BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS (June 26, 2013) — Growing up in McKnight, Ms Sonia Dyer adamantly refused to go with what people believed was the norm as it related to the fate of McKnighters. She told herself that great people could also come from McKnight, and did not entertain debate otherwise.
She reasoned out that with determination and encouragement from friendly quarters, everything is possible in life. She has made it and today she is the manager of one of the most prestigious beach bar and restaurants in the Federation.
What is however interesting is that Ms Dyer, apart from being the successful manager she is at the Reggae Beach Bar and Restaurant in the South East Peninsula, she is mentoring four young employees who have been seconded to the Reggae Beach by the People Employment Programme (PEP).
“I grew up in McKnight, so many people know me in McKnight,” says Ms Dyer. “I got the opportunity where I started as a waitress and I worked my way from a waitress to cashier and then manager.
“It has been a long road… if a lady from McKnight could go up that high, I tell them (PEP interns) that they too can do it. When I tell them I am from McKnight they stare at me and I tell them not to stereotype me… you just need the opportunity to climb.”
Five PEP trainees from the hospitality course being rolled out at the Challengers Community Centre by facilitators Mr Michael Guishard and Mr Patrick Browne were selected to work as interns at the Reggae Beach following a colourful display of what they had learned.
These were Ms Niyellia Hazel and Mr Kevin Benjamin who are bartenders; Ms Anoncia Johnson and Ms Cleressia Stapleton who are waitresses; and Ms Nicole Perdereaux in the kitchen. However Ms Cleressia Stapleton is yet to report at Reggae Beach.
Ms Dyer is happy with the performance of the four so far, saying that they are able to cope with the heat of the real workplace. She is of the opinion that the training they received at Challengers has set them up for greater things and she sees a great future for them.
“What I did, I gave each of them an opportunity to be here when it is busy,” notes Ms Dyer. “They can see how it is when it is busy. When it is slow it is different. When it is busy and you have got customers in front of you…. it is a different experience, and they needed to see that for each and every one of them and then I can judge them based on what I have seen.”
The restaurant’s slogan is ‘Rush Slowly’, and the four interns are enjoying their time there serving and intermingling with new people every day. They have not encountered any bad experience while there.
Ms Dyer sees a similarity in them and herself, but feels that they are more privileged. She was encouraged by the owner of the Reggae Beach, Mr Garry Pereira, right from the days when it operated as Turtle Beach Restaurant before that franchise was sold. He saw in her what many people did not see, and she has not proved him wrong.
The four interns are in a similar situation, because with funding from the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF), the People Employment Programme has been able to offer training and employment skills to young people who normally would be at home doing nothing after leaving school.
“PEP is giving people an opportunity for those who drop out of school and they didn’t have any place to go,” observes Ms Sonia Dyer. “It is a good opportunity for them to start somewhere. At least we don’t just throw in the towel on them and say guess what, you did not finish school.
“Everyone should have an opportunity and thank God for the People Employment Programme, so they can be on board and have something. The training they are getting out there is helpful.”
Waitress Ms Anoncia Johnson who is from the Village (Trafalgar) but lives in New Road said that the training they undertook has prepared her well for what they are doing, while Ms Niyellia Hazel who is from St. Johnson’s Village says she is happy with PEP for giving her the opportunity to do what she feels is the right career choice.
Bartender Mr Kevin Benjamin, who is from Waterworks, Cayon when asked where he learned the skills the fact that he operates like a professional, he said: “After school I never got a job and so this is my first job. I guess it is just in me. I am happy about the instructions I am receiving from Patrick Browne and Michael Guishard.”