Odhrán Devlin (He/Him) is a Staffing Office Business Manager (Vice President) at Citi Belfast and the Co-Chair of the organisation’s Pride Network. But for Cara-Friend, he is one of a growing number of committed volunteers from businesses, who volunteer their time to support the delivery of our anti-bullying work in schools across Northern Ireland.
In 2021, Citi generously agreed to become the Principal Sponsor of a new Cara-Friend initiative – The LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Schools’ Charter. The Charter was one of the few good things to come out of lockdown. All in-person interactions had to be moved online. So, in the early days of the pandemic, it became clear that schools needed a new approach to raising awareness and understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues and concerns. We had been successfully delivering All Out anti-bullying workshops in schools for around 4 years before Covid struck.
The All Out sessions, aimed at reducing Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic bullying in schools, were regarded by a number of school leaders as essential elements in supporting LGBTQIA+ pupils. There is currently no mandatory provision for LGBTQIA+ awareness and support in Schools. Feedback from teachers contributed to the development of the Inclusive Schools’ Charter and a framework to help schools become welcoming and safe spaces for everyone, but particularly LGBTQIA+ pupils.
The demand for support from schools was so significant, it was necessary to create a waiting list. Recognising the need to accommodate the demand for our services, the idea of recruiting volunteers to help deliver the workshops in schools was developed. One of the first to step forward to sign up to host awareness sessions in schools was Odhrán.
Alongside other volunteers from Citi, Danske Bank, Pinsent Masons and Visa, the first cadre of business volunteers were taken through intensive online training by project lead Jo McParland, Cara-Friend’s Education & Training Manager.
Slowly but surely, Odhrán and 20 volunteers began to gain enough confidence to go into schools and offer their perspective on growing up and going to school as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Odhrán has a number of reasons for volunteering his time towards this project. One is to see the development of school environments where young people from marginalised backgrounds, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, feel safe, valued, and respected. Citi is committed to partnering with organisations like Cara-Friend who share our values of promoting tolerance and respect. As a global organisation, we recognise the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the importance of being able to bring your authentic self into the workplace. We are proud to work in partnership with Cara-Friend and to support schools through the delivery of these workshops across Northern Ireland.
Citi are Principal Sponsors of Cara-Friend’s LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Schools’ Charter