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From rural Honduras to serving the Queen: Lilian’s story

Lilian Vargas Borges, hospitality professional and graduate of WONDER’s partner school in Honduras.

I come from a village near the capital city of Honduras. My family of 12 had a small plot of land where we grew coffee and fruits and vegetables to sell, and my father was a workman. By the age of 7 I was working from early in the morning in the mill to make the dough for the tortillas - a staple food in my country.

By the age of 12 I used to get up at 5 am to help get breakfast and lunch ready for the whole family as they were going to work the land and others to school. Those early years taught me how important a supportive family was: each person had their part to play whether young, old or sick.

A family in rural Honduras.

I heard about the Los Sauces hospitality school from a lady who used to come to buy fruit from my grandfather. The school was just setting up,  but the training we were given was something I have never forgotten in all these years.  We received excellent technical training, and were able to use our skills and experience in a work placement at a local hotel.  

The personal mentors and the attention we each received in the school was crucial. My mentor  gave me confidence, helped me raise my aspirations, pushed me to be better at my job, to always try my best and supported me when things were hard.

Some of the girls came from isolated rural areas they had to learn to eat using a fork and a knife; to use a toilet and we all had to learn to get on, love and respect each other despite our differences. 

The location of Honduras in Central America. 

While at Los Sauces I received an scholarship to continue my studies in hospitality in Guatemala.  Once there I was then given another scholarship to come to London and continue with my studies to a higher level.

Here in London I have had to go through many challenges, but also many joys and achievements. I was on my second year of a BSc in Culinary Arts management at the University of West London when I was chosen to serve her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness with the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee. It was an experience I had never dreamed of and of which I am very proud and grateful.

But what I learnt In Los Sauces about the value of service through my work, the appreciation for what each individual has to give and also the importance of working in a  team was something that enabled me to be a good professional and above all a good woman.    From those in my class some went on to study degrees in Medicine and Psychology as they were able to pay for their education whilst working after leaving Los Sauces. One is the head of nutrition at a national hospital.  These are opportunities we would have never had without the school. Los Sauces helped us to become empowered women. Sometimes I hear people talking about empowering women in poor countries like Honduras and it seems to me that they are talking about making women focus only on their own goals. But we became more empowered than this.  I see that empowerment means having the power and the tools to build a better world for our families, communities and nations.

In London I am now the manager of a large kitchen in an educational charity. I also teach at a local college and volunteer teaching cookery to school girls.  This summer I went back to Los Sauces for two months to train some of the teachers. I never thought when I started that I would go back having completed my studies in England to teach not even the girls but their teachers. I was very moved to see how the school is growing and how much it is contributing to the development of the country by giving women opportunities.  

Los Sauces has helped me get to where I am today. I believe that supporting this type of educational project is investing in the future of my people in  Honduras, and enriching the country in a way that will have a great impact on many lives like mine. By supporting schools like Los Sauces and providing scholarships, you can help women like me achieve our dreams.