Tracy was living with her father, mother and sister, but her father died in 2011 leaving Tracy to care for her mother and her sister who were both unwell.
When the Engine Room opened, it helped having somewhere local to take her mother or sister:
“It’s quite difficult when you’ve just lost someone, even harder when it’s at Christmas time – my mum died two weeks before Christmas and Father Michael, Martina and Andrew invited us here over Christmas – I don’t think we would have got through as happily as we did without their help. If you need them… good, bad, whatever, they’re there for you.
“The nice thing about the Engine Room is that it really is a community centre – it doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, black, white, Christian or not, you can use the facilities here. It embraces the diversity of people – it allows that rather than pointing out the differences. It’s a very free and non-judgemental space, it doesn’t mind what religion, creed, disability, ability, age you come from, its connected people who wouldn’t necessarily normally be together. Whether it’s social class, age, religion… you get to be friends with people that you wouldn’t normally be with. The choir is an example of that – we have people from 11-50 and you wouldn’t have friends normally from as wide an age band – they encourage that. Also, some blocks are very isolated as they all have main door keys to get into the building – it’s secure, but boundary-setting – the centre helps you bypass those boundaries.
“I was unwell recently and you find you suddenly have an amazing support network – my sister got emails and text messages saying, ‘I hear Tracy is unwell – do you need anything – if you need me to go to the shops, I’m around’. It was nice to know if something did happen, that Ruth and I have this support network of people we may not have actually met if we hadn’t been coming to one event or another run by the Engine Room. I know people in every single block now…. It has helped us establish very strong ties with people, it’s created a very strong sense of community here.
“One of the biggest things that you can see people’s donations doing here is that the centre can run lots of kids’ programmes – I can’t walk pass the playground without the kids saying ‘Hello Tracy’ instead of seeing street gangs on our corners. They encourage them to be nice citizens who look after themselves – so they’re kind of inspiring the next generation and have given them something to do.
“We have a lunch where you can donate so that the person who has cooked the food gets their money back – a little kid put his last 5p in because he wanted to make sure that that person got his money back that week. It’s not about how much you give, it’s about the fact that it inspires people to invest in themselves.
“If you are thinking about giving money to a cause, it’s an opportunity to invest in the next generation now.”