Irene Gleeson, the ‘grandmother’ to 8,000 Ugandan children, died peacefully on Sunday afternoon in Sydney after a 14 month battle with esophageal cancer. The founder of the Irene Gleeson Foundation died surrounded by family and friends, the family said on Monday night.
Irene Gleeson will best be remembered as the Australian grandmother who traded her Northern Beaches home for a war‐zone 22 years ago in order to rescue children from the ashes of war.
In 1991 Irene sold everything she owned, said goodbye to her four grown children and 13 grandchildren; and then towed her modest caravan to Kitgum ‐ a small, isolated community on the Sudan border and home to one of the world’s most terrible conflicts.
Many of the children she rescued were former child soldiers who had been kidnapped by religious extremist, Joseph Kony and his band of rebels.
Under the shade of a Tamarind tree Irene began teaching traumatised children to sing. A trained teacher, she then added reading and writing to her repertoire, carving out letters of the alphabet in the dust. Eventually she began feeding the children and sinking wells.
Today her legacy remains: 8,000 children who each receive food, clothing and medical care daily, four primary schools, a 60‐bed AIDS hospice; a vocational training center that caters for 1500 students and a community radio station broadcasting to more than 1 million people in the region.
Irene’s work has been recognized by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and by the Australian government. In 2009 she received the Honor of Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to international relations, particularly through sustained aid for children affected by war and HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda” and media outlets began to dub her Australia’s Mother Teresa.
Her auto‐biography is due for release in 2014 by publisher, Authentic Media UK.
Irene’s funeral is open to the public and will be held at 10am on Monday the 29th of July, 2013 at C3 Church, 34 Wakehurst Pkwy Oxford Falls.
Donations to the Irene Gleeson Foundation can be made at www.irenegleesonfoundation.com