizona, Zocalo Tucson Magazine, KVOI 1030 AM The Voice, etc. This could be a one semester or multiple semester volunteer.

4. Media Arts Volunteer - Volunteer will attend Iskashitaa events to collect footage and still photos and create videography and photography projects that Iskashitaa will use to promote our work and increase our capacity to assist refugees in Tucson. This internship may be filled by an undergraduate or graduate student. This may be a one semester or academic year long volunteer position.

5. Social Media Volunteer - This volunteer would be responsible for advertising and promoting our upcoming events at Iskashitaa Refugee Network via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We have a presence on these three social media platforms already but we desire to capitalize on Iskashitaa Refugee Network’s connection within the Tucson community not only with refugees but also with countless volunteers through videos, interviews, intriguing graphic designs, etc.

6. Tucson Refugees Yahoo Group Moderation Volunteer - Tucson Refugees Yahoo Group (TRYG) consists of 360 refugees and refugee service providers as well as volunteers. Intern will research relevant articles to the Tucson Refugees Yahoo Group on topics related to local refugee events and global refugee issues and post at least three articles per week. Additionally the intern will increase usage of TRYG by promoting it to student groups with an interest in international studies, refugee resettlement, and related issues. Intern will be given guidelines for appropriate postings and will moderate the posts from other users, approving them as is appropriate. This may be a one semester or longer term internship.

7. Flyer Distributer - Iskashitaa needs to spread the news about its awesome mission to reduce food waste! Go by bike, car, foot! Whatever it takes to spread the word! This volunteer would simply be responsible for distributing flyers and posting them at coffee shops, landscape companies, restaurants, farmer’s markets, businesses, etc. to help educate the community about our refugee-focused network. Our goal is to advertise for our harvests, food preservation workshops, “Refugee 101,” “Food for Thought,” “Refugee Thanksgiving” andother Iskashitaa Refugee Network community events in order to engage more of the greater Tucson community!

8. Farmers’ Market Partner - This volunteer will be partnered with a refugee to explore the farmers’ markets each week. This position is very fluid and based largely on relationship-building but the goal is to introduce recent refugees to farmers’ markets around Tucson. Ideally, both volunteer and refugee learn about local produce, cooking techniques and how to use SNAP dollars at the farmers’ markets, as well as practice English and meet new people!

9. Thursday Farmers’ Markets Volunteer - This volunteer is expected to table at a farmers’ market of their choice at least once a week. At their own convenience, the volunteer will pick up cash box and other table supplies (table cloth, crafts to sell etc.) from the office, as well as picking up produce we will be selling directly before the market. The volunteer will be able to run the table independently when asked, including taking inventory before and after the market, keeping track of sales, distributing produce to consignment tables we partner with and receiving any necessary receipts. You must provide your own transportation.

10. Cross-Cultural Childcare Volunteer - Are you interested in child-development and cross-cultural experiences? Are you a Psychology, Education, International Studies major or just like spending time with children? While some of the Bhutanese and Somali mothers are attending English classes, their children need to be taken care of by trustworthy and competent childcare volunteers. Ideal volunteers are culturally sensitive individuals who are able to not only take responsibility for themselves but also the children they will being taking care of in this position.

Interested in one of these Volunteer positions? Contact Emily Oshinskie at

Friday, October 31, 2014

Enjoy this reflection from Iskashitaa's Special Projects Intern

While working at the San Augustin Mercado Farmer’s Market on Thursday, I got to help Arthur from Darfur with a job application.  This experience meant a lot to me.  He had many questions and was extremely grateful that I was there to answer them.  It was not a very long process.  It took about seven to ten minutes to finish the application but during this period of time I had a few realizations.  I’ve always known that coming into this country as a refugee is harder than words can articulate, but I really put myself in Arthur’s shoes yesterday and felt very moved.  Arthur told me about his four children and his wife.  He told me about his job and about going to high school in the Sudan. The whole thing just showed me how strong you must be in order to survive in a new country where you don’t really know your way around and where you don’t speak the first language fluently (along with all of the other obstacles you must face). What I am saying might sound silly; of course being a refugee is hard, obviously being in a foreign country is challenging, etc. but I had never really let myself explore what those challenges must be like on a deeper level.  It was extremely humbling for me.

Reflection by a former Iskashitaa intern

Music: Living Like a Refugee - Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars

Monday, July 14, 2014

Love and Apples

Although Mother's Day is out of season, I recently experienced a mother-daughter story of love that involved local food (of course) and love beyond words - this love was shared with me as well. The Sonoran desert produces itty bitty apples - out of season, if you think of fall as apple season. In June and July we are graced with what look like crab apples but what are really delightful - nothing like Safeway or Fry's.

Oh but I digress. I was at a recent party to celebrate women's success. When I shared my itty bitty tiny desert local apples, this is the story of love between mother and daughter that emerged with a loving, caring demonstration to all the women present. The thirty-something year-old daughter said, "My mom always shared her food art talents every day at nap time." Every day before nap, Farah* would fashion a drawing with her fingernail, imprinting a picture on an apple, and saying, "When you awake the picture will appear." 

In anticipation of her gifted art piece engraved in an apple, she would sleep in peace and then awake excited to see her personalized gift. Fast forward to today. Kind Farah engraved my name in Arabic on a tiny Sonoran apple or tufa (in Arabic). I was struck by the love, caring, and beauty of this sacred ritual. It reminded me of all the gifts my mother and grandmothers gifted to me, but especially of all the love they bestowed on me. I feel so fortunate to be able to share these moments of love with my global friends.​

-Barbara Eiswerth

Watch this video to learn how to say various fruits in Arabic!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Micah wrote this as his reflection for last week, and it does a good job of summing up his time here this summer. We'll miss you!

Last Sunday feels like tomorrow, this week went by so fast.
It's been a great first week with Tyler, Iskashitaa's new summer intern, who's incredibly hard-working and inquisitive.  Among other things Tyler helped with—like cleaning the heck out of the kitchen!—he and I visited the Iskashitaa plots at the U of A Unity Garden yesterday, and Tuesday he helped me unload all 75-or-so blocks of coconut coir to a temporary spot near the compost (which was waaaaaay faster than when I loaded them by myself).

It was a busy, exhausting week, but full of many tiny accomplishments.  With Cadie McCarthy and Barbara's help, we drafted interview questions to gather narrative data from refugees about how Iskashitaa has impacted their food security.  I scheduled interviews with a few refugees to get the project started.

Yesterday was also my very last harvest with Iskashitaa (at least for a little while).  But in the helter-skelter haywire norm of harvests, I hardly had a breath to notice.  In the odd quiet of what was probably my last redistribution run, though, I did.

Most refugees were at work midday, when I had time to drive Sevilles and grapefruit around in the White Whale van.  At Navajo, I only ran into Sabir (who's harvested tomatoes with Iskashitaa) and his friend, Adam; I ran through every other name I knew, but no one was there.  Oasis was even more deserted: Hya Hya—our trusty liason to gather folks—was away, and so were all the others I knew.  I met Fatoumah from Somalia, and Satya (her daughter?), to whom I gave a harvesting flyer and convinced to try cooking with Sevilles.

I visited Faeza's home, too, where her husband Jibril greeted me to gladly take heaps of Sevilles. We shared some laughs while feeding the naranjah into bags, and carried it all to their door.  I took my time closing up the van to head off, and was surprised to see Dahlia, their daughter, when I came back around the van.  She'd been waiting patiently in the sun for me to finish, holding two different cans of soda: "You can take one or both, but it's a very hot day and we're very grateful to you."

The little things are humongo.

Micah Hadley
Iskashitaa Harvesting Intern

As my time interning with Iskashitaa comes to an end (for now), I look back and reflect on all that I have learned and am in awe of the growth and knowledge I have gained during my short time here. I can look back at my life up to this two month journey and summarize it in a short little phrase; small town mentality. I have always had large dreams of going out, exploring the world, and seeing it for all its wonder but have hardly left my small town in Northern California to do such a thing. To some, Tucson, Arizona, might not be the most diverse culture of the world, but through Iskashitaa I can say it truly is. Through a Food For Thought Dinner, harvesting, and working in the office I have been introduced to many different types of people from all over the world.
I have met numerous refugees from all over the world with stories that are both simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring all in one. I have seen many different ways to greet and interact with people and I have learned to open my heart and eyes to the many different things that are happening all around the world and within my own country. Not only has my knowledge in cultural awareness expanded far beyond anything I have learned studying cross-cultural communication, but my knowledge in healthy eating and taking care of oneself has expanded as well.​
I have eaten things I have never heard of before and I have eaten them with an open mind. I have eaten lamb for the first time and loved every little bite; I've eaten strange fruits like loquats and saguaro cactus fruit - both of which I will gladly eat again. Through working with Iskashitaa I have learned that in Tucson, one in four children are “food insecure”. That means that one in four children are concerned about where they are going to get their next meal, what that meal will consist of, and/or whether or not it will be sufficient for them. For the past three years Iskashitaa has harvested an average of 100,000 pounds of produce that otherwise might have gone to waste. But Tucson is not alone in the plight of hungry children. In my home county alone one out of three children are food insecure and I could not even began to calculate the amount of food waste. Our orchards alone drop fruit by the dozens and we leave fruit to rot in our backyards.
Through working with Iskashitaa for the short two months I have been here I have been inspired to learn more about people in my own community as well as the eating habits we all have. So much good food goes to waste annually because people have no means to distribute it, but yet so many children and families could use it.  Being a part of Iskashitaa has really opened my eyes to this issue and has further pushed me to look into my own community and how I can be a part of something as important as eradicating food waste.
I am truly going to miss working here with everyone in the office and the Iskashitaa community. I have had so much fun learning and growing, but still I cannot wait to be able to get home and start making a change in my own backyard. I have felt at home here in Tucson, thanks to the community and Iskashitaa, and I can’t wait to come back and once more be a part of something so important. So for now I say, “See you soon and keep gleaning!”
~Elizabeth Haase Office Intern

Monday, June 30, 2014

Iskashitaa would like to welcome our newest member of our staff - Tyler! Read all about him below.

My name is Tyler Gonzalez, and I am a full-time student at Pima Community College. This upcoming spring I will be graduating and transferring to my currently undecided university of choice. I will be transferring with my Associate of Arts degree with a psych concentration and minor in Spanish. So far I have worked at Iskashitaa for one week, and I will be here for another month. I am a temporary full-time intern who is having a wonderful time working with the community in such a helpful way. Working with refugees is great and being able to help the community contribute to good stewardship regarding natural resources is also a wonderful opportunity. It is great to know that I am making a difference and helping those who need it. Most importantly, in relation to God, it gives me peace to know that there are people and organizations in my community who are contributing to be God’s Good Stewards. 
Iskashitaa would like to simultaneously welcome and say farewell to Micah Hadley, our signature male intern! It may be a little late to introduce him, as he leaves tomorrow, but Micah has brought a lot to Iskashitaa in the past month and it's important to share him with everyone else. In typical Iskashitaa fashion, he never remembered to write a bio, so it is only making it onto the blog today!

Thank you, Micah!

I hail from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where I am a senior majoring in Sociology-Anthropology and Spanish, with a minor in Global Studies.  After what was, for me, a whirlwind six months working with HIV+ families in Cambodia and an equine therapy program for at-risk youth in Bolivia, I landed in Tucson last January to spend a week with Iskashitaa.  Utterly humbled by the ideas and individuals surrounding Iskashitaa, I felt at once a world in sync; hands that held, and a walk that walked.
With the help of several long phone conversations with Barbara, the warm home of Cadie McCarthy, and the openness of the other staff, I have found myself back at Iskashitaa for a terrific yet terrifyingly brief 38 days.  My time here is focused on gathering food security narrative data from refugees and dynamically assisting staff wherever I can.

Gina Gresham
PR Intern

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sustainable Tucson

Last night, I attended a Sustainable Tucson meeting and listened to a number of speakers talk about heat emergencies and survival techniques. According to a fact sheet released by the White House (see below), climate change has brought increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks to the Southwest, which has increased wildfires and damages to people and ecosystems. Heat emergencies can cause electrical blackouts and disrupt water supplies, and as the climate situation gets worse, these disruptions can last longer and longer. Arizona is expected to get hotter and significantly drier, and Tucson could potentially go a whole week without electricity - no air conditioning, no phones or internet, and no refrigerator or freezer to keep perishable foods - which becomes dangerous fast.

I had never heard about the 1995 heat wave in Chicago that left over seven hundred people dead (more than twice as many as the infamous Chicago fire of 1871). Having lived the last three years in the Windy City, this shocked me. What saved a lot of the people who survived the five days of 100+ degrees was their sense of community. The neighborhoods where people knew and interacted with each other regularly were more likely to make it through, because these people helped each other.

At this point in the Sustainable Tucson meeting, we discussed our own neighborhood community with those sitting around us. Having been in Tucson only a week, I didn't have much to contribute, but I ended up sitting next to Robby, one of Iskashitaa's board members. When the speaker later touched on how during a heat emergency, grocery stores wouldn't be the ones to feed people, she turned to me and nodded. In this kind of crisis, organizations like Iskashitaa would play a bigger role.

The refugee population is one of the most vulnerable groups when temperatures climb to dangerous heights. It's important that these people are given opportunities to become integrated in their community, that they have neighbors and contacts they can check in with, or friends that will check up on them. When (and not if) Tucson faces a week-long loss of power, it will be up to these people to help each other survive.

Gina Gresham
PR Intern

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reflection on Food For Thought Potluck Dinner

~May 28, 2014
I would have never imagined growing up in my little town that I would one day be sitting in a room with at least thirty people from all across the world, sharing stories, laughs, and food. Yet, there I was. It was the night of the Food For Thought Dinner that I had spent the past couple of weeks hearing about and watching Stephanie put together.  I arrived early with Stephanie and Micah. We had decided that we would get there at around 5:00pm to set up even though others would not arrive until closer to 6:00pm. Set up went rather quickly so we went about making sure everything was accessible and easy for people when they arrived. A few people arrived to the kitchen early to cook their meals. One lady, named Justina, was had a lot of character and a fast talker. The three other ladies (two being refugees) were helping Justina out in the kitchen and learning about the rice dish she was making.

My main job at the event was to take pictures, and taking pictures is what I did. I started off with the girls in the kitchen, getting photos of their prep work as well as their finished product. While the girls were cooking and people arrived I took pictures of the dishes being brought out and the little cards with the descriptions of what the food was and what was in it. So many different kinds of food were brought and all of them tasted amazing. There were foods from Iraq, Nepal, Russia, and many other places.

While walking around and taking pictures I did not mingle much with people, besides those who I sat with when eating all the amazing food. I am not really one who does well with interactions, so just being able to walk around and listen to the way people spoke with one another was really great. When I did sit and talk while eating, I sat down with a lady who was from Mexico and her family, as well as Justina. Everyone was really nice and we had lively conversations about where we each were from. I learned about how the lady from Mexico ended up coming to the states and marrying her husband. Talking with Justina was also very eye-opening. She is a transgender woman who only recently decided to come out, and hearing her talk about her life and what it was like growing up as a boy, yet feeling like a girl, made me see things a little differently. Watching the way people interacted with one another, people from all kinds of places and backgrounds, really made me feel special. I felt like I was seeing the real America: the idea of this giant melting pot. I was able to taste and see all these cultures blended into a beautiful tapestry that was the Food For Thought Potluck Dinner.

~Elizabeth Office Intern with Iskashitaa

Friday, June 6, 2014

Market on the Move

Market on the Move’s June locations are now available! 

Market on the Move is an organization that collects unwanted produce from Nogales, Arizona, and redistributes it. The leftover produce consists of what grocery stores won't take, even though it is perfectly edible (and delicious). For only a ten dollar donation, one is able to get up to sixty pounds of fruits and veggies. That money goes towards Market on the Move's various programs, which include food rescue and disaster relief.

Many families and individuals cannot eat all sixty pounds of produce before it begins to go bad, so Iskashitaa would be grateful for any extra that can be delivered to 1406 E. Grant Rd. That produce will be redistributed to food insecure families in the Tucson area.

Click on the link to find the Market near you!

Gina Gresham
PR Intern

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Surge of Migrant Families Arrive in Arizona

Migrants dropped at Greyhound bus stations

Planes full of women and children migrants have recently touched down in Arizona, their passengers released to Greyhound bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix in order to cope with the large numbers of incoming migrants in Texas. Casa Mariposa, one of Iskashitaa's partner organizations in Tucson, has been helping the arriving parents and children navigate the Greyhound bus system and has given them donations to ease their transition. These families have relatives elsewhere in the United States. They are sent from Tucson to various destinations around the country in order to unite with these relatives, and Casa Mariposa is helping to facilitate this process with tips on purchasing bus tickets and taking the Greyhound. Before leaving Tucson, the families are given a bag of food, as well as any diapers, clothes, or simple medication that is needed. They are then required to meet with ICE in their destination location two weeks after their arrival.

Casa Mariposa appreciates Iskashitaa's work and uses the fresh produce they receive from us for the hot meals they serve every night to these families. Grapefruit and oranges that come from Iskashitaa are also often included in the food bags the families receive.

Though Casa Mariposa is dealing primarily with these families, it's important to note that the amount of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, has grown exponentially in the past six years – this year, the government estimates that 60,000 children could be caught trying to cross the border. The demographics of these minors have changed as well: there are now more girls and more children under the age of thirteen. These young immigrants attempt to cross in order to escape crime and poverty, and often to reunite with relatives already in the United States. President Obama asked Congress for $1.4 billion last week in extra funding in order to house, feed, and transport the surge of children, and appointed Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to handle the situation. This increase is a growing logistical problem for the U.S. government.

Link to article:

Gina Gresham
PR Intern

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Iskashitaa Welcomes Gina

Iskashitaa invites the community to join us in welcoming our newest intern, Gina Gresham! 

My name is Gina Gresham and I will be a senior in the fall at Loyola University Chicago. I grew up in Minneapolis, and am a true Minnesotan at heart, so the heat in Tucson will be a challenge for me! I am majoring in International Studies and Spanish, with a minor in English, and have a passion for reading (especially the news). I lived and studied in Santiago, Chile, for six months and returned with fond memories and experiences that fueled my drive for international work. I am interested in the world and hope to grow a career with a non-governmental organization. I thrive on meeting new people and hearing about their experiences, and am so very excited to be joining Iskashitaa for the summer.

Gina will serve as our PR intern, she will participate in harvests, workshops, volunteer trainings, and community events including a Food for Thought dinner, in order to get to know refugees and volunteers, as well as to experience Iskashitaa’s organizational culture.  Gina’s main role will be to systemically evaluate our current web presence, develop, and implement a plan to help us reach new audiences and thereby expand our work.  With direct input from Barbara, Gina will assist the Network in increasing their social media presence as well as presence on partner agencies’ websites.  Further, Gina will seek publication opportunities in content related print and online media.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Organic, Locally-Grown Produce

Angela Pittenger's desire to avoid pesticide residues on certain types of produce led to her search for healthier fruits and veggies that wouldn't break the bank. Pittenger consulted two lists put out yearly by research and advocacy organization The Environmental Working Group. These lists, termed "The Dirty Dozen" (apples, strawberries, and grapes, to name a few) and "The Clean Fifteen" (asparagus, avocadoes, and cantaloupe, and more) consist of produce with the most and least amounts of pesticide residues, respectively. Instead of spending more money to replace all non-organic food with organic, Pittenger recommends focusing on substituting only the fruits and vegetables on "The Dirty Dozen" list. And as a general guideline, she adds, thick-skinned produce that is peeled before eaten is less likely to be contaminated. This will ensure a healthier diet, even for those on a tight budget.
In recent weeks, Iskashitaa has harvested a lot of organic produce, such as small Sonoran peaches, sixteen varieties of garlic from Forever Yong Farm, figs, grapefruit, and kumquats. Iskashitaa's harvests are essentially free, unlike the produce Pittenger found in her survey of grocery stores, and are an important contribution that both creates and benefits the Tucson community.

Gina Gresham
Borderlinks Summer Civic Engage

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Adventure Begins

Hey Everyone! My name is Elizabeth Haase, I am a 21-year old student from Simpson University in Redding, CA and a new intern for Iskashitaa. Being here in Tucson for only a week has already introduced me to new obstacles and events. I started my first day at work last Monday by getting lost on the Suntran Bus Route. Growing up in a small town and continuing my education in a small "city" has left me pretty ignorant when it comes to the ways of Public Transportation. None the less, I made it to the office and instantly was given a tour of the office and sent to work.
After a 24 hour long Greyhound bus ride ending just 24 hours prior I was in the Iskashitaa office weighing vegetables. I weighed Cucumbers and Squash, both of which were absolutely amazing. I had spent the entire bus ride and the weeks leading engaged with all sorts of ideas and imaginative assumptions of how work and the office would be. I couldn't have imaged the amount of daily tasks and fires that arise that seem to effortlessly be extinguished by those in the office. First coming in I was  not too sure of my place and role but after a couple of days "I got my groove" and began dealing with Files.
Now beginning my second week in Tucson I am excited to see where and to what this job takes me. I have tried new foods, seen new places, and met new people. I cannot wait to continue this adventure during the next three-weeks and be acquainted with many more.
~Elizabeth, Intern with Iskashitaa

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Seville Orange

On my fourth day of work with Iskashitaa, I joined Barbara at a Food Workshop at First United Methodist Church based on the Seville orange. It was my first time being introduced to the orange and at the same time my first time getting acquainted with Iraqi food. Sinbad's (a restaurant here in Tucson) owner and cook Amna came to show those participating in the event that the once thought only ornamental fruit had very good uses with food. The Seville oranges were a key ingredient in the house dressing served over pita chips, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green peppers, and house dressing that includes freshly squeezed Seville orange juice.  Talk about an amazing combination. Fallowed by a freshly made Seville orange Marmalade and the combination were perfect. For a first introduction to the Sour orange of Tucson and Fattoush, an Iraqi salad, I was not disappointed. One of the best parts of this is anyone can go and try this amazing dish out themselves for only $7.00 at Sinbad's located at 810 E. University Blvd in Tucson, Arizona.
I enjoyed going along with Barbara to the event at First United Methodist. It was a fun way for me to further my experience Tucson and see an outside portion of the UofA campus. Not only did I see the campus and the different sort of fruit trees on it, I also spent my time meeting new people of Tucson and interacting with a Refugee from Iraq. Though I did not get one on one time with her, I did get to hear her tell us about her life in coming to the US and then a bit about her religion and family dynamic. Her introduction on the differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was really interesting because she talked about how she and her husband were the opposite as were her parents. Learning this really opened my eyes to viewing Muslims differently and that helps me to become more tolerant.
~Elizabeth, Intern with Iskashitaa 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creating an Edible Forest at Church

 New Chapter Unfolds in FUMC's Partnership With Iskashitaa

For the past four years First United Methodist Church has worked with Iskashitaa Refugee Network in a variety of ways. One of the first things Rev. Beth Rambikur did on arriving at FUMC was to go to Iskashitaa to meet Dr. Barbara Eiswerth (founder & director) and Natalie Brown (development director & member at FUMC) and to explore the partnership:  past, present, and future.  Brainstorming for the future focused on exploring ways to produce food on FUMC property.  

Shortly after, Pastor Beth wrote a letter of support affirming the partnership that helped Iskashitaa in receiving a grant from the Arizona State Forestry Department.  In part, this grant supports Iskashitaa staff and volunteers in collaborating with FUMC and the Wesley Foundation to establish an “edible forest” at FUMC.  The edible forest will consist of trees, herbs, and shrubs that will provide food resources for refugee families.  The grant also assists with the costs of the existing Iskashitaa harvesting program and provides resources to establish a program of systematically identifying, pollinating, and subsequently harvesting dates from palm trees throughout Tucson.

Two planning meetings have outlined steps in developing the Edible Forest at FUMC.  An initial action step was the recent composting workshop at FUMC, led by Iskashitaa volunteer Sheryl Lehman.   Follow-up will be to establish a composting site at FUMC.   Lauren Maghram from FUMC plans on using our "recyclables" from Social Hall events as "fodder" for the compost.   Additionally, Dr. Barbara Eiswerth recently taught an adult Sunday School class entitled, “Heart of the Harvest”.   Additional classes will be held later in the year. Separate from this grant project, Iskashitaa’s Faith-Based Organization Liaison and United Methodist US-2, Stephanie Plotas, recently coordinated a Food for Thought potluck at FUMC with refugees and members of other faith communities present. The September Coin Sunday offering and a United Methodist Women's donation were designated for support of Stephanie's work.  Our partnership is indeed multifaceted. 

Leadership and volunteers from FUMC are meeting regularly with Iskashitaa staff to finalize plans for the Edible Forest.  If you have an interest in assisting with planning and/or maintaining these fruit- bearing plants, or assisting with the compost pile, please contact Natalie Brown at or call 520-440.0100.

Iskashitaa Refugee Network is very grateful for the ongoing support of First UMC.  Your partnership truly makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of refugees throughout Tucson.

For more information about this Iskashitaa partner, visit the First UMC website

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Students, Refugees Harvest Sour Oranges

Following the success of the LEAF Team’s first calamondin lime harvest on March 8, the momentum continues with another Seville (sour) orange harvest, April 5that yielded 600 pounds. (LEAF: Linking Edible Arizona Forests)

This time the team is focusing its efforts on another valuable, yet misunderstood citrus food resource – Seville oranges, known to many as “sour oranges.” 

Seville oranges, although sour in taste, possess many cultural values for refugee communities within Tucson. In fact, for much of the Arabic speaking world this“narenge” is used even more frequently than lemons. During a food preservation demonstration planned for April 17, UN refugees will be sharing some of their culinary knowledge about these fruit incorrectly considered inedible by many locals.

Glenn Wright, a citrus expert and associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Agriculture Center in Yuma, shared some valuable information on harvesting techniques:

·         When picking citrus by hand, avoid “plugging,” or ripping of the fruit’s outer rind, as much as possible. Especially for calamondin limes, this will extend the shelf life and quality of the fruit well beyond the harvest date.

·         When using a clipper, trim as close to the stem as possible. If there is concern about bacterial transmission between trees, using a 5% bleach dip to sanitize clippers is recommended.

·         Get to know your trees. Yellowing leaves or bumpy bark can indicate nutrient deficiencies or viruses, which can result in lower quality fruit.

·         Harvesting technique decisions should always be made on a tree-to-tree basis. Some older trees may require handling with care, and some fruit are more delicate that others. For instance, the rinds of calamondin limes are soft, making them prone to rupture, while Seville oranges tend to be hardier in harvesting and storage.

·         For juicing purposes, don’t be afraid to pick the ugly fruit. Fruit not traditionally beautiful can be desirable for what they provide in their juice.

For more information about the harvests, or to get involved, contact citrus intern Ty Trainer at ttrainer@email.arizona.eduMelanie Lenart, project manager for LEAF on the UA Campus, at, or Barbara Eiswerth, director of Iskashitaa Refugee Network, at

Further, the harvesting of these oranges has provided ample opportunity for research and an expansion of our awareness of the conditions that affect the fruit’s quality and longevity.

By Ty Trainer, LEAF Intern

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Iskashitaa Lives Up to Its Name

I recently had the opportunity to visit with two Bhutanese women at their apartments in town. One of our Goodwill Interns, Melissa, is studying American Sign Language, so Iskashitaa was presented with an exciting opportunity to connect with these two women, both of whom are hearing-impaired. When Melissa and I arrived at the apartment complex, along with another young man from Burundi, we came across a woman working on a knitting project in the parking lot. We approached her and began asking her questions, but she pointed to her ears and shook her head. Then we knew that she was one of the two ladies we had hoped to visit that day. Her face lit up when Melissa began signing to her, and she eagerly accepted when we offered to give her a box of oranges and grapefruit. She then invited us into her apartment and began telling Melissa about her living situation here and how hard it is for her to get enough to eat. She kept signing the word “friend.” We told her we would be there to pick her up for our harvest on Friday, and she smiled as we drove away.

This encounter reminded me how important it can be just to spend time with someone. It’s unfathomable to me that just a few blocks from where I work every day, a woman is sitting in the parking lot alone, simply because she has trouble communicating with others in her community. Now, by harvesting with Iskashitaa she can begin to make more connections with people and explore the city of Tucson. I am struck again by how well our name fits this organization: we aim to “work cooperatively together” in all that we do. Simply by listening to this woman’s story we helped her feel safe and comfortable, and that someone cares. And now, by involving her in our work, we are able to help her feel that she can contribute to her community as well. This is what Iskashitaa is all about.

Heather Gerrish
Harvesting Coordinator

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Iraqi Refugees Introduce Date Vinegar

“I tried date vinegar today,” I told my mom, who called from snowy Michigan to hear how things were in sunny Arizona.

“Date vinegar? I’ve never heard of such a thing! What did it taste like?”

I didn’t know how to describe it to her; I couldn’t think of words that fit. That got me thinking: Is this how refugees feel when they come to the US—like they don’t have the words to describe what they are experiencing, even in their native language?

So often we see refugees solely as people in need of aid. After all, they have come here for protection, and must learn a new language, a new culture, and a new way of life. English is often not a second language but a third, fourth or fifth. The culture is confusing, and navigating systems like healthcare and education can be overwhelming. Finding a job that can both feed the family and pay the rent is another stress-filled challenge. And all this is on top of dealing with the aftereffects of the trauma and persecution which caused them to leave their homes initially.

While all these struggles are real, we can forget to see beyond them to recognize that refugees have things to teach us, too. Date vinegar is just one example of this.

Under the instruction of Alaa and Faeza, two Iraqi refugees, we started the vinegar in December. After about 45 days, it had reached the point where it was ready for processing. An Egyptian refugee, a Sudanese refugee, and several other volunteers joined Alaa and Faeza to get started.

As we stood in the kitchen, I tried to soak in the steps while Arabic sentences floated over my head. I recognized that even if the refugees spoke in English, I still wouldn’t understand; I know nothing about the intricacies of making date vinegar. As Alaa showed Barbara a more effective way to squeeze the dates, I remembered the time he showed us all how to properly cut open pomegranates. The Sudanese refugee, who was a farmer in Darfur, was with me on my first orange harvest, where he showed me how to pick oranges properly. Manerva and Faeza have done cooking demonstrations at Tucson Meet Yourself, and they continue to share their food and their culture in other ways, as well.

At Iskashitaa we work with refugees because we care deeply. We want to see them become successful in America and we want to see them become part of the community. Yet we also work with refugees because we recognize that what they have to teach us is incredibly valuable. As I experience this more and more, I realize that these lessons change me in significant and meaningful ways. I begin to think that cross-cultural exchange is not just enriching, but vital.

As we finished up in the kitchen, Faeza said, “I want everyone in Tucson to taste date vinegar.” So do I—but I hope that date vinegar is only the beginning.  

Stephanie Plotas

Faith-Based Liaison
Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Friday, March 14, 2014

Iskashitaa Welcomes New Intern

My name is Anahiza Vianey Carrillo, born and raised here in Tucson, AZ since September 14, 1993. I graduated at Toltecalli High School in 2012 as valedictorian and throughout my four years there received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, City Council Office Certificate of Appreciation, and the Roots of Success: Environmental Literacy Curriculum. I was awarded the Luis Perales Service Learning Award, an award that was given to a single person out of the entire student body for being the most dedicated and hardworking. I also won the Superintendent's Achievement Recognition award. With the training I received from four years working with the Tierra Y Libertad Organization gardening, composting, harvesting, and doing community-based outreach, I am very excited to continue and expand my knowledge here at Iskashitaa for the next 8 weeks as an Intern through the Goodwill program.

Anahiza Vianey Carillo
Goodwill Office Intern

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Nurturing Projects at UA

Growing a Garden and Stocking the Pantry

Iskashitaa Refugee Network is always venturing into unchartered territory in an effort to spread the good news about sustainable efforts in Tucson to a wider audience. Well, we’ve done it again! This semester, Iskashitaa is opening two new doors to community collaboration and cooperation. 

First, we have been granted the use of a plot at the University of Arizona’s Community Garden headed by the Students for Sustainability association on campus. We are really excited about this new project and are still looking for volunteers to help maintain the garden as well as donations of seeds and plantlets. We want to create a space where volunteers and refugees can trade understanding of the earth and its food riches through a cross-cultural gardening experience. In exchange for useful vocabulary and cultural insights, we hope to receive valuable information about the refugees’ traditional knowledge and use of the same plants in their own culture. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get involved and get your hands a little earthy this spring!

Second, Iskashitaa has entered into a partnership with two justice-minded organizations from the University of Arizona. The UA Community Garden and the UA Campus Pantry have joined with Iskashitaa in the fight to end food waste and insecurity in Tucson. Iskashitaa will be donating fresh produce monthly to the UA Campus Pantry, which is an organization committed to helping food insecure students gain access to nutritious foods. This seemingly insignificant collaboration is helping to bring the UA and greater Tucson community one step closer to food justice! Check out the Iskashitaa Facebook page and website for more information and to see how you can help make Tucson more sustainable!!

If you are interested in helping with the garden, please contact Emily, our Food Security and Sustainability Intern, at

Emily Sylvia
Food Security and Sustainability Intern

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Friday, March 7, 2014

Candied Citrus Peel Recipe

Candied Citrus Peel

Around 2 lbs. citrus peels

2 cups sugar

Dipping chocolate (optional)

Put peels in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Strain (save water for irrigating plants, moistening compost or some such) and repeat this operation five times, or until bitterness is satisfactorily reduced. Fill pot with water again, add sugar and simmer for half an hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Remove peels and save syrup for any number of culinary uses (sauces, smoothies, etc.) Slice peels into equally sized strips. Spread them on drying racks and dry in sun oven, in dehydrating machine or in the sun. When dry, though not hard, cover them with sugar to prevent them from sticking together when stored. You can also dip them in chocolate!

 Don't throw away your citrus peels--save them and turn them into something delicious!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Food and Music Connects Students and Refugees

In January, we had a large group of volunteers with us from Nebraska Wesleyan University. They harvested hundreds of pounds of produce, made many new friends, and even introduced us to a few individuals they had met while dropping food off at apartment complexes. 

To celebrate their achievements, our talented volunteer, Roy, cooked a delicious dinner for the the end of their visit. I was very excited to be able to get to know some of the students better, and celebrate all the work they had done throughout the week. Since I wasn't involved in organizing the event, I was able to spend time with people. I was grateful for this change of pace, since I am often so busy with last minute details that I don't take the time to relax and enjoy people's company. I knew I was going to have fun, but I could not have anticipated the tremendous success of this event.

After spending time at dinner discussing New Years celebrations around the world (apparently a big deal in Burundi, and a time of year when everyone comes together), we moved into a common room and began making music. One of Iskashitaa's Burundian members can pick up just about any instrument and begin playing and singing along. Lots of students picked up drums, and one of our Iraqi friends, upon seeing that there were no more drums, began using two oranges as a percussion instrument. Soon everyone was singing. It was an incredible moment of people connecting through music, and it was especially dear to my heart since I studied music in college. I was also struck by the extent to which people had developed deep relationships with others from around the world. People had formed friendships across boundaries because of a shared love of gardening, for example, and Iraqi and Egyptian refugees were able to connect with a Sudanese refugee through their common language of Arabic. 

I left the evening thinking how profoundly simple that dinner was, and yet how it was exactly what we needed to be doing. And it all happened so organically. I am constantly amazed at how people will come together if we simply give them an opportunity to do so.

Heather Gerrish
Harvesting Coordinator
Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Community Food Bank Donates Van

The staff and volunteers of Iskashitaa Refugee Network extend our deepest thanks 
to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona for its recent donation of a cargo van.

This generous donation will dramatically increase our capacity to harvest and transport fresh fruits and vegetables from homeowners' backyards in and around Tucson, as well as from farms and orchards throughout southern Arizona.

We have worked closely with the CFB for many years to conduct joint citrus and pumpkin harvests, and have participated at their Santa Cruz Farmers' Market. We are grateful for this ongoing partnership, which allows us to better serve refugees and other food-insecure families throughout Pima County.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Iskashitaa Welcomes New Intern : Meet Emily

Emily is a graduating senior at the University of Arizona and looks forward to receiving
a Bachelor's of Science in Global Studies: International Development and Political
Economy, in May.

She has worked with various agricultural organizations and she hopes to one day 
focus her research on the problem of food insecurity in Latin America, which is 
her region of emphasis.

However, recognizing the food insecurity and hunger problem in her own backyard,
she has joined the Iskashitaa community to serve and be served as she finishes 
her undergraduate career. As a development major, she has never accounted for refugee
communities in her studies. She is therefore very excited to learn more about their
presence and role in our society, as well as their needs and abilities.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Celebrate Citrus Season: Feed Families, Not Landfills

The citrus season is in full swing. If you've never celebrated citrus season before, you're missing out. You can start with this game: as you travel around Tucson, search for citrus. How many different types of citrus can you find? How many of those citrus trees will be used to their full potential?

People all over Tucson struggle to feed their families. Though we know others live in poverty and hunger, we don't often think we can help them much. We might donate a few dollars or a few cans, but otherwise we simply give them our well wishes maybe donate some canned goods-all while passing by our neighbor's citrus tree, heavy with unused fruit. Maybe getting involved in addressing food insecurity could be easier than we thought.

Look within your own community-be it your place of worship, your sports club, your workplace, or your social or philanthropic club. Survey your members: does anyone have more fruit than they can use? What about the rest of your neighborhood, your families, and your friends? Perhaps they would like to give their fruit away but simply do not know where to take it or do not have the ability or time to pick it themselves.

What if your group celebrated citrus season by coming together to harvest fruit so it could be given to the food insecure- those who do not know where tomorrow's food comes from, instead of rotting on the tree or ground? Not only can we feed families, we can do it with local and natural food resources that might otherwise go to waste. Why buy Florida oranges when we can pick Tucson oranges ourselves? Better yet, you won't need to buy any harvesting equipment: Iskashitaa can provide bins and pole pickers to groups interested in celebrating citrus season- The Gift of Giving.

What are we waiting for? Let's celebrate citrus season by joining together to feed families instead of landfills. Contact Iskashitaa today for more information or help getting started with your local harvest with people you know!

Stephanie Plotas

Faith Based Liaison

Tel. 520-440-0100

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Call for Iskashitaa MOMs!

Iskashitaa is looking for new MOMs! MOM stands for Market on the Move, which aims to rescue millions of pounds of fresh produce from going to waste every year in Nogales landfills. MOM collects unwanted produce from produce brokers and then distributes that produce in Tucson and Phoenix.

Market on the Move occurs from 8am-noon every Saturday at various host sites around Tucson. Supporters can visit MOM regularly to give a $10 donation and receive up to 60 pounds of fresh produce. Donations can be made at the host site, so there is no need to pre-register or pre-donate online.

If your household cannot use all 60 pounds of fresh produce, you can become an Iskashitaa MOM! Help feed families instead of landfills and donate the excess produce to Iskashitaa. We will then distribute the produce to refugee families throughout Tucson.

To donate your produce, email us at, or call our office at 520-440-0100. We will schedule a time for you to drop off the produce at our office on Grant Rd.

Thank you for joining in our mission to leave no fruit behind!

Click here to learn more about Market on the Move.  

Click here to learn more about Market on the Move's mission statement. 

Click here to see the locations for Market on the Move in Tucson.