Iskashitaa Refugee Network

09 Nov 2020, by Admin in Previous Host Sites (National)

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Iskashitaa Refugee Network

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1406 E Grant Rd Bldg. #2, Tucson, AZ 85719

Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Established as a group of Somali-Bantu refugee youth mentored by Dr. Barbara Eiswerth in 2003, Iskashitaa Refugee Network is not only a gleaning organization but a supportive community that centers the minds, skills, and hearts of United Nations refugees to increase knowledge on backyard edible landscapes in Southern Arizona. Literally and figuratively, Iskashitaa signifies “working cooperatively together.” In the Somali-Bantu spoken language of Maay-Maay this is what Iskashitaa translates to and through its programming, that’s what Iskashitaa is. IRN creates an intentional space for UN refugees to casually practice English, learn to navigate Tucson, and overcome social isolation that many immigrants face in moving to a new community.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iskashitaa has shifted programming to reflect their community’s needs. Predominant changes were made in harvesting and the manner in which food was distributed into the community. Fruit tree gleaning has been restructured so that it can be scheduled by individuals, households, or small groups of 5 or less to glean citrus trees with Iskashitaa’s harvesting supplies. Typically, refugees and volunteers would meet at the Iskashitaa office to gather harvesting supplies, receive a demonstration on ladder safety and how to use a fruit picking pole, and then carpool to the gleaning destination/s. Before COVID-19, this occurred every Wednesday and Friday with event times adjusting start time for winter/summer in Southern Arizona.

Most gleaned food redistributed to refugees has been done by taking it to apartment complexes with large refugee populations or directly to their homes rather than many individuals coming to the office to pick up gleaned produce. During the COVID-19 pandemic through the month of September, 59,136 pounds of produce were gleaned and 7,507 people were fed.