Local heroes visit palace to share their stories with the King

A dozen local heroes were invited to the Royal Palace on Tuesday to meet King Philippe after being nominated by the civic movement Be Heroes. The initiative invites citizens to vote for someone who has performed a small heroic act in their community.

From all the stories submitted this year, 50 people were selected to take part in the National Day ceremony on 21 July, before 12 of them had the chance to meet the King this week. Lilith Appeltans was one of those chosen.

Lilith, a teenager from West Flanders whose brother Ernest has Down’s syndrome and has difficulty speaking, has made videos to teach her peers about SMOG, a form of sign language to facilitate communication. The 14-year-old hated not being able to talk to her brother properly, so decided to learn sign language herself. “Since I’ve been able to speak sign language, our bond has become much stronger. We also wanted to teach it to other children,” she said.

Lilith has already posted almost 400 gestures on her website, which reaches hundreds of families, schools and institutions. “There are 500 basic gestures and we intend to make videos for each of them,” she said. “I taught the King a phrase – ‘I'm happy to see you’ – and he repeated it to me in sign language.”

“The King asks us to recognise Be Heroes every year,” said spokesperson Joke De Nul. “We’re very happy to work together. The silent people who are the real force behind our society, the people you never see, I think those are the most beautiful Be Heroes stories.”

King Philippe with Ernest and Lilith Appeltans and the other Be Heroes © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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