What you need to know:
- Fortunately, WAMA has a big and rambling house, with its indoor dining, art gallery and boardroom.
- WAMA does its best to find job placements for the trainees in hospitality and other businesses or organisations.
‘All you need now is a power cut,’ I told Adam.
‘And that could well happen,’ he replied with a grin.
We were at WAMA, the garden restaurant in Lavington. We had had our late afternoon ‘high tea’ of red snapper drenched in lemon and garlic sauce – in plenty of time to enjoy the promised WAMA Mia evening of entertainment. Chess was into the fourth of her warm-up songs before the musical and skits to be provided by the restaurant’s staff and trainees. Then the rain came down.
Fortunately, WAMA has a big and rambling house, with its indoor dining, art gallery and boardroom. And so we all decamped. It wasn’t easy to see who was in charge of the moving. Perhaps no one was. Perhaps the staff had done this before, and they were well-drilled enough to make their own decisions and play their own parts.
It took some time to rearrange the stage, sort out the props and set up the lighting. Just when everything seemed settled, and Chess was about to lead in with a few more songs, a choking smell drifted across the room. So did the coughing and spluttering. The Chef had made a very strong pepper soup – a Congolese speciality. Some of us took refuge outside till the inside air cleared again. We met Adam out there, and it was at that point that I made the half-serious remark about a possible power cut.
Adam Sargeant is WAMA’s chief executive officer. The place is his brain child. At its launch last October, Adam said ‘Our focus is on creating a beautiful and safe environment where we provide paid on-the-job training for people with all forms of special needs: youngsters who are deaf, mute, blind, with physical impairments, certain mental health conditions, or those with albinism – in consultation with our health partners at the Aga Khan Hospital.’
The training lasts for three months. At the end of it, WAMA does its best to find job placements for the trainees in hospitality and other businesses or organisations. Adam told us last Saturday that the placement scheme is proving successful – despite the challenges of Covid to the hospitality industry – and graduates have found jobs in Nairobi and in other places across the country. And, as we saw, some have decided to stay on at WAMA, where they are able to mentor new entrants.
For the WAMA Mia show, there was a cast of about 30. Between the opening and closing songs, there was a series of sketches, all focusing on WAMA work life – on tricky or humorous incidents occurring during the training or at work in the restaurant. It was the sort of show that is put on in schools, colleges or companies, especially at Christmas time – where there is licence to have a little fun at the expense of the bosses and customers.
It was the sort of show that can be enjoyed mainly by a sympathetic audience. Clearly, the performers are much more skilled as cooks or waiters than they are as actors. If they take to the stage again – as I hope they will have the chance before long, in the garden where they had rehearsed – they have things still to learn, especially about voice projection…
But this is not the important thing. That these youngsters were able to put on such a show at all says something significant about the life-skills as well as the vocational training at WAMA.
From my own experience, as someone who benefited from membership of an amateur drama company, I know how performing on stage can boost your confidence in any real-life social interactions.
After the entertainment, while talking with Adam, he pointed to Yvonne – the girl out front in the photograph – who was one of the stars of the show. ‘When she first joined us, Adam said, ‘she was one of the shyest of the trainees. Look at her now!’
John Fox is Chairman of iDC Email: [email protected]