25 May 2020

Plucky and benevolent woman behind the success stories of Community Organising dies from Covid19

Former colleagues and friends of Josephine Mukanjira, who died from Covid19 complications in Mid-April, pay tributes to a stupendous woman who was behind the many success stories of Community Organising in the UK. “Jo was simply the pillar of community organising and the backbone of our work” said one former colleague from Citizens UK, a charity that organises communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good.

Josephine Mukanjira descended from East Africa and had connections both to Uganda and Rwanda. Jo was very close to her mum and her extended family who live in Uganda and are devastated by the untimely tragic death of a woman who was the beacon of hope for the family. Jo, who had been in the UK for a long time, worked for Citizens UK for over 12 years in different capacities until September 2019 when she left the organisation. In the past few months, Jo worked for an organisation as an accountant. Just a few days before her untimely departure, Jo joined a prominent Chartered Governance organisation in the City of London, but Covid19 stole this woman of courage and her dreams were cut short. Neil Jameson, founder and former Executive Director of Citizens UK, who has been the backbone of the farewell organising for Josephine said,Jo will be remembered as one of the kindest, most wiling and most loyal colleagues we had through those tough years of growth and challenge. She looked out for colleagues and rarely said ‘NO’. The very best of humanity and quiet, inspirational leader. So much missed. RIP Josephine

Stephanie Leonard, tweeted, “Josie ensured my first month’s salary was paid up front so I could pay my rent when I started my job at CUK. She knew I needed help and went out of her way to support me. She always checked in on me when I would come to the office. She was such a gorgeous person. Such awful news.” Whereas another former colleague, Lydia Rye said in a tweet, “Jo was warm and terrifying (read my expenses were always late) in equal measure and my favourite person to gossip outside assemblies with. I cannot imagine being at CUK without her. Such desperately sad news.” Many other colleagues and community leaders used the social media platforms to pay their tributes among which are the following, Ana Franca-Ferreira, tweeted “Met Jo at 17 as a young intern. Saw her again at 24 at my first professional job, she made me feel at home. Every time I was in the office and Jo was there, I was at home. Heartbroken that she has gone but have the certainty that she rests with God. Thanks for your life Jo!” Another former colleague, Dermot Bryers tweeted, “So, so sad. I always loved seeing Jo when I came to Cavell Street. Love and condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.

Among those who used twitter to pay tributes was, Bethan Angharad Lant, “I adored Josephine. She had such natural warmth. I looked forward to seeing her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.” Others went onto Facebook to pay their respects. Paul Regan, one of the pioneers of Community Organising in the UK said, “This is a complete shock. Such kind and positive person. I find it difficult to believe. RIP Jo”. Whereas Rabbi Janet Darley, who also shared prayer and religious reflection at the zoom memorial, wrote on Facebook, “Such sad news. Such a lovely person. May her soul be bound up in the gathering of life. Her memory will surely be a blessing to all who knew and loved her”. Another former colleague and close friend, Emmanuel Gotora wrote on Facebook, “We’ve lost a true gem. Josie was a caring and kind-hearted colleague and much loved by all at Citizens UK. She had a wicked sense of humour and always had time to talk no matter how busy things were. Her calm presence greeted many of us at the office. She always had a smile and a never-ending secret stash of chocolate which she was always happy to share. Josephine was more than a work colleague - she was a friend - a rare combination. She loved being with people and always went above and beyond to lend a hand when needed. She loved a game of football too! I’ll always remember the football games in Weavers’ Field. I will miss you my dear friend Josie - rest in peace.”

Many people around the country meet their local community organisers, but there was one person behind these organisers, Jo. Some of her former colleagues used to even call her as, ‘organiser of organisers’. More tributes and reactions from colleagues and friends on twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE

Devastated and shocked by the sudden death of Jo, old and new colleagues, and friends joined the memorial zoom organised to commemorate her life on Tuesday 28th April. Fitting tributes and stories of a remarkable woman were shared by those who joined the memorial where we also had heart touching hymn and song, ‘Great is they faithfulness’ and ‘Who will speak if we don’t?’ led by Bernadette Farrell, hymnographer, composer of Catholic liturgical music and veteran Community Organiser. We were also joined by Jo’s mum and extended family from Uganda, who were indeed very grateful for the memorial service held in honour of their loved one. The memorial was also a reminder that much should be done to support Jo’s family as they mainly relied on her financial support following the death of her 2 brothers in the past few years. We have, therefore, launched a fundraiser to give Jo the best send-off she very much deserves. We are also keen to help her mum and the kids Jo was sponsoring in schools in Uganda. Here is the GoFundMe page, Paying Respect to Jo. Please donate and share. It is all paying back to a woman that helped many in the fight for social justice.  

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