Iskashitaa Refugee Network is a grass roots organization that helps rebuild refugee lives through our partnerships with volunteers and local organizations. Staff and volunteers unite refugees and the community through unique programs designed to empower the refugees. Programs emphasize community connections, sharing, and English language practice to build community of refugees and volunteers. These include English classes, food preservation workshops, and our harvesting program. Iskashitaa has also worked to build a networking community among Tucson area refugee volunteers and agencies.
Iskashitaa was born when Barbara Eiswerth, its founder and director, recruited refugee students in 2003 to participate in a project identifying locations of produce that was going to waste in Tucson. The youth also worked to harvest and redistribute these locally grown foods. After organizing four youth mapping programs, Barbara received a grant from the United Way to begin regularly harvesting gleaning with refugees.
In the first year of working with Somali Bantu youth, Barbara was taught the word "Iskashitaa". Iskashitaa is the Somali Bantu word for working cooperatively together and fit perfectly with what the group was becoming. As Barbara built a grassroots organization that focused on empowering and learning together, she knew no other word fit as well.
Although Iskashitaa started out working with Somali Bantus, the organization has expanded to work with all refugee populations from around the world. Iskashitaa serves refugees from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. These people bring new traditions and culture, as well as food preferences and recipes that have transformed Iskashitaa to what it is today.
At Iskashitaa, we harvest unwanted produce from local backyards, orchards, farms, and more to help end food insecurity in Tucson. We are always looking for volunteers willing to give their time or their trees to make this possible. Give us a call at (520)440-0100 if you'd like to volunteer and help glean produce that will be distributed to feed refugee families and individuals as well as Tucson organizations that assist the food insecure.
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