WUCT was born out of the work of a small group of committed Christians in the Tokai and Constantia parishes. It started with provision of food and clothing to those in need in the community, through to developing a strategy for an onsite building, crèche and pre-school and then into the area of health and welfare support, skills training and youth development.
In the late 1990s, prior to the building of the Westlake Business Park, a small group of Christians worked with and built up a relationship with the informal dwellers at the side of the M3 highway. Di Forrester was one of these key people, and remains today committed to helping this vulnerable community. With the building of the business park starting in 2001 came the provision of 500 3-room brick houses with running water and toilets, but with no ceiling and tiny backyards. These 500 semi-detached houses were given to the community, but with 620 families there was from the beginning a problem of insufficient housing.
Those residents blessed with improved housing were sadly not provided with the means to sustain ownership. Crime, violence, alcohol and drug abuse were rampant as people struggled with unemployment and low self-esteem. Little children of pre-school age roamed the streets, ill clad, dirty and often hungry.
With no schools in the area, older children had to travel long distances to attend outlying schools, with most unemployed parents giving up in the end. With no education and hope, the children were open to abuse and the dangers of crime and drug addiction.
It is under these circumstances that a group of eight churches came together, under the leadership of Nathan van Nierkerk, to put together a programme of development. The Church of the Holy Spirit, St Martin’s Bergvliet, Tokai Methodist Church, Bergvliet Methodist Church, Bergvliet Congregational Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Bergvliet .
By 2002, there were 1400 families living in the area. The growth in numbers is mainly due to those residents who received a house generating income by renting out corrugated structures in their back yards to those without houses. Overcrowding was rife from the beginning.
In February 2002 the Emmanuel Educare Centre of Westlake was created under the leadership of the much loved and respected retired, teacher Eleanor Lawrence. Assisted by 3 local teacher trainers, 44 children aged 3 – 5 years old were shepherded and guided through their first year of school.
After much wrangling, WUCT bought the Commando Hall from Rabie Construction by means of paying off a significant municipal debt. By March 2004 most of the squatter families residing in the Hall had been re-housed and the building repaired and secured, using local labour.
Rabie Construction received an international award in 2004 for The Westlake Estate recognising the efforts of public and private individuals working to improve the quality of life of people living in slums, …. Unfortunately this award was erroneously given as the proclaimed roads, churches, sports fields, schools, etc. turn out to be untrue to this day. In 2005 residents were up in arms marching when neighbouring Polsmoor prison closed its doors to the residents of the Westlake, who had been accessing prison services as these were superior to those being provided to them. Indeed a sad sign of the facilities provided to this vulnerable group of people.