In Lagos, Nigeria, there is a young man who secretly pays hospital bills for patients who cannot pay themselves. In Nigeria, the system does not allow a patient to leave when unable to pay their bill. Zeal Akaraiwai who is a financial consultant is the “angel” who pays these patient’s statements. Zeal’s friends and family also give him money for the project, and he keeps receipts in a neat black book, together with details of the patients whose bills he’s paid.
The social workers guide Zeal to the bedside of a patient with a heavily bandaged thigh. He bends down close, and speaks in a low voice: “What happened to you?” The young man, a barber, says he was shot by he-doesn’t-know-who.
“So how’re you going to settle your hospital bill?” asks Zeal. “I’m praying to God,” the man replies.
Zeal chats to him for a while – the man does not ask who Zeal is, and Zeal does not tell him. Then, out of earshot of the patient, Zeal checks the man’s story with the nursing staff. The bill is $250. And the barber is in luck – Zeal will pay it. Later today, the patient will go home.
Zeal does not keep in touch with any of the people he helps. He does not even want to be thanked. But there is one thing he would like in return – that one day they might tell a story about him: the story of how when they were in hospital, an angel came, paid their bill and left.
“That’s why I call this the Angel Project,” he says. “Be the angel you hope to meet.”