Jimmy Stice is a businessman currently running a sustainable village in Panama. His project was established years ago with the intention to create a new concept of construction in a rainforest. Consequently, he decided to organize Kalu Yala as a collection of small homes that are built in an area where people can utilize all of the natural resources. The central workforce for the village comes from young people who work as interns. Their experience involves an entire summer worth of meeting new personalities and creating plans to build things in an original way.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to Kalu Yala?
We are building a sustainable community while minimizing our eco print and maintaining high biodiversity. The original idea came from the fact that there are really no cities or towns around the world that operate without external sources of power and connections. Also, my background in business enabled me to come up with a good plan for marketing that a lot of our sponsors liked. Ultimately, we want to see many developing nations invest in hundreds of villages like this.
Do you believe that there will be more projects similar to yours around the world soon?
I am certainly hoping so. At the moment, our project is still not done so it might be awhile before other countries start taking this idea and making it their own. Nonetheless, if we can meet our goal and create something that most of the world has not seen before, I am expecting that it will ignite a movement of green construction and eco-friendly ways of life.
What are some of Kalu Yala bad and good sides that you would like to share with us?
Although I might be a little biased since I love everything about this project, I will do my best to distinguish between at least one bad and one good side of Kalu Yala. As far as the bad things you may experience, some days will include a few extra hours of unforeseeable work. For example, we had a dozen people work on the new fence a few weeks ago, and their project got severely delayed due to weather conditions. Since they had to start later, they were pushed to complete the entire task in less time. Consequently, they had to work a little late for a few days. It is interesting, however, that none of them saw this as bad experience as they bonded while building the fence. On the other hand, a good thing is the plethora of friends that every intern has once their internship is over. Since people interact daily for three months, they get to know each other well. A lot of the relationships that start here go on for years.
How do you connect with a potential sponsor?
I let them come to Kalu Yala to see what we have accomplished so far. If they are unwilling to come out to our village, that tells me that they would not be a good sponsor anyway as a physical presence is strongly encouraged. Once they make it here, I show them all of our plans for the next 12 months. The reason I let them see how our project is predicted to evolve is to allow their decision-making process to be based on facts. Thus, I never sugarcoat or exaggerate anything as it would not be fair to do so.
What does a typical intern at Kalu Yala look like?
So far, most of the interns that we accepted have been people who are currently in college or those who do a lot of extracurricular activities. I find it necessary to only work with individuals who have some type of experience with multitasking and teamwork. Historically, people who have never had a job or do not go to school at the moment struggle to be consistent throughout the internship. They will usually come in and be very productive but, as time goes, their enthusiasm falls off as they get tired. So, I encourage hiring those who are ready to get their hands dirty and change the world!
Do you think you would ever apply to be an intern here if it was not your own property?
Absolutely. I think it would be beneficial to experience that side of things since it would allow me to see how people outside of senior management feel. Even though I get to talk with countless of our workers and hear their feedback, experiencing the life that they have while here would help me understand their point of view better. I mean, the truth about Kalu Yala is that everyone will see things differently and I am curious to learn about other experiences.