Ugandans farewell ‘Mama Irene’

An Australian missionary has been farewelled by some 10,000 Ugandans after dedicating 20 years of her life to helping children affected by war.

Irene Gleeson, who died of cancer aged 68, started her own faith-based foundation in Kitgum, Uganda, in 1992 after parking her caravan under a mango tree in territory occupied by rebels in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. More than 20,000 children have since been educated, fed and clothed at the schools she established. She was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2009 for her sustained humanitarian work for children affected by war and HIV/AIDS.

In a tribute from Foreign Minister Bob Carr on behalf of the Australian government, he said “her life charted an inspirational path from Sydney to Kitgum”.

“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,” Carr said.

Irene Gleeson Tribute from Irene Gleeson Foundation on Vimeo.

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Ashlee Betteridge

Ashlee Betteridge was the Manager of the Development Policy Centre until April 2021. She was previously a Research Officer at the centre from 2013-2017. A former journalist, she holds a Master of Public Policy (Development Policy) from ANU and has development experience in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. She now works as a development consultant.

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