02 October 2019 | Scotland
How kids play charity gave Michaela a brighter future
With their distinctive red hoodies and sacks of toys and games, PEEK’s Play Rangers bring fun to the streets of Glasgow.
PEEK - which stands for Possibilities for Each and Every Kid - was set up in 2000 by a group of parents who got together determined to give their children better opportunities and reclaim places for them to play safely.
Together they formed a community-led operation that would eventually become the charity PEEK.
PEEK’s mission is to support children and young people and to unlock their potential and help them thrive.
They send teams of Play Rangers into areas around Glasgow armed with a kit bag containing ball games, skipping ropes, den-building equipment and lots of other items for the kids to have fun with out in the open.
PEEK now reaches out to more than 30 communities across Glasgow and have around 50 young volunteers aged from 14 to 25 who go out with the Play Rangers and help set up. They also act as role models to the younger kids.
“Some of the kids we work with have never even been active, they don’t know how to skip, run and jump,” says Michaela Collins, PEEK’s head of development and partnerships. “Stuff that kids should normally do. It is partly a confidence thing, if you have constantly been told you can’t go out because it is not safe, or your neighbours are always telling you to move on, you are not going to be that kid kicking a ball around outside. We want to give that opportunity back to them. A five-year-old can’t fight for the right to play, but we can speak for them.”
Michaela says technology has also had an impact on children’s lives. She adds: “These days kids are addicted to tech. They want to stay inside playing computer games all day. You see the impact on their social skills and self-esteem. It means they can find it difficult to be in social situations and develop friendships.”
Michaela, 28, has been involved with PEEK since she first attended play sessions when she was just nine.
And when she was going off the rails as a teenager, excluded from school, and hanging out on the streets with a gang, they offered her a different future.
She explains: “The East End of Glasgow was not always great growing up as a kid. Gang fights were a part of everyday life. It was on my doorstep, you couldn’t get away from it. Many of my friends turned to drink and drugs to cope with trauma or to fit in.
“We were defined by our postcode, my family grew up around it and I was headed the same way,” says Michaela.
After being excluded from school when she was 14, she began volunteering for PEEK helping deliver play, sport and creative programmes in her area.
She says: “At 15 I left school with no aspirations or ideas on what I wanted to do with my life. There was no chance of me going to college or anything like that. But at 16, PEEK offered me an apprenticeship and I’ve been there ever since. My roles over the years have changed as PEEK developed and expanded across Glasgow.
“When I went along, there was literally nothing else for the kids to do. But at PEEK they offered something different, and they seemed to genuinely care what I had to say. They saved me and thousands of other children too.”