The Strongheart Group was incorporated in 2008 as a personal growth and resiliency program for adolescents from war-torn backgrounds known as “The Strongheart Fellows Program”. Our Fellows came from refugee camps, war zones, and extreme poverty but all had inner resilience and uncommon drive.
For our first several years, we had a residential campus in Liberia, West Africa, but eventually relocated to Austin, Texas as our program expanded to include participants from Liberia, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Uganda. Through our program, our Fellows received high school and college educations, developed as leaders in the areas they were passionate about, and began their paths to being true changemakers in the world.
During the course of our work with these young people, we worked especially close with several to communicate their stories to the world and to share their hard-won wisdom on important issues. As first-hand experts on the social issues they had lived through, their active participation and leadership in crucial conversations brought meaningful change. Our Fellows program came to a conclusion in 2014, as the last of our Fellows graduated and transitioned into the next chapter of their lives.
Since then, our organization has expanded as we developed our Change Agent Program to focus primarily on the power of these “voices of lived experience” coupled with powerful advocacy, media and leadership training to unleash a new brand of change makers into the world.
SELECT PAST SPECIAL PROJECTS PORTFOLIO
MENTAL HEALTH: Francis
Strongheart worked with Francis, a father and grade-school teacher in northern Ghana, to produce FRANCIS — a highly impactful virtual reality film exploring his experience with mental illness. Four hundred health and finance ministers and other top development experts from around the world watched the film during the World Bank Group / International Monetary Fund 2016 Spring Meetings. Francis was the featured personal story of this high-level convening to put mental health on the global development agenda.
Lovetta Conto fled the Liberian civil war as a young child and grew up in a refugee camp. She developed a fierce compassion for the rights and needs of displaced people. Through the Strongheart program, she was featured in many media outlets worldwide and spoke at multiple high-level conferences to illuminate the issues facing refugees. Lovetta worked with Strongheart to develop a necklace from spent Liberian bullet casings, turning the bullets into leaf jewelry to represent that new life can arise out of the ashes of war. It was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and endorsed by Angelina Jolie. Today she studies fashion design at Parsons in Paris and New York where she is working towards her dream of bringing West African culture into global fashion and developing youth talent as a driving force for Liberia’s transformation from a country of struggle to a country of vibrant possibility.
RHEUMATIC HEART DISEASE: Open Heart
OPEN HEART, a 2013 Oscar Nominee for Documentary Short Subject, follows the journey of eight young Rwandan cardiac patients on a life-changing journey to the heart of Sudan. Strongheart co-produced a highly effective impact campaign for OPEN HEART, which resulted in a historic financial commitment and specific action plan to eradicate rheumatic heart disease in Rwanda through a public-private partnership between the Skoll Foundation and the Government of Rwanda.