Gleeson receives praise from First Lady Janet Museveni for her compassion including helping to educate over 20,000 children in Kitgum
Janet Kataha Museveni, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, has urged civil servants to emulate the late Irene Gleeson, the late Australian philanthropist who braved the war in Northern Uganda to help the needy.
This was during a memorial service recently in honor of Gleeson, a grandmother who sacrificed her home in Australia to support children in Kitgum district at the peak of the LRA insurgency in 1991. She succumbed to cancer on July 21, 2013 at the age of 67.
In a speech read for her by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanya, the first lady hailed ‘Mama Irene’ for her compassion for the children of Northern Uganda.
“The woman began with a caravan and a handful of destitute children under a tree singing songs, had compassion to meet the task ahead of her. Irene’s fruit of compassion is all around us today. Out of a hopeless situation, we now have a community with flourishing hope because one believer was obedient to the call of God,” says Janet Museveni.
In 1989, Irene heard about orphans in Uganda needing help and sold her beachside home and all her possessions to come to the aid of these children. She left Australia in December 1991 for Uganda and towed her caravan 500 kilometers from Kampala to the Sudan border.
She arrived in Kitgum, 40 kilometers from the Sudan border, and found the district had been ravaged by decades of war. The War was still ongoing, with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army causing havoc, killing the men in the villages and abducting children and turning them into soldiers. It was a community of aged widows and orphaned children, trying to scratch food from a harsh land.
She once said: “Every single human being has the right to reach their full potential. Each is entitled to food, water, medicine and education.”
Jacob Oulanya, told the congregation to emulate the life of a mother who had compassion for children and cared of their well-being.
John Paul Kifasi, the Executive Director, Irene Gleeson Foundation told our reporter that the Foundation has helped to educate 20,000 children and continues to provide services to the local community through technical institute, secondary school and child care center.
“Mama Irene has left a great task ahead of us and we have all these children to care for. Our prayer is that the local people support us in this cause to put a smile in the faces of these great Ugandans who hold a future for this country,” added Gleenson.
He says the Foundation hopes to fully stock its maternity ward to help mothers in the community and also de-congest government health facilities in Kitgum district.
Thousands of people from across the country remembered Irene Gleeson through a charity walk that saw corporate companies contribute to health, education and prison service in Kitgum district.
Over 100 million shillings was raised locally both in cash and in-kind to support the foundation that primarily depends on donor funding to run their activities.
According to Bruce Mpamizo, the Director Sales and Marketing, at Movit Products Limited, his company contributed over 45 million shillings worth of goods to patients at Kitgum general hospital, St. Joseph Hospital and Kitgum government prison, in memory of places where Irene Gleeson visited during her mission in Kitgum district.