Thoughts and Tribulations of Women’s Leadership Development & Advocacy Intern

By Milena Berestko

I wake up every morning with a sense of purpose, aware that I am here, at The Leadership Center (TLC), among young Honduran women who want to change Honduras for the better, spreading God’s love and mercy. They inspire me to step into my complete image, to embrace the light that now glimmers but is ready to shine bright.

Photo taken by Milena of the land surrounding TLC’s campus.

I open the mosquito baldachin and get dressed, leave the Team House and my roommate sleeping, to move to the Library, and get ready for the day. I drink a cup of coffee from coffee beans harvested at TLC and proceed to practice for the seminar I will lead this afternoon. Our main focus is to discuss psychological and emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting. I am excited to see the 41 young women gather in the Salon, ready to learn and gain one more skill on their path to becoming influential leaders.

Milena leading her first seminar on psychological and emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting with the first and second-year students.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the students were in strict quarantine, missing their families yet still motivated to learn. Honduras was hit hard; bodies were laying on the street as there were no spaces in the hospitals to treat people. Many supermarkets and food bazaars have closed. Those who did not have their own supplies and farms, or gardens, were sentenced to die of famine while fighting the dangers of the disease rampaging the world. Amid all the illness and isolation, two hurricanes hit Honduras, further exacerbating the country’s plight. During that time, TLC resiliently pursued its mission, and classes were in session after three weeks of strict quarantine. It was during that time that students understood deeply that they needed to persevere in the name of God and to secure a future for themselves. Education will give them the opportunity to establish a business, earn an advanced degree, or work in a competitive workforce and be change agents in their country.

Milena (middle right) with students Angelica, Mirian, and Bessy at celebratory bonfire.

Every day at TLC is filled with classes, workshops, communal meals, and extracurriculars activities such as sports or Bible studies that bring staff and students together. The future leadership of Honduras is nurtured here, hidden on the top of a mountain between luscious greenery and blessed with phenomenal, passionate teachers. Leading seminars, helping out in the community, and tutoring students, I feel empowered and hopeful that the best of womanhood is preparing for its grand breakthrough. Surrounded by women, I feel at home, invincible, and called to do my best. The Leadership Center is a place where all staff and students cultivate deep love and compassion and understand that our paths intersected in divine timing.

Milena (top right) pictured with fellow staff members Natalie and Ericka on staff outing to local waterfall.

I am honored to be a Women’s Leadership Development and Advocacy intern. Sharing my knowledge and experience is easy with an attentive audience. Every time I speak in the Salon, whether it is explaining leadership theories or leading a physical theatre workshop, I am reminded of the tremendous potential these young women have. The Leadership Center is a Mecca for women awakening their leadership prowess. In a safe environment, they can discover who they are, what their passions are, and how they want to use their power to re-shape Honduran culture. As an immigrant from Poland to the US, being part of the close community at TLC feels new and strange. I am used to the rat race of scholars and leaders in the US, seeing collaboration as demeaning. Therefore, it is the ethereal beauty of a community that drives me. The Leadership Center is an incubator for empowered women empowering their communities.

Milena leading her first drama workshop on physical theatre and tableaus.