The Story of Eva Wangui Muchemi

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.  ~ Aristotle

When Eva Wangui was born to the late Hungura Kariuki and Mary Wambura Hungura on the 28th of September 1959 in Ichamara, Mukurweini—in the now Nyeri County—only the Almighty God knew what a woman of courage and honour she was destined to be. We can only imagine how a farewell for Eva would have been if Covid-19 wasn’t ravaging the world.

The third born in a family of seven, Eva’s siblings are Millicent Mwangi, Florence Mwariri, Grace Karinga, David Kariuki, the Late Jennifer Hungura, Richard Wanjohi, and Samuel Mugo.

Eva went to Ichamara Primary School from 1965 up to 1972, then to Tumutumu Girls High School for O-Level education between 1973 and 1976. Eva later went to Lwak Girls High School in Nyanza for her A-Level education from 1977 to 1978. Upon excelling in her A-Levels, Eva joined the University of Nairobi where she studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology from 1980 up to 1983.

Eva met the love of her life - Wanjuki Muchemi for the first time on the 16th of June 1979. It was love at first sight, and things moved very fast from that moment. Wanjuki proposed to her in November 1980. The two were married at Kanunga Baptist Church in Ichamara on the 7th of March 1981. On the 10th of June 1981, Eva and Wanjuki were later blessed with their first-born child, the Late Muchemi Wanjuki Muchemi more popularly referred to simply as J. Eva was gifted in multitasking. As she pursued her degree programme as a weekly boarder at the University, she religiously spent time with her husband and baby boy over the weekends out in Nyeri. As years passed by Eva and Wanjuki were blessed with Nyawira on the 23rd of July 1983 and Wambura on the 3rd of February 1987.

Eva and Wanjuki have always been of kindred spirit. Both loved travelling extensively; as a couple, and together with their children. They built a marriage wrought in beautiful friendship, truthful love and utmost mutual respect.  The duo dutifully checked on family and friends. Eva had a very special bond with each member of her nuclear family. She created time for quality bonding with each of her children - one-on-one.

Eva believed in the sanctity of the family. She loved and cared for her family and cultivated a wonderful relationship with her in-laws. She deliberately created time and got involved in the welfare of every member of her family. Eva adored her parents-in-law—the Late Elizaphan Muchemi and the Late Peris Nyawira—and pampered them in an exceptional and unforgettable way. She lovingly indulged her nieces, nephews and Wanjuki’s younger siblings. Eva was the driver and chairlady of the mother-daughter mentorship conclave—known as “Daughters of the King”—for the larger Muchemi family.

Eva’s relationship with her parents was utterly admirable. She was entrusted with the safekeeping of all their documents, and charged with her parents’ medical care which she diligently undertook through Dr Eva Njenga. She initiated a sisters’ savings group into which she included her mother, and her love for her sisters and brothers was extraordinary. It easily reverberated throughout the broader Hungura family.

The friendships Eva nurtured were wired to last forever. Her decades-old friendships stood the test of time. She nurtured and maintained relationships with people she met as far back as in her primary school days. Her love for bringing people together went beyond family members. She had a group of very close friends from her days both in high school and the university—aptly named “Girlfriends for Life”—who were strewn all over the world and who met as regularly as was possible. Eva deeply valued and cared for all her friends without exception, and in her circle of friends, she always made each one of them feel special. That was Eva for you!

Eva had multiple talents. She was naturally versatile. Soon after graduating in 1983, she set up a business at Central Hotel in Nyeri town called Eva’s Emporium. It was a boutique that sold imported clothes and shoes that were so rare to find in Nyeri back in the day. Eva loved making people look and feel beautiful inside and out.

In 1985, Eva switched careers and became a teacher at Mount Kenya Academy. There, she taught English, Home Science, and GHC until 1994. Her stint as a teacher left an indelible mark on her students, who have excelled in life and in their professions. Many would later reach out to her or catch up with her in awe because of what she inspired and instilled in their lives. She continued to maintain constant communication with them on Facebook, and other social media platforms.

The Muchemi family relocated to Nairobi in 1994 and Eva’s career trajectory took a new turn. In Nairobi, Eva engaged in humanitarian undertakings while working in various NGOs. She had a special talent in raising funds for charitable causes. She did exceptionally well in raising social welfare funds through golf tournaments, charity walks and marathons. Eva worked for both the Nairobi Hospice and Heart-to-Heart Foundation, where she was in charge of Fundraising. She finally found her passion when she together with Dr Eva Njenga and Wanjuki, founded the Kenya Diabetes Management & Information (DMI) Centre.

For over twenty years, Eva devoted her entire life to helping people susceptible to developing diabetes in Kenya. She led a team in packaging and disseminating information on the risks of developing diabetes. She was instrumental in getting donor grants for setting up programmes specifically for children with diabetes in Kenya. This particular programme was geared towards providing free insulin for children with Type 1 diabetes. Her passion for diabetes education in Kenya was unparalleled. Eva was recognised by the Ministry of Health in 2015 as one of the country’s Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) champions. This was in honour of her contribution to the prevention of NCDs in Kenya.

Eva worked tirelessly to secure funding for DMI Centre from both local and global benefactors, including Safaricom Limited and Safaricom Foundation, World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), The Rockefeller Foundation and World Health Organisation (WHO). Her efforts over time supported several projects and programmes implemented by DMI. As Executive Director of DMI and passionate golfer at the same time, she launched the first Golf tournament in support of the DMI at Vet Lab Golf Club back in 2002. Since then, DMI has hosted numerous golf events at the club and at Muthaiga Golf Club, with the kind sponsorship of IntraAfrica Insurance and other corporate organisations, the last golf tournament being in March 2020. Other funding activities for DMI that Eva was involved in organising included the very popular annual Diabetes Walk, which served as a major platform for creating diabetes awareness especially for school children and the general population. As with her family, she brought various groups of people together for the good of others, while educating them along the way.

Eva loved participating in sports.  In secondary school, she was a gifted badminton and hockey player. She represented Tumutumu Girls in the school hockey team. She also enjoyed playing Squash. Later in life, Eva became an ardent golfer, which she not only enjoyed but also played with passion. She took to golf while still in Nyeri in 1988 shortly after the birth of her second daughter, Wambura.

Eva joined Vet Lab Golf Club in 1997 and played most of her golf here. She has served as Lady Captain both at Windsor Golf & Country Club and Vet Lab Golf Club. She was elected Kenya Ladies Golf Union (KLGU) Chairperson in 2006. The same year she led the Kenya team to Zambia as Captain for the All Africa Golf Challenge Tournament where the team came second out of 15 teams. She was an active participant in the Club’s league matches and played in the Royal Nairobi Golf Club (RNGC) and later qualified to join the Francombe.  Eva was part of the team that represented Vet Lab for the Eileen Belcher Tournament, an inter club and zonal competition. Since then, she has played in many clubs across Kenya.

From early childhood, Eva was committed to her Christian faith. She was baptised in 1966 at Kanunga Baptist Church Mukurweini. After her marriage, she was received in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) where her service to God blossomed in many ways both at Miagayuini and at the PCEA Loresho Parishes.

The late Eva Muchemi was dedicated into the Woman’s Guild Fellowship while in Loresho Parish on 25th September 2011. She became a full member of the Woman’s Guild in 2013 when she received her badge.

Eva served with a lot of dedication in the following positions:

1. Secretary of the congregation between 2014 and 2015.

2. Parish Chair between 2015 and 2017 and also Congregation Chair at the same period.

3. She also served in the Milimani North Presbyterial Council as a Treasurer from 2015 to 2017. During the same period of she served a member of Nairobi Region and also the National Woman’s Guild Central Committee.

4. She served later as a district coordinator for Lower Kabete District between 2018 and 2019.

Eva was always available when called upon to help raise funds for the local Miagayuini Church, and held three harambees for the Zaina Health Centre at Miagayuini.

Eva started ailing and was diagnosed with cancer of the Lymph (Lymphoma) in 2008. Her doctor, Dr Gladwell Kiarie, recommended that she seek treatment in the United Kingdom at the London Clinic, under the care of Professor John Gribben, Consultant Oncologist, who treated the lymphoma in 2009 and Eva was in remission (cured of cancer) for ten years that followed. In June 2019, Eva’s health started to decline again but all tests were negative for any disease and no cancer markers were detected.

In November 2019, Eva complained of a slight persistent headache and an MRI was done. Again, the scan did not reveal any abnormality. Three weeks later, Eva’s family noticed worrying changes concerning her memory. She was admitted to hospital and run a series of diagnostic tests. Her neurologist Professor Paul Kioy recommended another MRI scan to be done, much as a normal scan had been done a few weeks earlier. The new scan showed a worryingly sizeable growth in Eva’s front left-brain area. She immediately underwent successful brain surgery performed by Professor David Olunya, and over 90 % of the lesion was removed. Dr Kiarie and the medical team referred Eva back to the London Clinic for further treatment under Prof Gribben.

On 2nd January 2020, Eva and Wanjuki travelled to London. They were later joined by their daughter Nyawira and Eva’s sister Grace Karinga. While there, yet another MRI was run alongside more tests including a full body PET CT scan. Her tumour had already started growing again!

Prof Gribben informed Eva and her family that her Lymphoma was only in the brain but was very aggressive. Gribben recommended—and the family acceded—that the tumour was best attacked with an equally aggressive chemotherapy protocol - The Matrix. This, it was hoped, would ensure there were no cancer cells anywhere else in the body, whilst minimising the brain tumour. Thereafter, the professor recommended radiotherapy on what was expected to be a much smaller tumour. After the first cycle of chemotherapy, Eva and her family, returned home to complete the next three cycles in Kenya. She handled the treatment very well and her cognitive functions improved tremendously.

On 7th of May, Eva suffered a series of convulsions while at home and was rushed to hospital. Scans revealed that within the three weeks when Eva had completed her chemotherapy the tumour had regrown and multiplied. Once stable enough and back home, Radiotherapy commenced soon after as an outpatient daily procedure. However, Eva’s health continued deteriorating rapidly. After eleven sessions of radiotherapy, Eva’s system could not handle any more intense treatment procedures. Throughout all her treatment, Eva kept her radiant smile, always trying to take care of others.

In early June 2020, Eva was readmitted to hospital. While there, she developed breathing problems that progressed into pneumonia. She was taken High Dependency Unit (HDU) for closer monitoring but she clearly needed further medical support. That is when she was moved to the Intensive that required her to move to Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Despite all the medical interventions, the cancer was too hard-hitting. It invaded her lungs. She rested peacefully after a prayer session with her family and Reverend Njeru in the early evening of 18th June 2020. Eva faced her illness with remarkable courage and grace.

Eva’s light touched many people. Her love of family, friends, community and Church was amazing. Her ready smile, humility, generosity and listening ear, impacted every soul she touched every single day. She took in so many people under her wing and mentored them. Eva continuously followed up on her mentees’ welfare and growth. She made friends easily and maintained relationships.

Eva is survived by her loving and committed husband, Wanjuki Muchemi, her devoted daughters and sons-in-love, and adoring grandchildren.

Eva will be greatly missed, and the world will not fail to notice her absence. She is truly irreplaceable. We thank God for the 60 years of life that He gave to Eva Muchemi. Praise be His name.

May her soul rest in eternal peace. AMEN.