Saturday, July 27, 2013

A truly great Australian - Irene Gleeson - remembered in Uganda

Photo: Ilya Gridneff, Sydney Morning Herald 

Here is a truly inspiring story from the website of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If you have a few minutes, make sure you watch the video interview with this remarkable woman of faith.

Yesterday (Friday 26th July) up to 10,000 people attended a memorial service in Uganda to celebrate the life of an Australian woman who cared for a generation of children traumatised by war.

Irene Gleeson dedicated more than 20 years of her life to helping orphaned children and those abducted by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

The 68-year-old died in Sydney last week from cancer.

Uganda's foreign minister and several MPs were among the mourners who attended the service on the grounds of the Irene Gleeson Foundation at Kitgum in the country's north.

During two decades on the frontline of war, Ms Gleeson fed, housed and educated an estimated 6,000 orphans or destitute children.

During much of that time she lived alone in a caravan at Kitgum, but built several primary schools and two vocational colleges.

Her passing is of deep significance to the region's people, who affectionately knew her as Mama Irene.

The nation's foreign minister, Henry Okello, says northern Uganda would be a very different place if Ms Gleeson had not dedicated her life to helping others.

Jean Paul, the chief executive of the Irene Gleeson Foundation, says he is going to continue the work that she has done.

"Today is a day of celebration. Our hearts are broken. We are in pain. We lost our mother. The entire nation has lost a mother," he told the ABC.

"But also we are here not just to mourn but to celebrate the life of Mama Irene. The lives she has changed.

"The landscape she has transformed, the nation she has blessed, the thousands of children that she has given hope to who would have perished without her sacrifice of leaving her home in Australia, selling it and relocating to the war zone of Uganda.

"We have received thousands of mourners who have come to pay their last respects to Mama Irene. We have district officials, representatives of the Australian High Commission in Nairobi are here. It is a big day.

"The people are asking that this day be remembered every year, the day Mama Irene passed on, 21 July every year, we come together and remember it.

"Yes, we are in pain. We are hearing testimonies of children who have been built to their full potential by Mama Irene.

"But also we are not just going to mourn. Mama Irene say: 'Never say, rest in peace, for me'. Because for her, she will be dancing and singing in heaven.

"We know she will be proud to see the people here today and the lives changed through her work."

And here is part of the Sydney Morning Herald's report:

Australia’s representative from the high commission in Kenya, Simon Anderson, read a message from former Labor MP Bob McMullan, who last year visited Kitgum as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy.

“I still have a vivid memory of 5000 healthy children in Irene’s school assembly,” McMullan wrote. “The image is in my head and in my heart forever. She made me very proud to be an Australian.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr sent a tribute on behalf of the Australian people and government.

“Her life charted an inspirational path from Sydney to Kitgum,” Carr wrote. “Mama Irene demonstrates the difference that one dedicated and courageous human being can make in the lives of many others.

“She leaves an enduring and remarkable legacy, not only helping thousands of children who attended the schools she established, but their families and wider communities. She was committed to helping build hope and new dreams in the aftermath of conflict.”

Read more: 


Post a Comment