The Watford African Caribbean Association (WACA) is one of the oldest African and Caribbean voluntary organisations in the United Kingdom. WACA aims to protect, promote and support the interests of the African and Caribbean community in and around Watford through the provision of a range cross-generational user-led services.
Through its activities, the charity aims to:
provide activities for the over 50’s
provide activities for young people through the Thrive Youth Project
provide support and awareness of Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia
provide a focal point for advice, support and information
provide a meeting place for social gatherings and health seminars
WACA’s roots extend back to May 1976, when a small group of people, primarily from Jamaica, came together to share their experiences, challenges, triumphs and aspirations of living in England, their new home. Many of them worked in the medical profession, the printing industry, transport or manufacturing – all wanted a healthier, more active and better life for their families and their community.
Today, the needs of the African and Caribbean community have broadened. We are faced with the challenge of an ageing community, rising financial pressures and the emergence of other groups competing for resources – among other considerations. However, we remain true to the principles upon which WACA was founded and gain optimism from more sections of the community participating in our activities.
WACA's Founding Members
When a handful of people came together to form a community group, who could have known where these first steps of a journey would take them? As more black people came to Watford during the 1950s and 1960s, it became apparent there was no organisation to look after their interests.
Althea Gooden (which changed to McLean), Samuel Lusack and Randolph Henry - the initiators of the Watford African Caribbean Association - decided to take action. With the help of Erma Deans, the Community Relations Officer at Watford Community Relation Council, they set up a meeting, drafted a constitution and sent out invitations to the meeting that formally founded WACA on 23rd May 1976.
The gathering was addresses by Jacqueline Wynter, Minister-Counsellor, Consular Welfare of the Jamaica High Commission, who spoke on preserving culture and establishing identity. It's a mark of the organisation's longevity that two of our founder members are still a part of WACA thirty years after the inaugural session.
This inaugural meeting took place at YMCA in Watford with 35 people in attendance. The name chosen for the group was the Watford Afro Caribbean Association. This reflected the sizeable Caribbean community from Jamaica and other islands, as well as people from several African countries, many of whom were studying at the local college. The initial name also reflected the language that was current at that time; Afro Caribbean was then the main term being used to describe people of African origin in the UK.