“Do good,” an African proverb goes, “because of tomorrow.” But Lion Heart, a Real Life Superhero in the West African nation of Liberia, knows he must act today. Because in a nation torn apart by years of civil war and unrest, it takes more than words to make a difference, something he also knows. All too well.
Taken from his parents at an early age, Lion Heart learned the hard lessons of survival—the hard way. And in a daring attempt to be reunited with his family, he made an arduous trek from the countryside to his nation’s capital of Monrovia at the age of 14, and saw the devastation that war and poverty wreaked on his countrymen: tuberculosis, dysentery, death. And as he journeyed across the bush, with its harsh, dry harmattan winds, he knew he had no choice but to act. “I made a vow to God,” he says, “that if he would bring me home, I would go help my people, Help them to live a healthier life.” Which is exactly what he did.
Clad in a simple mask and t-shirt, Lion Heart is every bit the heroic figure, signified not by his costume, but by the spirit of the land he comes from. “I chose my name Lion Heart, because in Africa we have the most lions in the world, and in Liberia, we have the most in the region,” he states. “I am fierce about protecting my people. I could have picked another name, but I know the spirit of Africa, and that is how I live.”
Clean drinking water is a primary focus of his outreach, attempting to educate villagers of the dangers of drinking and using unclean water. “My fellow Liberians have a poor water system—we don’t have clean waters, and everyone can’t buy water, so they get water from the creek, which they drink and then suffer from diarrhea,” which is the leading cause of death in the developing nation—outstripping even AIDS. “I teach them to boil the water first, so it is safe. And TB,” he goes on, “the people they eat from the same plates and cups, they use the same spoons, and they cough. ‘It’s contagious,’ I tell them, so I try to tell them not to do this, they have to cover their mouth, to protect your mother and father, your brothers and sisters.” he says. “There is so much to teach,” he sighs softly.
One thing he is not at all soft or silent about however, is the growing scourge of human trafficking in his part of the world. Preying on the poverty that engulfs them, outsiders approach families offering paltry sums of money to take their children to Europe or America on the pretense of educating them, and giving them better lives. What happens after that is truly horrifying. “There are so many stories,” Lion Heart says, “of people being taken away, promising them one thing, then turning them into sex slaves. I go around to the villages and try to educate my people about this, to tell them to be mindful of such big promises.” Which has drawn the angry attention of the dangerous people behind such enterprises. Still, Lion Heart is unafraid.
“There are people who don’t like the idea of me exposing them,” he says, “so I have to be very mindful of my life. There are people watching me, and I don’t know what will happen to me. Liberia is in a constant state of war, and most people are not aware of these things,” he states, “so I put my life on the line.”
Because as another African proverb says, “One who loves you, warns you.”
Join Lion Heart in supporting the Real Life Superhero Project’s Generosity.Org Fundraiser that built a water well in Liberia: