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Yemurai Kanyangarara— may his memory live on through us By: Jessica Burnham

11 years ago | 3757 Views

 As an intern for Girl Child Network Worldwide, I was informed by Betty Makoni of Yemurai Kangarara’s tragic death and of his mother Sharon, who is handling herself so gracefully during such a painful time. As someone who had never before met Sharon or her family in person, I was fortunate enough to be warmly welcomed into their home on July 8 for a beautiful Zimbabwean ceremony and to express my sincere condolences and empathy for the loss of their young yet inspiring family member.

            There is a compelling story, however, behind the grieving. Sharon and her sister Memory spent part of the evening with us, and although it was a struggle to talk about their beloved Yemurai, they recounted their loving memories of him with dignity and poise. It was thereafter made obvious that a story of life and love needs to be told about a boy whose image has been incongruously connected to a story of death.His life was made most beautiful by his love for others and the very evident love of others for him. From the time his mother named him Yemurai, meaning “adorable” in the Zimbabwean Shona language, many people would come to adore him for his passion, creativity and kindness.

“There was so much excitement around his birth for some reason, it was a big event,” said his mother Sharon Jambawo. Born on March 19, 1995 at Harare Hospital in Zimbabwe, Yemurai Kanyangarara and his mother struggled through a natural birth that lasted 12 hours.

There was an immediate, deep-rooted and lasting connection between mother and son. “They wanted to clean him first before I could hold him, so they quickly did the cleaning, and then they wrapped him, and then I held him, and since that time I never wanted to let go,” Jambawo explained.

The first person to be awe-inspired by Yemurai was his own mother. “He was so cute it was unbelievable,” Jambawo said. “I was thinking, I can’t believe he has just come out of me!” His mother would not be the last person to recognize and appreciate his extraordinary qualities.

 His extended family played a defining role throughout his life alongside his mother. Many of them offered constant love and support from the beginning. “There was just something about him from day one, something very special,” said his aunt Memory Jambawo.

Kanyangarara left Zimbabwe for the UK in 1997 when he was just over 2-

years-old. He was thereafter surrounded by family, including his mother, his aunt Memory, and his uncle Trevor, all of whom temporarily lived under the same roof.

            “When the three of us were living together, it was like he had two mommys and uncle Trevor. His relationship with Trevor [was] very, very close,” said his aunt Memory.

            In addition, he had his uncle Melvin, who also played a very significant role in Yemurai’s life. His uncle Melvin, whom Yemurai considered as his role model would spend most weekends with him and taking him flying. Also he had his aunts Caroline and Jacqueline to rely on, although only 5 of his mother’s siblings were living in the UK. His grandmother’s sisters, Angela and Dorothy were also there to sustain and encourage him and his mother. Furthermore, his father’s sisters were quite present as well, keeping him engaged with the Kanyangarara family. His father, Kelton Kanyangarara, recently left a message Yemurai’s Facebook page that read "My boy is gone it is so painful – my heart is bleeding. RIP my boy I will always love you."

            After arriving in the UK, Yemurai attended Blackheath Day Nursery for only a short period of time because it was difficult for his mother Sharon to entrust her only child to the care of others. She remembers that even at that time, Yemurai was developing quite a charming and sociable personality.

“He always stood out. Not just because of the way he used to look, but the way he was just bubbly. He was a very bubbly baby,” Sharon said.

            In addition to his outgoing temperament and cleverness, Yemurai began showing his aptitude for athleticism quite early.

“He used to run, [he was] very energetic. He was an active baby. Always laughing and giggling, quite cheeky really,” Memory recalled.

His nursery experience lasted for only a few months and then Sharon decided to look after him herself until he was ready to start reception. Like many children at this age, Yemurai loved to play with cars and action figures, but he also began to develop a deep appreciation for literature. In year 6 he was awarded a book signed byAnthony Horowitz after he won a short story competition.

            “It was like a rule, he wouldn’t go to bed without a bedtime story,” recalled his aunt Memory. His mother ties his love for books and stories to Yemurai’s active imagination that would come to further express itself throughout his life.

            “How he loved to read books. And when he was in primary school, they did some story writing, like a competition, and then he won. The prize was a book,” Sharon said. “He used to write poetry and stories. There was one that they published and it was on the school wall.”

            It was also in primary school that Yemurai was first recruited to play football for Junior Falcons football club. A football coach came to Yemurai’s school, saw him play, and recognized his talent and potential. Thereafter, he approached Sharon, eager to recruit Yemurai for his football team.

            “Normally kids, they line up applying, and then they go through 3 months trial before they are fully accepted. But he was ready to just take him on, and he said ‘I know a good player when I see one,’” Sharon said.

            Thereafter, Yemurai played football with this same coach from the age of 9 to the age of 16, up until a few months ago. According to his mother, he had sustained many injuries and therefore wanted to take some time off. But, she said that his team, and his coach in particular, really played a defining role in Yemurai’s life.

            “This football coach has really been a big part of Yemurai because he has loved him and treated him like his own child,” Sharon said.

            She explained that team members and their parents would always help out when need be, giving rides to Yemurai and making sure he was able to make it to practices and games while his mother was working. In addition to his aptitude for football, he was also talented in athletics and swimming.

            His mother further explained that during primary school, Yemurai was loved and praised by all of his teachers. The feedback she received about her son was always positive, which left her beaming at the academic achievements and principled character of her son.

            In fact, during a visit to the Jambawo house, Sharon pulled out a binder filled with all of the awards Yemurai had received over the years. Containing awards of every kind, this collection of Yemurai’s achievements illustrates his extraordinary abilities, but also the rightfully proud accomplishment of a devoted mother who raised her son well.

When he began secondary school, Yemurai was again loved and admired by those he was surrounded by, as they recognized his benevolent nature. According to a recent article in BBC News, Yemurai was described by his head teacher at St. Columba's Catholic Boys' School as a "kind, gentle lad."

Although he was skilled in many academic subjects, he had particular enthusiasm for the classes most people find difficult. “He loved science subjects, physics was his favorite. And math especially,” said his aunt Memory. He was also a musician, having played keyboard during his years at school.

Although he had always been quite sensible and mature for his age, Yemurai was gradually becoming an adult physically, mentally and emotionally.

“His voice was getting deep and we were almost the same height, and

we were laughing about it. I said ‘maybe you are even going to be taller than me.’ He used to laugh at my feet because I am size 5, and he was now size 7,” Sharon said. He was a very caring and sensitive son, a child any parent would be proud of. He was a “gift from God”, according to Sharon.

            Also a sign of his coming-of-age was his relationship with his girlfriend, Amber, who obviously cared about him deeply. She recently made plain her feelings through a message she left for Yemurai.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, the way I collapsed when the policeman told me my boyfriend was gone, like I’m never gonna see you again? Not in this world anyway.

I wish I could see you, I’d tell you everything [you] wanted, give you a big hug and kiss and say how much I love you. My boyfriend, my baby, my ROD. Rest in Perfect Peace,” Amber said.

            Having just finished his GCSEs, Yemurai and his mother were considering the possibility of a future in one of his two passions: astronomy or aviation.

            “We found out about Bexleyheath Cadets so we were going to look into that thinking that after A level he would go and join the cadets. It was definitely going to be piloting now,” Sharon said. Yemurai obviously had a bright future ahead of him.

            Although she could not pinpoint anything in particular, Sharon remembers not feeling like herself during her last week with Yemurai. They both had every reason to be excited about the future, yet Sharon felt troubled. “I was just feeling sad and I was just thinking, ‘there is nothing to be sad about’,” Sharon said. “Everything was fine. Yemurai had just finished his exams, now were excited about applying for school, so I couldn’t think of anything, but I was just down.”

            She remembers being preoccupied with spending as much time with Yemurai as possible. “For some reason I had been paying too much attention to him. And I didn’t even have time to call people, all I was doing was go to work, come home, and straight to Yemurai,” Sharon said.

            Her last night with him was similar to any other, although it would be her final goodbye to her only child. With a kiss on each cheek, and a “goodnight, I love you,” Sharon went to her room to sleep before an early day of work. Later that night, she gave Yemurai permission to watch a film before bed, feeling he had earned it after completing a long session of exams.

            “I woke up and left for work and he was still sleeping. That was the last conversation I had with him,” Sharon said.

            Yemurai was an extraordinary boy with an extraordinary future ahead of him. When his death shocked the consciences of so many, grieving immediately followed, however, let us simultaneously take hold of his memory and let it be a call to action. Let us remember Yemurai through our thoughts and actions, and teach our young ones the way of love and peace rather than hate and violence. In his memory, let’s work to reform our homes, classrooms, and societies so that all young people can achieve their potential in an environment of empathy.



































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