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Creating Biogas from Water Hyacinth

Posted by on May 10th, 2014

Our river (like many others in Bangladesh) is choked with water hyacinth this time of year. This water weed damages the river eco system and makes boat navigation extremely difficult, but it is also an amazing source of energy.
(Photo by Paola Fornari.)

 

Like many Bangladeshi rivers, ours is regularly clogged with water hyacinth this time of year. Water hyacinth is a water weed which restricts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starves the water of oxygen, often killing fish. When water hyacinth takes over a water way, underwater visibility and boat navigation are reduced; and biodiversity is significantly compromised.

Just as owners of beach resorts must clean the seaweed off of their beaches every morning, we too will need to clean the water hyacinth off of our river. Fortunately, instead of just throwing this weed away or composting it, we can turn it into biogas by putting it in our biogas reactor. To our knowledge, this will be the first commercially operating biogas reactor running off of water hyacinth in the world. Though biogas reactor technology is common in Bangladesh, because our fuel source is new, we decided to create a prototype reactor first to see if the system works as well in practice as it does on paper. And the answer? A resounding, “Yes!”

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is partnering with us to introduce this technology to Bangladesh. The gas generated from Panigram’s biogas reactor will be used to power our gas stoves and ovens, but as biogas is predominantly methane, it can also be burned in a generator and turned into electricity. As an added benefit, the sludge byproduct of the gasification process makes a great fertilizer that we can use on our organic farms.

 

Our cook, Dipu, cooking our first biogas-heated meal!

 

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Hotel Internship at an Eco Resort in Bangladesh

Posted by on March 31st, 2014

Title: Hotel Intern

Number of Open Positions: 2

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 hotel interns will help with the hospitality training of the villagers and creating the standard operating procedure manual as well as other miscellaneous pre-opening activities.  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 night.

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:
•    Hotel major
•    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 “Hotel Internship” by May 1, 2014. (Applications without cover letters will not be accepted.)

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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.

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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 »

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2013 Summer Interns Arrive!

Posted by on June 5th, 2013

This is the fifth year that Panigram Resort has hosted summer interns. This year the interns are helping to introduce organic farming into the area and are assisting Nazmeen with the English and hospitality lessons in the village.

Clark Austin

Clark Austin

I am a self described nerd and Biologist that comes from San Diego, California. I have been studying biology for the last nine years. In my schooling I have specialized in botany, ecology, and entomology. While working at Panigram this summer I am concluding two multi-year studies on two separate endangered plant species endemic to Southern California.

I am very excited to start working on an organic farming program in the local village that Panigram is located in. While organic farming is big in America, it has a limited market here in Bangladesh and the possibilities are endless.  I am hoping to utilize my knowledge of plants and insects to facilitate a successful program that will not only benefit the local farmers with higher market prices for their crops, but also increase the health of the ecosystem at large.

I grew up on the east coast of the United States and have traveled extensively. I like to cook very much and as a result wherever I travel I always make it a priority to try the local foods. Having never been to Asia, I am very excited to see a whole new side of humanity, and new forms of food I have never encountered.

Jordan Gascon

Jordan Gascon

Hello my name is Jordan Gascon and I am from San Diego, CA. I studied international security and conflict resolution and specialized in conflict, conflict resolution and cooperation at San Diego State University. I continued my studies at Norwich University in Vermont and received my Master’s in Diplomacy and specialized in international conflict management. I have always been a problem solver and a people person. Throughout my studies I have had the opportunity to visit many different countries including Estonia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Russia.

In each country I realized that I was inherently interested in the people’s culture and religions. I found myself trying to learn their language and teach them a little bit of English in order to facilitate better communication. I hope to be able to help the English program and the Panigram Apprenticeship program in developing stronger staff at the resort. In addition to my studies, I have worked as a biology research assistant in the Ecology Department at San Diego State for  four years. This experience has helped me develop a love of plants and sustainable agriculture. It will be a great honor to help the other interns bring sustainable organic farming to the villages of Bangladesh.

My goals for this internship are to develop lasting relationships with the local population, learn conversational Bangla, improve the English abilities of each English class, learn a little hotel/ resort management skills, and take away a better understanding of the lives of people living in poverty.

Savaila

Savaila

Greetings! I am Savaila, Pakistani native, pursuing a B.S. in Development Studies and Economics from the Asian University of Women Bangladesh. My policy interests are poverty and inequality, community and international development and social entrepreneurship. I love learning, sharing my knowledge, experiencing cultures different from my own, travelling, adventure, music, and surfing the net. This last interest led me to the internship at Panigram Resort. Various projects of Panigram resort are giving back to the community to empower those from disadvantaged communities in Panigram.  I am currently working on the organic farming project at Panigram. We had a meeting last week with some of the local farmers, and I was excited by how interested they are to work with us. So far, we have planned to do research on the prices of the vegetables and fruits in the different steps of the chain of selling vegetables and fruits. I am excited to be an intern and looking forward to work on the project.

Syeda Jeena

Syeda Jeena

Assalamu Alaikum! This is Syeda Jeena from Chittagong, Bangladesh, studying BSS in Economics and Mathematics, in an international university named Asian University for Women. By being fortunate of living with multicultural people and by learning about their culture and countries, I have always been excited to visit their places. However, before visiting the neighboring countries, I have always thought of visiting at least the 7 divisions of my mother country, Bangladesh. I have been living in Chittagong, the 2nd largest division of Bangladesh. Beside the capital Dhaka, this city is called the 2nd capital of Bangladesh. I visited Dhaka, Comilla, Chittagong Hill tracts, Coxs’ Bazaar, Sylhet, and Khulna. Just a few days before, I arrived in Jessore in order to do my Summer Internship this year here at Panigram.

When I first saw the webpage of Panigram, I was totally amazed by its mission and vision. I could guess to learn more about this project alongside the underprivileged people’s lifestyle by working with the people in Panigram. Panigram is truly an amazing place to stay. The people here and their hospitality, the food and the environment are excellent. I was truly stunned to see the innovative ideas and design of the cottages and the inside furniture and other materials that were used in the construction of the resort. All the materials are Bangladeshi which makes me really proud.

I am working now with my group mates to build the organic farming initiative here at Panigram in order to promote healthy crop production. We have been working with the farmers and villagers. The field work is very exciting, enjoyable, and knowledgeable.  I hope to learn many more new things from this summer work and come back here again after the resort is open.

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New Winter Intern Arrives: An Internship in Activity Planning

Posted by on December 20th, 2012

Heather Martz has recently joined the Panigram team as our winter intern. When I received Heather’s CV and cover letter, I immediately wanted to hire her. She has hospitality experience (she managed a Starbucks), she embraces a wellness lifestyle (she is a yoga instructor), she is becoming an expert in sustainability (she is a graduate student studying sustainable development), and she loves to travel (she did another internship in Costa Rica). A perfect fit! Unfortunately, the HR person that I hired on a temporary basis to handle our employment applications at the time (unbeknownst to me) sent Heather a rejection letter without even following up! I assumed that Heather had turned down the position until I went back through all of our applications after I dismissed the temporary HR person and found her letter again and noticed the mistake. I emailed Heather explaining the error and, good sport that she is, she forgave our mistakle and decided to come to Bangladesh! In the week that she has been here she has already come up with some great ideas for us and I look forward to seeing her project develop during her stay.

Heather Martz

Heather Martz Headshot

Heather Martz

Aloha and assalam elaiykum! My name is Heather Martz. I am a graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University studying sustainable development. I am a certified yoga teacher, I enjoy making soap, and I love to travel. Bangladesh marks the 23rd country I have had the pleasure of visiting. I have only been here for one week and already I have had some amazing experiences! The people here are extremely friendly and instantly made me feel right at home. I know my time here will be time well spent, making new friends and creating great memories.

As an intern at Panigram Resort, I will be traveling around the villages of Jessore, Bangladesh in search of interesting activities for guests to participate in. Some of the things I will be looking for will include day hikes, bike routes and boating excursions. In addition my sights will be set on local agricultural practices which will help show guests how local production processes in rural villages happen and give them a chance to participate. Promoting local craftsmanship will also be an important aspect of this internship allowing guests to promote the local economy and learn something in the process.

My goal is to assist Panigram in being one of the most successful and unique sustainably conscious resorts available for travelers.

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Astonishing Dedication: Villagers Make Panigram Training Their Top Priority

Posted by on 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.

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“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”

Posted by on November 11th, 2012

As a teacher, when you’re with your students, experiencing their growth as it happens, sometimes it’s difficult to realize how far they’ve come. Sometimes you need a little perspective.

Well that’s exactly what happened when our new students arrived.

As I sat giving the new students their preliminary speaking evaluations, I was reminded of the original students (whom we have lovingly named our “Pioneers”). Back in June, the Pioneers were awkward and confused. They either quickly blurted out whatever English they had memorized or sat looking at me blankly, answering every question with, “Yes.”

“Ma’am. Panigram Resort is very, very wonderful. I love Panigram Resort.”

“Oh, thank you. That’s nice. Now, what do you see in the picture?”

“Yes.”

“What is the boy doing?”

“Yes.”

“How is the weather?”

Silence.

Over the past few months, I’ve been so focused on our goal ahead and all the work required to reach it that I had forgotten where we started.

Meeting the new students, I was reminded. Reminded of my first few lessons back in June, when I was still figuring out how much English skill the students really had. Reminded of the patience and repetition required to explain seemingly simple tasks. Reminded how overwhelming it all seemed.

Now, when I teach a class to the Pioneer students, they’re no longer awkward. It’s no longer laborious to give instructions. They no longer stare at me blankly and answer every question with, “Yes.” They do still tell me how much they love Panigram Resort, though. (Smile.)

So, as we begin again with the new students, who are still in their awkward phase, I am able to appreciate the progress we’ve made so far and feel even more excited about the progress I know we’ll continue to make.

We still have a long way to go, but there’s no doubt we’re getting there, one English class at a time.

Nazmeen (far left) and Angela (far right) with one of their "Pioneer" classes. (We are still working on breaking them of the Bangladeshi habit of frowning in photos!)

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