A 12-year-old girl who lost her mum to COVID-19 has told Sky News how she has always wanted to emulate her “because she was just phenomenal.”
Rutendo Mukotsanjera, 45, died last month leaving behind her daughter Chiedza, who is also known as Chichi.
With most of her extended family in Zimbabwe the young girl has been taken in by a member of her church in Staffordshire, with the support of her church pastor.
Speaking to Sky News Chiedza explained how it was usually just the two of them: “She just brought me up in that love and kindness, she always taught me to be kind and use my manners and that sort of thing, I guess I looked up to her a lot and always wanted to be like her because she was just phenomenal.”
Rutendo moved to the UK from Harare 18 years ago and had worked in social care but most recently as an administrator within the NHS in Staffordshire.
She was an active member of the Renew Church in Uttoxeter, often volunteering her time to help others doing outreach work with elderly members of the community.
The restrictions on hospital visiting meant that Chiedza couldn’t properly see her Mum as her condition deteriorated in early April at Queen’s hospital in Burton on Trent.
“We would go to the hospital but I just didn’t really want to do it anymore,” she explained.
“You would just see her from the window, and as much as you want to just go in and hug her you just can’t – so you just wave from the window and make cards for her and stuff.”
“I could never be angry because everyone has done the best that they can, I could never be angry because there is no one to blame, things just happened you know.”
Only 10 invited guests could attend Rutendo’s funeral in Uttoxeter which was also live streamed to friends and family in Zimbabwe.
Her daughter recited a poem she had written paying tribute to her mum. One line read: “Like birds of a feather, we were always together.”
Pastor Matthew Murray, who is helping to support Chiedza told Sky News: “The thing that I remember most about Rutendo is her smile and I now see that smile in Chiedza, which is so exciting to see because it wasn’t like that in the first few days.
“She is now starting to smile, she is starting to be positive, she is back in school and her faith is really the thing that is carrying her through.”
Chiedza wants to continue her studies at secondary school and wants to become an actress but hasn’t ruled out a career in law.
She said: “We are all grieving in different ways but having a positive attitude towards it and focusing on what you can do can really help and could save more lives.”
Conversations are continuing between her support network in Uttoxeter, social services and her extended family in Zimbabwe to ensure she can grow up happily in a secure environment.
A JustGiving page set up to help support Chiedza had already raised almost £40,000.