THE BLOG

Glasgow 2014: A Summer Escape for Disadvantaged Youngsters

22/07/2014 09:20 BST | Updated 20/09/2014 10:59 BST

How's your summer social schedule looking? A nice holiday perhaps, or maybe a few day trips? Chances are that for you and yours, getting a break and seeing new places is a high priority, and quite rightly so.

But whilst Brits on average took three holidays last year, over two million British children live in families who can't afford a trip to the seaside - far less a simple holiday.

The fact is that young people from the UK's most deprived communities are usually hemmed in, with little expectation and experience of travel outside their immediate local area. This is bad news: everyone needs a change and especially so if your neighbourhood is tough.

Research shows youngsters growing up in disadvantaged communities are surrounded by anti-social behaviour - gangs, violence, drugs are all common-place - and there is pressure to join in. That's why at StreetGames we like to run day trips and camps to classy events and venues that disadvantaged teenagers are otherwise very unlikely to get near.

The latest of these is the residential camp we've set up in Glasgow across the Commonwealth Games in partnership with Spirit of 2012 and the Welsh Government, as part of its anti-poverty programme for young people in Wales.

This will give close to 1,000 teenagers from over 80 community projects the opportunity to experience the incredible atmosphere and spirit of the Games. Young people are coming from as far afield as Hastings, Rhyl, Hull and Newport. They will see the top class athletes in action at the Games and camp for two or three nights. There will be sport and outdoor challenges on the camp site, which is 10 miles to the north east of Glasgow.

It's a model we know can be really powerful. We first experimented with this around the London 2012 Olympic Games, when we gave 1,800 disadvantaged youngsters the opportunity to visit the Games and watch top-class live sport through our Give and Go programme.

For several years we've been funded by Coca-Cola GB and The Football Pools to run Sports Festivals, where young people represent their local community at top-quality sports facilities, enjoy a day to remember and a chance to meet new friends. This summer, we will once again stage events on the Olympic Park and at England football's HQ at St George's Park.

At the World Cup in Brazil, two youngsters from Amber Valley were lucky enough (if you ignore the result) to be flag bearers at England's first game in Manaus. It was the first time the lasses had left their home town. We had to work hard to get the paperwork and visas in order so they could make the trip. They are part of the Derbyshire Sporting Futures project which is co-funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner. They now have a smattering of Portuguese and their social media network is cosmopolitan.

On one level, these kinds of experiences give disadvantaged youngsters something to look forward to and get excited about. Young people also get a chance to mix with people from similar backgrounds but different communities to broaden their friendship group. As one lad said it is like 'coming up for air'. These events are stored in the memory bank.

But it is the longer term impact that can be most powerful. A glimpse of something different can change a young person's outlook and perspective on life and give them a template for more positive behaviour. Young people also gain confidence and new skills. For example, we encourage our young volunteers to get involved in the planning and logistics of the events they are attending, giving them experience of responsibility and leadership. The young people return to their communities more responsible and engaged - many go on to become volunteers and positive role models within their communities.

In the UK we have been very fortunate to host several major global sporting celebrations in the last few years, and there are more to come, starting with the Rugby World Cup in 2015. It is crucial these events are inclusive of everyone, from every background and provide more than just venues and physical infrastructure. A human legacy of inspired young people, better able to cope with their difficult lives and better equipped to improve their own life chances is far more valuable.

If you'd like to support StreetGames' Give and Go initiative, using sport to make a real difference in young people's lives, you can find out more here.