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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. Iskashitaa has also worked to build a networking community among Tucson area refugee volunteers and agencies.
Iskashitaa is under the fiscal umbrella of St. Francis in the Foothills UMC., a non profit in the State of Arizona. Iskashitaa is in the process of becoming an independent non-profit association.
Iskashitaa Refugee Network empowers refugees by creating opportunities to better integrate with the larger Tucson community while gaining skills that serve them in America.
Barbara Eiswerth, the founder and director of Iskashitaa, 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 as Iskashitaa. At that time, the Somali Bantu did not have a written representation of their language. Therefore, Barbara was challenged with the task of creating the spelling for Iskashitaa.
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, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Russia, Rwanda, other groups from Somalia, and Sudan.