ERITREA Breaking News

Heat impacts local refugee organization’s harvest and volunteers

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Kidiste Fisehaye picked figs while speaking in her native language Tigrinya. She’s a refugee from the country Eritrea in East Africa where she immigrated from about nine years ago.

She’s also one of the volunteers who works with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network.

As she picked the figs, she also taught their founding director Barbara Eiswerth her native language while Eiswerth taught her how to harvest.

“So we’re saving fruit and saving water all at the same time while welcoming the stranger, welcoming refugees from all over the world,” Eiswerth said.

However, the organization went from about 100 volunteers to about 30 because of the heat.

“We’re really hurting for volunteers but everybody has something to contribute,” Eiswerth said.

Cathy Lolwing is the programs manager at the network who also braved the heat. For Lolwing, enduring the heat is worth it because she gets to help refugees who are in need of the food they harvest.

“I just want to be one of those hands. I’m just one of many people that are out in the Tucson community helping one another,” Lolwing said.

Even with the people they do have, they’re only harvesting and gleaning at one site compared to their usual three to five, Eiswerth saying, “Just because we can’t stay out in the sun that long.”

That’s why they have to start at about 8 in the morning and work shorter shifts.

While they do have less to harvest during the summer, the fruits are more fragile.

“The fruit are more delicate in the summer because they can’t take the heat, they can’t take the sun, so we have to redistribute faster,” she said.

As they work faster, Fisehaye said it’s worth it because not only did the network help her get approved to be a U.S. citizen, but she’s also giving back to people who are in her shoes and helping people who gave to her.

“She’s helped for everybody, people. She’s helped….honest, she’s honest,” she said about Eiswerth.

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