By Isaac Baligema
Irene Gleeson, 68, an Australian national who left her country in 1992 and came to Uganda to give a future to thousands of Ugandan children, has succumbed to cancer.
Gleeson founded Irene Gleeson Foundation (IGF) in Kitgum in 1992 after selling all her property in Australia. She has been giving free medication, education and food to thousands of children most of whom orphans and ex-child soldiers with Joseph Kony’s LRA.
She was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophogus in May last year, but her condition worsened in October when she had travelled to US to fundraise for the foundation.
“The American doctors told us that they could not do much as the cancer had grown and advised her family to take her back home in Australia to spend her last days with the family.
"She passed on this morning [Sunday] after battling with the ailment for the past six months,” said John Paul Kiffasi, IGF’s executive director.
Kiffasi said in March this year, Gleeson sent her video footage bidding farewell to the 8,000 children under IGF, her staff and business associates in Uganda.
“She was a strong woman and she ready to meet her creator because she was a believer. She knew her destiny and she sent the video encouraging us and children to be strong.
"She has left behind a very strong management team, which works together with IGF Australia and IGF America,” said Kiffasi.
At the time of her death, she had constructed four primary schools in Kitgum and Lamwo districts, giving free education, medication and food to 8,000 children; two vocational institutes and the sh700m farming project in Nwoya district. Others include a radio station and the biggest hospital, which is still under construction in Kitgum and employs 450 Ugandans.
Kiffasi emphasized that her vision will live on.
Over the years, thousands of children have graduated from IGF’s vocation schools and many more are sponsored by the organisation in various secondary schools and universities.
“She had a passion for the underprivileged children and she has given hope and future to thousands of them. She will dearly be missed, but her candle will burn on,” said Kiffasi. See related pictorial here.