A KILKENNY man – who was recently crowned ‘Person of the Year’ at the Gay and Lesbian Awards – will be a guest in the Obama household on St Patrick’s Day, having been invited to the White House by the US embassy.
Michael Barron, originally from Glenmore, is the founder of BeLong To, an organisation provides youth work services to LGBT young people and support LGBT youth groups all around the country. His ground-breaking work to help young people and combat bullying in Irish schools is now being recognised internationally, as the US Government attempts to tackle issues within its own education system.
On St Patrick’s Day, Mr Barron will speak to senior administration officials in the White House in a series of meetings. He will later visit New York City to meet members of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.
Earlier in the month, BeLonG To officially launched its annual anti-bullying campaign – this time with backing from central Government. The ‘Stand Up’ campaign aims to raise awareness of homophobic bullying and the issues that affect young LGBT people.
More than 1,400 secondary schools and youth organisations take part in it, and the Department of Education have produced a national anti-bullying action plan, having worked with Mr Barron. His efforts have helped to bring about a change in Department policy with regard to a variety of youth issues.
BeLong To’s work has also been recognised by the UN Human Rights Commission and the European Commission. The organisation even helped UNESCO write their first ever international guide to tackle anti-gay bullying, and last year, Michael was invited to attend an International Leaders conference in the US.
BeLonG To is a support organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people, aged between 14 and 23. This year is the tenth anniversary of the organisation’s founding.