Not all angels have wings, at least not the ones on this plane of existence. And, just as those angels don’t always have wings, most medical bills in Nigeria don’t come free.
In fact, most Nigerian hospitals and medicals centers will detain you and stop you from leaving if you’re unable to pay your bills.
In Nigeria lives a man named Zeal Akarawai, a 40-something financial consultant who dresses sharp and drives a purring black Mercedes.
At first glance, anyone would mistake him for just another rich boy, out only to build more wealth.
But Zeal is far from average.
Zeal is a true angel.
The Angel of the Wards
Being a wealthy philanthropist, Zeal spends his vast disposable income by going around Nigeria’s hospitals and paying the bills of those who can’t afford to pay them.
Renowned for what he does, Zeal is often met by a team of social workers when he attends a hospital.
The social workers prepare a list of people interned on the hospital wards who cannot pay their bills.
Zeal then travels the hospital wards, meeting the people and hearing about their financial problems – commonly meeting people forced to stay on the wards six to eight weeks after they are able to go home.
Some Nigerian hospitals are able to set up payment plans, but for those with no income or money, the first installment can even be too high.
Zeal chats to the patients, many of whom have no hope of paying other than simply praying to God for a way out of their predicament.
After chatting to the patients and hearing their stories, Zeal quietly asks the nurses to confirm them.
Once they do, with his due diligence carried out, he pays their bills and they go home.
The Angel Project
Zeal calls his work “The Angel Project,” and he receives donations from others – especially his family and friends, keeping their receipts in a neat little black book.
Once the debt is paid, Zeal doesn’t keep in touch with those he helps. He doesn’t even want to be thanked for it.
The only thing Zeal asks is that one day, they tell the story of him: the story of how they were trapped in hospital, and an angel came, paid their bill, and left.
Zeal says this is just one of the ways he realizes his Christian faith. His aim in life is to show people that everyone can do something to help someone else.
Zeal also helps pay for peoples’ surgeries and on-going treatments when there is a clear end goal in sight.
One such case is that of a 10-year-old girl undergoing multiple surgeries that he has paid for so far.
He has met the girl before, but doesn’t wish to meet her again, saying “She has my son’s eyes”.
A Bittersweet Altruism
Zeal says that his hospital philanthropy always leaves him feeling sad – being angry at the failure of the government to treat the patients.
“Every week I see the impact of not having compulsory health insurance, and people die.” He said in an interview. “So where do you want to put the price of a human life?”
In Nigeria, only 5% of people have health insurance.
Experts are cynical of a universal health care system due to the huge disparities of wealth in the country and the millions of poor people who would have to be covered by the state.
But Zeal is unconvinced by these problems. “There’s no reason why we cannot have proper health insurance. We have clever people who can think of schemes that can work.”
Until such a day, Zeal will continue to walk the wards, helping those in need of a miracle. As he says, “Be the angel you hope to meet”.