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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?”


“What is the boy doing?”


“How is the weather?”


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!)


British Invasion! Our Second English Trainer Arrives

Posted by on November 9th, 2012

We are really gearing up our village training programs now. About 100 new students joined our classes on November 1st, so we had to import another native speaker to help train them in English. Nazmeen Green is the latest addition to the Panigram team. She will be working with Angela to develop our English curriculum. Nazmeen and Angela are also teaming up with our hospitality experts to teach our students how to book spa treatments, make beds, and properly clean rooms. Most of our village staff will have had one year of training (6 classes a week) by the time Panigram opens its doors.

Nazmeen Green

Nazmeen Green Headshot

Nazmeen Green

Assalam alaikum! I’m Nazmeen Green and I have been working alongside Angela as an English trainer at Panigram for the last month.

I was born and raised in England, where I decided at quite a young age that I wanted to teach English in either France or Germany. However, after graduating with a degree in languages from the University of Wales, Swansea, I realized that I needed a short break from studying in which to travel.

I set off for a one-year teaching contract in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I eventually stayed for eight years. While visiting some friends in Dhaka earlier this year, I was struck with a feeling of belonging. The warmth of the local people and their acceptance of me made me feel instantly at home, especially when they heard that I was a recent convert to Islam.

I started looking for work in Bangladesh and struck gold with Panigram. I am really excited to be part of such an interesting project and to be working with some wonderful people. I have been delighted to see the eagerness of the students and the way Panigram is contributing in a positive way to the local community. I look forward to seeing both the students and the resort develop over the next year.


A Vision for the Handicraft Village

Posted by on June 26th, 2012

Villagers displaying their Nakshi Katha embroidery work

There’s a large group of villagers crowding around. It seems like the whole community has come out to witness me take pictures.  I’m assisting Andrew (Andy) Pike, the Social Entrepreneur Intern from Cornell University to document the women with their handicraft. As I’m photographing each person with her handiwork, I hear a cheerful “Khub bhalo!” repeatedly behind me. It’s coming from Andy who’s inspecting the women’s embroidery work.  I can’t help but chuckle because it’s one of the few Bangla phrases that we interns know. “Khub bhalo” means “very good” and it also happens to be one of Andy’s favorite phrases.  In fact, he and the other intern, Shu, love to say it in reply to any statement or question that’s said to them. But this time, the phrase is used in the right context. Read the rest of this entry »


Women At Work

Posted by on June 21st, 2012


Female workers helping to finish the Panigram bridge

During my visits to the site, it never fails to amaze me how many female workers are working alongside the men (30% of our workers are women).  Not only is it rare to see women at a construction site in general, yet here at Panigram, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.  The women help with digging, transporting materials, and backfilling among other duties.  It’s tough work but they’re getting the job done!



Cornell Summer Interns Arrive!

Posted by on June 11th, 2012

Summer is here and so are the interns! This year we have four students, all from Cornell University: a hotel intern, an architecture intern, an entrepreneurship intern, and a landscape architecture/media intern. This summer the interns are working on some of our socially responsible initiatives, from designing our handicraft village to hospitality training for our village employees. Their adventure has already begun with visits to the Panigram Resort site, villages, and Sundarbans–one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Center.


Shuping Liu

Shuping Liu

Hello! My name is Shuping Liu and I am the architecture intern at Panigram Resort. I’m an architecture major in my fourth year at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Coincidentally, I was born in Syracuse, which is only one hour from Ithaca; however, I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. With my free time I enjoy reading, running and fixing up old bikes. You can check out some of my work at

As part of Panigram Resort, my main responsibilities will include planning the nearby handicraft village. I will be investigating how the villagers use and build their homes to inform the architecture of proposed market spaces, workrooms and plazas.  My summer experience in Bangladesh has already been unique and rewarding. I am looking forward to putting my skills to use but also to learn from the local villagers. I can’t wait to learn how to tie my new lungi.


Yohana Tsegai

Yohana Tsegai

My name is Yohana Tsegai. I am currently a junior in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Although many people here confuse me for a local Bangladeshi, I was born in Asmara, Eritrea in East Africa. At the age of three, my family and I moved to Houston, Texas in America. No cowboy hats or boots for me, but I’m a proud Texan nonetheless. I’m one of four children — the only girl with three brothers – so I’m pretty independent. I love to travel, especially when I can visit my relatives who live all over the world.

While here at Panigram Resort, I will be in charge of creating a training program for more than 200 employees in a variety of positions. The training will include activities, video modules, and written and verbal exams. I will also be helping the Human Resource Manager craft HR policies that will take into consideration the local culture and customs. I am looking forward to helping Panigram Resort set the standard as Bangladesh’s first five-star resort.


Katherine Li

Katherine Li

Asalam elaiykum! My name is Kathy and I was born and raised in the crazy city of Los Angeles, California. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in landscape architecture and next year will be my final year at Cornell University.  One of my greatest passions is to travel; I have visited more than 20 countries thus far. Most of my travels have taken me to Asia where I love to eat, shop and learn about the area’s culture and architecture.  Spending a year in Japan and traveling inspired me to go back to school to learn more about design and the environment.  I hope to focus my last year of study on sustainability and how it can be applied to ecotourism. As the summer Media Intern at Panigram, my job will be to publicize the activities leading up to the resort’s opening next year.  I am excited to be part of a project that is committed to helping the people in Bangladesh as well as the local environment.


Andrew Pike

Andrew Pike

My name is Andrew Pike and I believe in development through business. Growing up and working in East Africa over the past 20 years has taught me that business, as a profit maximizer, is inherently more efficient than aid and is a large part of the solution to poverty.

At the age of 18, I became a social entrepreneur by starting my own small not-just-for-profit business. My business creates eye-catching laptop cases out of ‘Kitenge’, a traditional African fabric with intricate, colorful patterns. Everything is made in formerly war-torn Northern Uganda and allows Mama Lucy, a remarkable local entrepreneur, to expand her tailoring business and to put the 10 children she supports through school. I stress that this is business, not charity.

Panigram, which is energizing the local economy around Jessore, shares my ideals. I am excited to start my main project—a crafts village for disadvantaged women, which will provide them with a self-sustaining and long term flow of income. By selling directly to the tourists, the women are able to get higher and fairer prices and eliminate exploitative middle men.

I study Applied Economics and Management with a specialization in International Trade and Development at Cornell University. I am an avid reader of science fiction, a lover of music, disco boogie, and all things jolly. My ‘to-learn’ list includes headstands, salsa dancing and ironing. Traveling makes me feel alive and I aspire to make the most of the opportunities that cross my path. Folks, the aim is to live the dream.


English Lessons Resume in the Local Village

Posted by on July 17th, 2011

Through our days documenting the village neighboring Panigram, we have come to know many of the local children quite well.  As we walked through the village, they would follow us energetically and inquisitively, watching us sketch, listening to us speak, and examining every little move we made.  The children would point to animals, plants, food, or anything else that might (or might not) interest us, and relay its name to us in Bangla, laughing at our poor pronunciation a few times until we said the word correctly.  In exchange, we would teach them the word in English, which they were so anxious to discover.  These interactions were the first days of our English lessons, which have now officially located to the village school on Friday mornings.

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Health, Hygiene, and Hysteria

Posted by on June 28th, 2010

Health and Hygiene was the topic of this week’s “Friday English Lessons”. In preparation for the lesson, we purchased about thirty toothbrushes, toothpaste packages, and mini soap bars.  Caio drew a Leonardo di Vinci Vitruvius man -inspired human body with different body parts labeled in English. It turned out to look more like a cartoon version of the Vitruvius man, but it worked. I took my try at drawing and labeling a face, but it turned out a bit creepy. I had the demonstrations all planned. With the gifts and teaching aids in hand, I thought we were fully prepared for the lesson.

Teaching English in Bangladesh

Katrina and Caio teach the children names of parts of the body in English.

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