Dr. Barbara Eiswerth - Director & Founder, CEO
Dr. Barbara Eiswerth moved to Tucson in 1992 to work as a research geologist specializing in GeoSpatial Information Technologies with the US Geological Survey. After ten years working extensively with technology transfer in Latin America, she pursued a career as an environmental scientist working at the Office of Arid Lands, Arizona Remote Sensing Center with projects in East and West Africa.
After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, Eiswerth founded a community-based organization that empowers United Nations refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East by creating opportunities to use their knowledge and skills from their countries of origin. The network, made up of refugees and volunteers, is called Iskashitaa Refugee Network, which means "working cooperatively together". The program has evolved from a few thousand pounds of fruit harvested to an all time largest annual harvest of over 100,000 pounds annually of fruit, nuts, and vegetables from backyards and local farms and orchards with a cumulative one million servings of local produce. In addition, Iskashitaa has integrated projects including producing and marketing refugee culinary goods and sustainable crafts. During Isakshitaa project activities, residents of Tucson are educated about the refugee community as well as the local food system and food waste.
A sampling of the recognitions Eiswerth has received include being a National Finalist in Community for Sustainable Food, the Baha’i “Vision in Action Award”, National Garden Crusader Award for Feeding the Hungry, the Church Women United's Human Rights Award, The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona's Meyer and Libby Marmis Humanitarian Award, and Interfaith Community Services' Silver Spoon Award. Iskashitaa’s work was recognized by the White House through the Community Based Initiative for one of the winning videos in “Portraits of Compassion”. In 2011, Eiswerth, one of six recognized each year, was awarded the distinguished Hon Kachina Volunteer Award in the State of Arizona for community volunteer efforts that make a difference and for encouraging others to volunteer.
Natalie S. Brown - Development Director
Ms. Brown has a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. She has worked with multicultural communities in many contexts. Natalie has led HIV/AIDS education efforts in the United States, Tanzania, and Mexico through Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, Support for International Change, Fuente de Vida y Amor Igelsia Metodista, and the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
She joined the Iskashitaa Refugee Network team in 2009 and has served as Community Liaison as an AmeriCorps Member, Resource Coordinator as a VISTA member, and is currently on staff as the Development Director. Ms. Brown is a board member of Clinica Amistad y Salud (a free healthcare clinic in South Tucson serving the uninsured) and a founding board member of Whisper n Thunder (a national Native American empowerment organization). She served as a member then chairperson the Desert Southwest Conference HIV/AIDS Task Force, serving Arizona and Nevada from 2006 until 2013.
Natalie was the recipient of the 2012 Human Rights Award from Church Women United in Arizona and was named one of nine Up and Comers by Inside Tucson Business in 2013. With a passion for social justice and a nonprofit career consisting of working cooperatively together with people made poor in many contexts, Ms. Brown is enthusiastic about creating opportunities for refugees to share their knowledge with the Tucson population while helping to expedite their journeys to self-sufficiency in their new home.
Stephanie Plotas - Food Justice Coordinator
Stephanie Plotas is from Battle Creek, Michigan. In May 2013, she graduated from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Arts and Humanities. Within her major, Stephanie focused on the areas of language and religion. For the next two years she will work with Iskashitaa as a US-2 missionary of the United Methodist Church. The US-2 program is a two year faith-based social justice program for young adults. At Iskashitaa, she will be working as Food Justice Coordinator as well as liaison between Iskashitaa and faith-based organizations in the Tucson area. Stephanie is excited to experience the Southwest United States and to learn about the cultures and backgrounds of the many people she will meet.
Heather Gerrish - Young Adult Volunteer
Heather received her BA in Music from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. She spent the past year working at a veterinary clinic, and enjoyed getting to know clients and their pets. By the end of the year, though, she was feeling a call towards social justice work. She looks forward to serving as a Young Adult Volunteer with Iskashitaa this year, and is humbled by the opportunity to connect and share stories with so many people. Heather enjoys singing, animals, and spending time outside.