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Responsible Hospitality

Our mantra at Panigram Resort is “responsible hospitality”.

For us responsible hospitality means existing in harmony with the local environment – both the natural setting and the local community. Being sustainable is about realizing the connection between all life and working to build a healthier relationship with our planet and the other people that live on it.

Environmental Sustainability

Panigram Resort is committed to protecting the natural heritage of Bangladesh. Instead of trying to tame the beautiful setting of our resort area, we are integrating that natural beauty into our design. We will design around the trees instead of cutting them down.

The buildings will be constructed from mud and bamboo – both readily available local building materials – using modern mud construction techniques that we will teach to the villagers. Properly designed lighting and ventilation will enable the resorts to be passively cooled, significantly reducing its energy footprint. We intend to use alternative energy, such as solar power, as much as possible.

Some other “green” features of our resort will include:

  • Powered by alternative energy (solar and wind power)
  • Passive heating, cooling, and ventilation (mud architecture naturally does this)
  • Composting
  • Water collection and gray water recycling
  • Green roofs
  • Handmade toiletries from ingredients grown at the resort
  • Restaurant food prepared with fruits and vegetables that are organically grown on site
  • Landscaping with edible plants
  • Environmental education program in a local school

Social Responsibility

Sustainability isn’t just about using recycled materials and alternative energy, however. It is also about creating a dialog with the community and building a place that is socially, as well as physically, integrated into the host environment.

We are including the villagers in the creation of the resort in many ways, from hiring them as construction workers and resort staff, to working with local artists and craftsmen to develop products for our  resort. Panigram will support women’s cottage industries by purchasing all of the quilts from an NGO in the area that produces nakshi kantha, traditional Bangladeshi embroidery. We will partner with local artisans to produce the pottery, flatware, and glassware for the resort (where they meet our quality requirements) to support the community and give the restaurant a local flavor. Panigram will also sponsor an environmental education program in a nearby school to raise awareness of environmental issues and to promote recycling, composting, and alternative energy in the region. These measures will help maintain the beauty of the area and contribute to providing guests with an authentic cultural experience.

Panigram will also conduct small business seminars for entrepreneurs in the host community to teach them how they can adapt and build businesses that cater to the new, incoming tourist market.

Voluntourism

The resort will also be involved in “voluntourism” efforts. Guests will be able to spend time volunteering in a local school or helping to build homes for villagers. Voluntourism activities will vary from week to week, so please check back to see what opportunities may be available during your stay.

Latest Responsible Hospitality News

Organic Farming Internship at an Eco Resort in Bangladesh

March 31st, 2014

Title: Organic Farming Intern

Number of Open Positions: 1

Location: Jessore, Bangladesh

Duration: 8 weeks

Salary: 15,000 Tk/ month living stipend (room, board, and transportation within Bangladesh are provided; students are responsible for their own transportation to and from Bangladesh)

Job Description:
Panigram Resort will be a socially and environmentally responsible spa resort located in southern Bangladesh. We are developing a luxury boutique resort with a spa and wellness center that protects the natural and cultural heritage of Bangladesh, provides authentic and distinctive travel experiences to discerning travelers, promotes sustainable development, and improves the quality of life in the host community. The organic farming intern will work with a professor of organic farming and the villagers to establish an organic farming program in the village building on the work done by the previous year’s intern and using the organic farming plots at Panigram as an example. We have a pilot group of about 25 village farmers who are interested in the program. Interns will teach the villagers organic farming techniques, work with them to apply for grants to cover the losses of the first two years where yields are lower due to soil degradation, and help them figure out the distribution channels to the stores that sell organic produce in Dhaka.

Interns also act as ambassadors for Panigram Resort in our host community and are expected to participate in other activities with the villagers such as Friday English lessons with children and movie nights.

You will be staying in the newly constructed staff quarters at the resort property. The rooms are clean and modern and you will have your own private bathroom, but there is no air conditioning.

Interns are given some basic Bangla lessons when they arrive so that they can communicate with the villagers. The Bangladeshi people are very warm and hospitable and our past interns have formed some strong bonds with the community.

The environment is one of work and play where you can take a pottery class in our pottery village, go on a cow cart ride, take a night time boat ride, and truly experience Bangladeshi village life. The resort is currently under construction so you will be a part of the pre-opening process.

Qualifications:
•    Agriculture major preferred, but will also take enthusiastic students with a passion for organic farming
•    Has completed at least their sophomore year
•    Independent worker
•    Comfortable working in foreign cultures

To Apply:
Please send your resume and a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the internship to hr@panigram.com with the subject “Organic Farming Internship” by May 1, 2014. (Applications without cover letters will not be accepted.)

Panigram Resort Organic Farm Flourishes in Rural Bangladesh

January 9th, 2014

Our organic farm test plot next to the riverside bungalows.

Our first planting of our organic test plot is flourishing! Clark, our summer intern, and ULAB professor Shafiqul Islam designed our planting plan: first, we plant a round of legumes (beans and peas) to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Second, members of the brassicaceae (mustard and cabbage) family are planted; these include: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and brussels sprouts. Next, nightshade vegetables are planted; these include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Finally, roots and alliums are planted; these include: garlic, onion, leek, turnip, celery, carrot, beets, etc. Planting in this order restores the nutrients in the soil and creates the ideal growing conditions for our crops. Read the rest of this entry »

Visualizing Sound

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.

Goading for Ghur

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!

A Picnic for the English Teachers – Deshi Style!

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?

The Gift of Teaching

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 »

Astonishing Dedication: Villagers Make Panigram Training Their Top Priority

December 1st, 2012

As part of Panigram’s philosophy of responsible tourism, we have set ourselves a number of targets regarding the demographic of our workforce. Our primary aim is to take as much of the workforce as possible from the local community in order to boost the economy of the area. We also pride ourselves in employing a relatively large proportion of women: our current male-female ratio stands at approximately 140:80.

Looking to the future service staff of the resort, we are constantly recruiting potential employees. We have frequent recruitment drives, including a speed interviewing process. Successful applicants are invited to attend our training program, through which they learn both hospitality skills and English communication. The scheme will continue until such time as the resort opens its doors, when participants will be offered appropriate positions according to the standards they have achieved.

While we try to include as many people as possible in the training program, there are some applicants who are unable to attend due to a variety of factors. A few of these factors are explained in the following insight into the background of our trainees.

Education
All participants of the training scheme have gained their S.S.C (Secondary School Certificate) at the age of 16. Most continued on to complete the H.S.C at 18 and some have passed (or are currently studying towards) a bachelor’s degree. A few even have master’s degrees and some experience working in the hospitality field.

Home Life
In Bangladesh, and particularly in rural areas like Jessore, it is normal for people to marry quite young, often between the ages of 18 and 25. Once married, couples tend to start families straight away. Therefore, many of the trainees have young families and the commitments that come along with them. Trainees who are not yet married generally live in a joint family system, with many siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. all living in a single compound.

As Panigram is being built in a small village, the homes of our trainees can be anything up to 10km from the classroom. Our participants usually walk or ride bicycles to class, as many of them have no other mode of transport. This takes some students upwards of 30 minutes.

Employment
Another aspect that should be considered is that while participating in the program, the trainees are not yet employed by Panigram. Most of them earn their modest income through agriculture and take time from their farming work to attend our classes.

When all of these factors of distance, transport, education, work and family commitments are taken into consideration, the dedication that we see in the trainees each day is outstanding. It is very rare that someone is absent from class and, if they are, they usually try to come to a makeup class later in the day. After a 15 minute walk in the rain, there is still an enthusiastic smile on each face.

The positive attitudes I observe in my students each day makes teaching them a real pleasure!

Most students walk or ride bicycles to class from the neighbouring villages.