The Gift Of Sight
Do you believe in guardian angels? We do and this story pays tribute and gives heartfelt thanks to some kind-hearted everyday angels that selflessly changed the life of Andrew Paipai, one of our butlers at &Beyond Kichwa Tembo.
When former General Manager and long-time &Beyonder, Magdelle Dempers, moved to &Beyond Kichwa Tembo in Kenya’s Masai Mara, she was immediately curious about Andrew Paipai. This young, unassuming Maasai gentleman was seen doing odd jobs around the lodge, mostly for free, in the hopes that he would secure himself a job. Always willing to help, no matter what the task, Andrew’s work ethic impressed Magdelle and he was soon hired.
Gentle and soft-spoken, yet hardworking and sincere, Andrew quickly won the hearts of his colleagues and became part of the &Beyond Kichwa family. Yet one thing always stood out; Andrew had a severe squint that was impossible not to notice and something that likely contributed to his timid nature.
IT ALL STARTS WITH AN IDEA
Magdelle and her sister, &Beyond travel planner Jomandie Dempers, had often talked about their desire to help Andrew, so they started a fund just between the two of them. Their biggest concern was that even if they raised enough money to get Andrew a consultation with a specialist, the procedure would most likely be too costly and they didn’t want to raise false hope.
This is where the next guardian angel stepped in. Vinod Kumar, CEO of Tata Communications in India, had taken over &Beyond Kichwa Tembo for an exclusive incentive trip for his staff. Jomandie helped organise the gala event and on their final morning, she had a quiet moment with Vinod on the front lawn. He thanked her for everything and asked if there was anything he could do to help any of the Kichwa staff.
Unsure if Andrew even wanted help, Jomandie mentioned Andrew’s squint and the fund she and Magdelle had started. Without hesitation, Vinod looked her straight in the eye and said he didn’t want to make a contribution, but that he would rather pay for the entire procedure. Of course, Jomandie burst into tears at this random act of kindness.
And so Andrew Paipai’s journey began. He left the tranquil Masai Mara plains for the first time in his life and braved the big city in order to get himself a passport. Having never travelled, let alone been on an airplane, Andrew was escorted on this leg of the journey by &Beyond Logistics Manager, Dezne Beumer, who flew all the way from South Africa to fetch Andrew and fly with him to Cape Town.
Enter more guardian angels … the Muller family in Cape Town, who insisted that Andrew stay with them from start to finish. They took him to Cape Town’s finest restaurants, introduced him to the wine route, took him to see the ocean (and swim) for the first time in his life and even kept him entertained with a Madame Zingara show.
Andrew drove around in a convertible for the first time, tried his hand on the back of a scooter and became friends with young Simone Muller, who sang songs for Andrew and wrote him endearing letters welcoming him to her country.
The Mullers went out of their way to make Andrew feel like a part of their family, allowing him to feel safe and cared for while he underwent his daunting eye procedure. Not something you can really prepare a traditional Maasai man for, but Andrew took it all in his stride and returned to the Mara with perfect vision and most importantly, with a renewed sense of confidence.
None of this would have been possible without Magdelle and Jomandie’s passion and the overwhelmingly generous support of Vinod Kumar and Anton and Sanette Muller, whom we cannot thank enough. Not only did they contribute money, but also their time, love and support.
Now do you believe in guardian angels?
This story wouldn’t be complete without sharing a few excerpts from Andrew’s heartfelt thank-you letters to each of his angels…
“Dear Anton & Sanette, you are more than my parents. Thank you so much for everything you did for me from the first day I stepped in South Africa to the hospital gate, the accommodation, the food you provided for me, the comfort you gave me. You are a family I will never forget in my entire life. You will remain in my heart forever.”
“Dear Vinod, I have no words to explain nor write. How could I have paid the huge bill? It is a miracle in my life. It is a dream in my life. I can’t imagine that it happened to me. My life has changed from grass to grace. My parents are happy. My friends and colleagues are all thankful for what you did for me. When my mum saw me she cried, not for anything else but because of the joy she felt after my operation. Please receive her thanks before me.”
“Dear JoJo, when I look at myself in the mirror I see you JoJo. You know why? You have made me who I am today. If it wasn’t for you, then I Paipai could not look handsome the way I look now. The first time you saw me here in Kichwa Tembo, I didn’t imagine that you had miracle plans for my life. JoJo, what can I tell you? What can I write to show you that I am happy and thankful? What kind of a song can I sing for you for you to accept my thanks? If it wasn’t for you, then I Paipai could have remained the Old Paipai, but because of you JoJo, I am now New Paipai with a handsome face and good looking gentleman.”