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Rutendo Mukotsanjera

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As her mother lay dying of the coronavirus, 12-year-old Chiedza spoke to her on the phone one last time. “I love you,” Chiedza said, “to Mercury, Mars, Venus, and back.” Rutendo Mukotsanjera, known to many as Ru, died on April 10 in Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent, England, at age 45. She was only able to see her daughter through a glass window for the last two weeks of her life. Chiedza and Mukotsanjera, a single mother, were “inseparable,” according to their church's pastor. With no other close family in the country, Chiedza, known as Chichi, is now living with a member of the church while conversations continue between UK authorities and her wider family in Zimbabwe about her future. The Renew Church in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, has so far raised over £37,000 (about $45,000) to pay for Mukotsanjera’s funeral and help provide for Chiedza’s future. One of five children, Mukotsanjera moved to the UK from Harare, Zimbabwe, around 18 years ago. She gained undergraduate and master’s degrees in human resource management and worked in various care facilities as a mental health support officer. She often took on extra shifts to support her daughter and send money back to her family in Zimbabwe, where she also had a 22-year-old son, Shungu. Pastor Matthew Murray told BuzzFeed News that Mukotsanjera was a much-loved and committed member of the church, not only attending every Sunday but going to home group meetings during the week. She cleaned the church as a volunteer every Saturday morning and was part of the church’s care home outreach team, comforting and listening to elderly people in the community.