I once had to get on stage after Nuala McKeever. The words “hard act to follow” sprang to mind – as they did on Saturday, when I took over from Duane Farrell as Chair of the Trustees of The Rainbow Project. In his six years as Chair, Duane steered the Board through the process of becoming “fully LGB&/T”, ensuring that our services were relevant to everyone in our community; developing a new strategy focussed on outcomes – the difference we can make to people, organizations and society; and, most recently, developing our strategic partnership with Stonewall to deliver world-class employment programmes in Northern Ireland.
Fortunately I’m working with a Board which is both very skilled and, at a personal level, very supportive, and a talented staff team deeply committed to improving the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and trans* people, in Northern Ireland.
As with many charities, the Board of Trustees isn’t the most visible part of The Rainbow Project, but we are legally responsible for the charity, its finances and governance. Key decisions on strategy and policy come to the Board. My priorities as Chair will include ensuring that Rainbow continues to be a compelling voice for LGB&/T inclusion; addressing gaps in service provision in the community; and continuing to build on collaboration and co-operation across the LGB&/T sector.
But, perhaps more than anything else, I want Rainbow to be known for the difference it makes to individual people’s health and wellbeing, through the services it provides and the advocacy in which it engages. My own connection with Rainbow began as a service user, accessing the counselling services and a personal development course. Hearing the stories of people whose lives are now more confident, more fulfilled, and just all round better, is what inspires us to do more.