Charles, or Charlie as he was known to many, had been an ever-cheerful presence at Evelyn College for many years. Yes, he provided the catering service to staff and students.But his fun-loving, easy-going personality was felt in all corners of the compound and he was a friend to everyone – without exception. That’s the kind of delightful man Charlie was
So when he died suddenly, after a short illness, he left the Evelyn College community in shock. Surely though, the memory of this most unusual man could not be allowed simply to fade away. Surely there should be some way to have his spirit live on. And that is how the idea of Charlie’s Café was born.
Charlie’s sister Evelyn Mungai, the Executive Director of the college, and college principal Jayshree Unandikat, challenged the students to design and construct an expanded and upgraded café. She envisaged it is as a warm, inviting place where not only faculty and students would enjoy meeting, but also visitors. It would be a place of joy and peace, offering space wherethose in the creative industriescould display and promote their work. Through it all, Charlie’s memory would be honoured and kept alive.
The students gathered together in teams, full of enthusiasm and creativity, and their proposals – together with budgets and time-lines – were submitted and evaluated. The award for Best Design went to Group 5, composed of Benedict Omondi, Lydia Kimenthe, Rida Khan and SaibaSaimbi, with second place and recognition for the most practical design, going to Group 8, whose members were Shabaaz Kambiye, Fanda Najmi and Michelle Macharia. Third came Group 2, made up of Jennifer Malungu, Arva Kaka, Everlyn Onyango and Raymond Oder
Now came the challenge of taking the best ideas from each group and implementing them into one unified design. Enter Raymond Odero, who championed the structuring, and Shabaaz Kambiye, who sourced the materials. But the cast of contributors does not end here. For Brenda Mwathi, SuhailaYaseen, Kareena Binsai, William Otieno and Nikita Ondegovolunteered to paint their attractive patterns on the structure and created the interior décor. The college’s head of in the interior design department worked diligently with his students, and was one of the panel of judges who assessed their work.
After months of designing and organising, building and painting, finally, just in time for the anniversary of Charlie’s passing away, the café that bore his name stood proudly at the heart of the college grounds, ready to be officially opened. With it were the T-shirts and caps that were specially designed and printed by which to further remember Charles.
On a bright, sunny day (surely it was thanks to Charlie, up in his heaven, smiling down on us with pride and with pleasure) staff and students gathered, along with Charlie’s loving family. Pride of place went to his mother, Mrs. Kimenyi, who each and every day used to sit and help him at his café. Fittingly it was Mrs. Kimenyi who cut the ribbon to launch the delightful newcafé that is named after her beloved son. Delightfully, we sat in the shade provided by a tall and elegant tree that had been planted by Charlie himself, many years ago; and more greenery, planted by the illustrious designers, made everyone feel they were in a lush garden.
Charlie’s sister, Mrs. Mungai, together with college principal Jayshree Unandikat, introduced those who were to speak. First came some of the proud but humble students, to talk about how they conceived of this living memorial to Charlie; friends and family members followed; and thewhole occasion was blessed by the presence of Pastor Wachira, who uplifted the entire gathering with her inspiring words and performed the dedication of the café.
It was for sure a day of sadness and of reactivated mourning. But it was also a day of great joy, to feel the presence of Charles Kimenyi, lover of Reggae and of Bob Marley, lover of life, lover of everyone who crossed his path. “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,” sang Marley in Charlie’s favourite song, “Everything’s gonna be all right.” And so it was.