Everyday Heroes

Wait Until You Hear Who Inspired This Safari Owner To Feed Thousands In His Country

How a chance encounter he had as a young man is forever shaping the way he lives his life.

If one thing has been true during the coronavirus pandemic, it's that ordinary people have been stepping up to help in extraordinary ways.

That includes Pankaj Shah, a safari owner in Kenya. Shah would normally be spending his days giving tours to visitors and pointing out wild animals in their native habitats. Instead, he's leading a volunteer effort to feed thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet during the crisis.

"One old woman told us she hadn't eaten for days - her sons had stopped supplying her because they have no work," Shah told Reuters.

Here's Shah (on left) speaking with volunteers and community leaders before delivering supplies to people in need.Pankaj Shah/Facebook

Kenya started their lockdown shortly after the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country on March 12. Not unlike other places in the world, businesses closed, people left the capital and the workers who rely on casual, short-term contracts were suddenly unemployed.

When Shah saw how people in the poorest neighborhoods were suffering, he knew he had to help. He quickly recruited a few friends, and a local school that had closed due to the coronavirus agreed to let them use the building to collect and package supplies.

Shah has partnered with businesses large and small to collect donations. Pankaj Shah/Facebook

The volunteers, who call themselves Team Pankaj, have been working non-stop to pack and distribute food 'hampers,' or boxes, that have enough supplies to feed a family of five for two weeks.

What started as a small operation has turned into a massive support network of volunteers, missionaries, and local law enforcement. After only a few weeks of being in operation, Team Pankaj has been able to deliver thousands of hampers to people in need.

Shah is asking wealthy Kenyans to donate 4,000 shillings (about $40 US) to fund a box of supplies. Pankaj Shah/Facebook

Pankaj is asking wealthy Kenyans to donate 4,000 Kenyan shillings each (that's $40) to fund the hampers – about the cost of two pizzas and a bottle of wine, he points out.

"I just need half the rich people here to care enough to fund a hamper," Shah said.

Each hamper is packed with supplies to feed a family of five for two weeks. Pankaj Shah/Facebook

While Shah has never led a massive volunteer effort before, he says that his inspiration comes from a chance meeting that happened earlier in his life.

Shah says when he was in his twenties, Mother Theresa was riding down the road where he ws driving, when a tire from her old pickup truck flew off and collided with his car. Afterwards, the two formed a friendship, and Shah volunteered at the holy woman's monastery for three months. He even adopted a baby girl from one of her orphanages.

"I think about what she would do," Shah said, concerning the current epidemic. "That's the inspiration for the rest of my life."

Shah and his crew of volunteers have fed over 24,000 families. Pankaj Shah/Facebook

We should all be like Shah and let the teachings of Mother Theresa inspire us to be better people. In the words of the famous missionary herself: "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love."

Check out this amazing video to see what Team Pankaj is doing to help others during the crisis...

How can you start something good?

While it doesn't appear that there's a way to support Team Pakaj from the U.S., we can all strive to be like Shah and help others in our daily lives.

Donate to your local food bank, make calls to connect with isolated seniors, give blood, support your favorite small businesses...there are plenty of ways (both big and small) to help others in your community.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together!

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