Looking after the well-being of the Chinese community in the Western Cape while promoting Chinese culture is the cornerstone of the Western Province Chinese Association (WPCA).
Patrick Chong, who has been chairman of the WPCA since 1991, says it is an old organisation that goes back as far as 1902.
In their 116-year journey they have moved to many venues from Loop Street, Cape Town to Palmyra Road, Claremont in 1943, and then to Avenue Road, Mowbray in 1948 and finally to Observatory in 1998 where they still are today.
Mr Chong said the South African-born Chinese community is really small within the Western Cape where there are only around 500 people living in the province.
Mr Chong, whose parents are immigrants, said the Chinese community has also faced challenges during apartheid when they were classified as coloured.
According to Mr Chong, the community was only allowed to go to schools that catered for coloured and black pupils.
The Catholic and Anglican Church schools allowed Chinese to attend their schools from the mid-1960s.
When it came to getting a tertiary education, the Chinese community would need to apply for permits. Mr Chong, who is a qualified chartered accountant, first applied for a permit when he studied engineering and then when he switched over to accounting, he needed to apply for another permit.
The WPCA has been in Liesbeek Avenue in Observatory for the past 20 years and has three main bodies for the 300 members who come to the association. They are the Western Province Chinese Sports Association (WPCSA), the Chinese School and the Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF).
The WPCSA is headed up by its chairman, Nick Leong and one of their objectives is to get children from Chinese communities to interact with one another and get to know each other better.
The WPCSA offers a variety of sports which includes, basketball, soccer, badminton, table tennis, golf and volleyball. Basketball is quite popular at the WPCSA where there are boys’ and girls’ teams which participate in the Cape Town Basketball Association (CTBA) games every weekend. There are three senior teams and four junior teams that play in the CTBA league. Some of the league games are played at the WPCA sports venue.
Mr Leong said apart from sport, they would like to create more cultural awareness among the youth. Many of the youth who participate in their basketball teams come from schools like Rondebosch Boys’, Bishops High School, Westerford High and Rustenburg Girls’ High School.
Jackie Young, of the CCF, said their main mission is to promote Christianity among the Chinese community.
“We serve the senior citizens meals and tea, visit and pray for the sick and reach out to our youth and families through prayer,” said Ms Young.
The Chinese school is run with help from members of the Taiwanese community. Mandarin classes are offered to children every Saturday, though Mr Chong said anybody who would like to learn this language, would be welcomed by the organisation. The Chinese school also has a big library that has many educational, historical and general books for children and adults.
Mr Chong said while he would like the Chinese community to retain their identity and cherish their culture, he would also like the community to be active and part of a wider community which is not only Chinese.
He said they would also like the community to give back to other communities in the country. The WPCA runs clothing drives for the poor, they support the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Association for the Blind. “The WPCA should be a vehicle through which the Chinese community can share and help other communities and associations in Cape Town and the surrounding areas,” said Mr Chong.
The WPCA venue also hosts various events and invites the public to rent their venue for any special occasion such as weddings and birthday parties.
The WPCA will be hosting a food fair on Sunday October 7 at their venue, with the fair offering many authentic Chinese dishes, as well as some fusion dishes. Ming-Cheau Lin, author of Just Add Rice, will be doing food demonstrations.
For more information about the WPCA, log on to https://wpca.za.org/