The Cape Flats Development Association (CAFDA) was established in 1944. A commission of inquiry, appointed in 1942, disclosed the shocking state of affairs in which thousands of people were living in hovels in the most appalling conditions in the southern areas of the Cape Peninsula. People lived in conditions of poverty, disease, malnutrition and often experienced severe flooding of their homes in winter. The commission published its findings in 1944, and in that year, CAFDA was founded to seek to address many of these problems. In those early days the organization was known as the Cape Flats Distress Association.
CAFDA's first Chairperson was Miss Mary Attlee, the sister of the then British Prime Minister. She and her fellow volunteers started a small soup kitchen in Retreat. Their primary concern was to elevate the community's poor living conditions which had worsened due to many jobless people migrating to the Western Cape towards the end of World War II, in the hope of finding employment. The enormity of the social problems forced CAFDA, in its first few years of existence, to focus on the provision of disaster relief and material support for these people.
However, merely meeting the physical needs of the poor, did not help these people to cope with the numerous other social problems, which they encountered. Recognising this, CAFDA appointed a professional social worker in 1948. In the same year, an application was submitted to government for a loan to build houses in the area now known as Cafda Village.
Cafda Village was established in the belief that family life would thrive in an environment which provided a combination of physical and social support mechanisms. In 1957, 336 houses were built.
CAFDA later established a second village at Valhalla Park. This was made possible by the support received from the people of Cape Town through the "Cape Times'" sponsored Shelter Fund administered by CAFDA. This successful scheme, has been applied by other organizations both locally and internationally.
Mary Attlee Centre
Through a grant from the Cape Town Municipality in 1957, a milk shed on the old Jersey Barn Farm was renovated. This shed was transformed into a hall, which now accommodates sporting and recreational facilities for the disadvantaged people of the Southern Peninsula and is known as the Mary Attlee Centre.
Over the years, the community grew and the need for larger and improved facilities became evident. In 1992, a major sponsorship from trusts and corporate donors was received and CAFDA built a large Community Hall and Community Centre. Today, some 6000 people use the Centre each month.
CAFDA also established a crèche and play centre, for children with working parents, by converting an old farmhouse on the disused farm on which its administration centre was first established. Another building on the old farm was converted into a Community Centre. A handcraft centre for the disabled was also established and subsequently handed over to the Cape Cripple Care Association, in 1983.
Today many families own houses in Cafda Village. Others have improved their lifestyle by moving to better areas.