A charity celebrating Chinese culture is desperately searching for new premises after being served an eviction notice on the building it’s used for 30 years.
Waltham Forest Chinese Association (WFCA), established in 1984 to serve the local Chinese community, was told by Waltham Forest Council in April that it had to permanently vacate Markhouse Day Centre in Walthamstow. This is despite the council’s plans to expand the services it provides at the centre.
WFCA was initially only given one month to find new premises, but after they objected their stay was extended until the beginning of June. WFCA member Jackie Cheung told the Echo: “Most of our members are old and for them it is very sad because they have been coming here every week for 30 years. I feel really sorry for all these people.
“The Chinese are very humble, they don’t want to cause any trouble or make a fuss, but when they heard they had to leave here some of them were just crying.”
The association hosts performances of Cantonese opera each week to celebrate Far East culture. Adult learning classes are held and the group also cooks and serves Chinese food, as well as providing a meeting place for parents of pupils attending Waltham Forest Chinese School in the adjacent buildings of Kelmscott School. According to census data, more than 2,500 people of Chinese origin live in the borough.
Jackie added: “We were first invited to run services at the day centre because the council recognised the contribution we could make to a multicultural and inclusive Waltham Forest.
“The Sunday activities we host provide a vital connection to the community that our members would otherwise lack. In particular, many attendees are elderly and non-English speaking. Often, this is the only activity they attend during the week.
“It has become a part of Waltham Forest’s cultural heritage.”
WFCA were informed they’d need to leave Markhouse Road at a meeting on 7th April. The group claim that although they’d been told there might be changes to day centre services, this was the first they knew of their eviction.
Sau Kam Li, a 70-year-old grandmother who founded the organisation in 1984, told the Echo: “We got lots of people together from the Chinese community to form the association, and in 1986 we moved here to Markhouse Road. We have been here ever since.
“It is a place for people to meet up. In the afternoon we perform Cantonese opera. It is really important culturally for us. It is the music old people grew up with and it reminds us of home.”
Waltham Forest Council failed to provide a comment about the eviction of WFCA, but in an email sent to the charity by council leader Chris Robbins, and seen by the Echo, it was claimed the charity was told in June last year of the need to vacate the day centre.
Councillor Robbins said: “The building and the services based there are designed for people with severe and complex learning disabilities. As part of our transformation of services we want to expand and improve our offer of services at 247 Markhouse Road to ensure that as a council we are able to meet the needs of the disabled population in Waltham Forest. This includes urgently required works to the building.
“As a result, we are no longer able to offer the premises to WFCA. In June 2015, I am advised officers met with WFCA and indicated our plans. Officers have offered support in finding alternative premises.”
If you are able to help WFCA find a new home for its Sunday community centre:
Email [email protected]