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