Currently Browsing Social Responsibility

Share

Guest Blog: Ecotourism at Panigram Provides a New Perspective on Bangladesh

Posted by on September 25th, 2013

Panigram Apprenticeship Experience guest and Dhaka Tribune reporter Sheikh Mohammad Irfan observes the introduction of eco-friendly tourism in Bangladesh, exemplified by Panigram Resort.

——————————-

When someone hears the word “Bangladesh,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is Dhaka city, notorious for its congestion, pollution, and impoverished population. But what if all that could change?

Excluding its capital city, Bangladesh is somewhat of an untapped treasure, hidden from global attention and enjoyed only by the locals. From the mystical forests of the Sunderbans to the breathtaking tea gardens of Sylhet to the beaches of Cox’s Bazaar, the natural beauty of the country is mostly admired by Bangladeshis escaping the noise and bustle of the city. Those tourists who do visit mostly stay in commercial hotels and rarely get a fully authentic experience of Bangladeshi culture.

Scenic view along Panigram's vangari village tour route.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

ULAB Professor Helps Bring Organic Farming to Our Village

Posted by on June 30th, 2013

This week Panigram was host to Shafiqul Islam, a professor from the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. He came to assist the interns in refining the plan for the organic farming test plot. Professor Shafiq is well versed in the methodology and theory behind organic farming as he was actually an organic farmer before he became a professor.

Shafiqul Islam, professor of organic farming at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), and Dudu, a local farmer, discuss the benefits of organic farming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Visualizing Sound

Posted by on April 24th, 2013

One of the key things we try to work on with our Panigram trainees is their pronunciation. Many of the students have good vocabulary, grammar and confidence, but sometimes the clarity of their speech is not perfect.

To try to improve this, we have been teaching the students the International Phonetic Alphabet (I.P.A.). This is a globally recognized system of writing the pronunciation of words. You may have seen in it in dictionaries, usually in parentheses directly after each entry. The I.P.A. uses symbols, derived from the Latin and Greek alphabets, to clearly show both the sounds used in a word and the word stress.

The I.P.A. helps learners to visualize speech by thinking about the shape of their mouth when they make each sound. While it is a difficult thing to learn, it is well-known that a solid knowledge of the I.P.A. can help second-language learners to greatly improve their pronunciation.

With this in mind, I began by teaching the twelve simple vowel monophthongs (sounds like eeeee, ooooo, aaaaa, ih and ah), doing a number of exercises to make the classes think about the shapes their mouths were making. For example, try holding your finger to your lips, as if shushing someone, and then say ‘eeee-oooo-eee-ooo’. You will feel your lips coming forward and back, from a wide smile to a round kiss.

This, while being very amusing to the students, also made them think that I had lost my mind. For the following few days, I got phone calls from students just so that they could practice the sounds down the line. Things got trickier when I introduced the eight diphthongs, which are combinations of monophthongs, that make sounds like oi and ow. This had the students somewhat bewildered, but I promised them it would be worthwhile in the end.

Yesterday, I taught the classes the 24 consonant sounds. As many of these symbols are similar to the the Latin ABC’s, the students were a little more confident.

At the end of the class, I wrote a long paragraph on the whiteboard, using only the I.P.A., and asked them to read it. Together, the students figured out the message.

As I turned from the board to face them again, I could see that a light had come on in most of their minds. The I.P.A. penny had finally dropped and I was no longer just a crazy lady making strange noises.

Share

One Billion Rising Flash Mob in the Panigram Village!

Posted by on February 14th, 2013

On February 14 Panigram Resort joined with activists around the world for One Billion Rising, the largest day of action in the history of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Panigram organized a dance flash mob in their village as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. About 100 women, 100 girls, and 200 men participated in the dance mob as a call to end violence against women and for gender equality.

The mob was lead by more than 80 of the participants in Panigram’s English and hospitality training program and 30 of the resort’s female construction workers; the trainees and workers are all residents of the villages surrounding the resort. Many of the women in the program, who come from conservative Muslim families, were worried about dancing in public. At the practice session the ratio of men to women was four to one, however on the day of the event men and women showed up in equal numbers (though the men were less afraid to step up and dance!) Women in bright red burqa danced alongside young girls in pink dresses. Girls from the women’s college, high school, and primary school tied red ribbons around their wrist and joined the dance party in the town square.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Goading for Ghur

Posted by on February 5th, 2013

Student Ikram climbs the date palm tree to show us how they collect the sap called "rosh". This sap can either be drunk straight from the tree or boiled into a sticky sweet syrup called "ghur".

I love our students for many reasons, but one in particular is their helpfulness. No matter what Angela and I are doing, someone will offer to assist us.

We decided to go for a walk in the village last week to buy a cold drink. Barely a hundred meters from the classroom door, we met Bashir. After a dozen questions, we managed to convince him that we didn’t need any help going for a walk. A little further down the road, we passed Zia’s laundry shop, where we once again explained that we were just fine. We made it to the intersection to be greeted by Rasedul, Hashib and Abhijan. As Abhijan has a small store, we decided to buy our drinks from him.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have the exact thing we were looking for and, without hesitation, Rasedul ran up the road to another shop to get it. In the meantime, we were instructed to sit and wait. We argued that we were out for a walk, not a rest, but our protests went unheeded. It was unthinkable for our students to let us stand in the street, where we may get tired or uncomfortable. Finally, we got our drinks and returned to class.

Angela and I decided to put our student’s hospitality to the test last week at Ikram’s birthday party. Angela told Ikram (another one of our students) that she wanted to drive a cow-cart and asked who could show her how. To our host’s dismay, his cousin told us that Ikram knew how to do it. So, on the way back after lunch, a passing cow-cart was flagged down and Ikram gave us a demonstration. Angela didn’t get to drive it herself, but at least we have seen how it’s done.

Our next desire was to see how the delicious local drink rosh is collected. Once again, Rasedul and Ikram came to our aid, arranging for another villager to climb the date-palm and give us a show. Up he went, with his billhook and clay pot, cut a channel in the tree trunk, wedged in a peg to direct the flow of the sap, and affixed the pot.

Of course, that wasn’t enough of a show for the demanding English teachers.

“Ikram, can you climb a tree like that?” I asked.

“No, mam.” he replied, with terror in his eyes.

“Yes, he can!” interjected Rasedul, the troublesome cousin.

“Please, climb the tree for us.” we pleaded. How could they resist?

Rasedul tried and made it a couple of meters up before losing his nerve. Ikram, the alledged professional, tied a knot in his lungi, strapped on the billhook and, looking the part at least, set off up the palm. He didn’t make it much higher than Rasedul before posing for photos and sliding back down.

We decided that we should give the students a weekly challenge like this. We are justifying it by saying it will prepare them for dealing with the needs of Panigram guests. Seriously, though, it’s all in good fun! We think that our students are as amused by our curiosity as we are by their generosity!

Share

A Picnic for the English Teachers – Deshi Style!

Posted by on December 30th, 2012

A few weeks ago, our students did something unexpectedly delightful; they took it upon themselves to plan a picnic for us!

Now, picnics in Bangladesh are quite different from picnics back home. From the activities to the food to the clothing, it was a whole new experience for me, and so much fun!

Mostly, though, I was impressed by all the thought and organization our students put into the event. They took the initiative and planned every detail, including a colorful tent, music, lovely tableware, delicious food and a cricket match. Honestly, it was more like a catered garden party than a picnic.

The best part: We really got to see our students shine and put their English and hospitality training to use. I can’t wait to see how they perform when they interact with Panigram’s guests!

What celebration would be complete without a silly group photo?

Share

The Gift of Teaching

Posted by on December 10th, 2012

If I had to describe our students in one word, I’d choose “unique.”

Most adult ESL students live in urban areas where they’re exposed–whether a lot or a little–to cultures other than their own. They pass hotels and Western-style restaurants. They see tourists. They may even work for international companies.

Not our students.

Before they started our English class, many of them had never met or spoken to a native English speaker and their exposure to anything tourism related was almost non-existent. Simple things that most travelers take for granted are completely foreign to these students, and foreigners are exotic creatures. At the same time, their simple lifestyle and age-old practices are utterly fascinating to travelers like me.

Trying my hand, er foot, at the rice mill near one of our student's homes.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Previous Entries