APOPO vzw

APOPO's mission is to develop detection rats technology to provide solutions for global problems and inspire positive social change. APOPO's vision is to solve pressing humanitarian challenges with detection rats technology. Our core values are: Quality - Demonstrating and promoting high standards in research, design, training and implementation of detection rats technology. Social Transformation - Developing skills, creating jobs, improving socio-economic and environmental conditions, releasing land for development, and combating public health issues. Innovation - Pioneering creative research and innovative solutions within a participatory learning culture. Diversity - Embracing diversity...
Oct 12, 2010

September 2010 Newsletter

HeroRAT trainer Niko with Green Apple
HeroRAT trainer Niko with Green Apple

HeroRATs making headlines: CNN World & Inside Africa

On 8 September, our HeroRATs were on display on computer screens around the world, when Eliott C. McLaughlin’s article ‘Giant rats put noses to work on Africa’s landmine epidemic’ was published online and became the lead story on the CNN homepage shortly after.

In researching our story, Eliott took the time to speak with HeroRAT Training Supervisor Niko Mushi (pictured left), Founder Bart Weetjens, and Havard Bach, Head of Operations for Mine Action & Human Security. The result was
an engaging story that highlighted what our HeroRATs can do, and the experiences of humans working alongside them.

"I was amazed that rats could do such a thing," Niko said, explaining his initial doubts about the rats’ abilities to pinpoint the exact location of landmines. Bart provided his personal account of the early stages in getting APOPO off
the ground, while Havard contributed to the factual content of the article with his many years of experience and knowledge of the landmine problem.

The article made it to the Top 5 most popular stories for the day on CNN, and has attracted over 10,400 recommendations on Facebook. There was also a steady stream of comments, blogs and tweets to follow, from people who read our story and felt compelled to share it further. The response was so wonderful that Inside Africa decided to include a news report on HeroRATs in their weekly program.

On behalf of the HeroRATs, thank you to everyone who put time and effort into telling, reading, or sharing our story. We are so grateful for your belief in our life-saving work.

WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China

As part of the “Summer Davos” series in Asia, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions took place in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, from 13-15 September. The theme of the meeting was ‘Driving Growth through Sustainability’ and many of Schwab Foundation’s social entrepreneurs, including APOPO’s Founder, Bart Weetjens, took part in the sessions. Bart was honored with an invitation to participate in a special task force on social investment, in an effort to have more social entrepreneurs playing key roles within the WEF community.

The sessions also involved many of the Young Global Leaders network, and members of the Global Young Academy, a dynamic network of young researchers and scientists that APOPO’s Analytical Chemist, Dr Negussie Beyene, is part of. These communities will play important roles in future collaborative action on a number of topics raised during the meetings.

Webcasts from the event can be viewed here, or for more details on the positive outcomes of these sessions, check out the WEF blog from Schwab Foundation’s Head and Senior Director, Mirjam Schöning, 'Accomplishing Great Things Together'.

Lightning-quick HeroRATs are the talk of the town

Muhimbili Medical Research Centre held an Open Day recently to mark the 30th anniversary of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), one of APOPO’s research partners. Our tuberculosis (TB) detecting HeroRATs were delighted to be among those invited, and gave a demonstration of their sniffing skills for a captive audience.

Maureen Jubitana, APOPO’s TB detection training supervisor, was there to answer many of the questions asked about APOPO’s work, along with two of our HeroRAT trainers Said and Rajabu who showed exactly what their young charges are capable of! Georgies Mgode, a researcher who is working with APOPO to find the specific compound in tuberculosis that our rats are identifying, was also there to explain the progress of APOPO’s experiments and research findings to date.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Director of Preventive Services, Dr Donan Mmbando, was impressed with the research and work being done to curb the spread of TB in Tanzania.

New experiments are being commenced at APOPO’s TB detection center, which will directly compare the rats to more traditional screening methods. The result of this will be a detailed comparison of the costs involved, the efficiency and effectiveness of the rats as a diagnostic tool. This next important stage of our research will provide useful information in planning a pilot implementation program for communities affected by TB.

Leaving the world a better place

This month, we welcomed Patrice Macar and Dirk Vercoutter of Testament.be to our headquarters in Tanzania, to see firsthand the impact of APOPO’s work, as an organization they support. Testament.be is a campaign that was launched in Belgium by 70 social organizations aiming to provide people with more information about the possibility of including worthwhile non-profit causes in their wills. As emphasized on the Testament.be website, ‘even if you are not there, your influence continues. More than you imagine.’

The team at Testament.be aims to offer personal advice and equip people with the knowledge needed to make informed, important, and often very difficult decisions, about how they choose to leave this world. For more information about the service they provide, and a full list of the many worthwhile causes they support, please visit the Testament.be website.

APOPO would like to sincerely thank Patrice and Dirk for taking the time to visit our project in Morogoro during their recent stay in Tanzania, and gain a greater understanding of our HeroRATs’ work and the communities it benefits.

Supporter spotlight: Stephen Eddy & the Exmoor Zoo crew

It’s not often that we hear from African giant pouched rats in other parts of the world, but HeroRAT supporter Stephen Eddy and the crew at the Exmoor Zoo are educating the UK public about our sniffing successes. They recently held their own ‘Rat Week’ and also attended the London Championship show, where they had a stall sharing information about APOPO and the HeroRATs. Stephen and the team took along the zoo’s Gambian pouched rats to show people the species we train here in Tanzania to become landmine or TB detection heroes.

Throughout the day, Stephen spoke to many people who were familiar with APOPO’s work or had adopted one of our HeroRATs, but also a number of newcomers who were curious to find out more about what we do. He thought the rats might be exhausted from all the excitement of the day, but he said: ‘true to form, when we got back at 10pm the rats were not tired. The little sods were bright eyed, awake and full of beans wanting their hours of exercise.’ We
think that perhaps, after all this talk of HeroRATs, they were just keen to sniff out some TNT like their hero relatives in Africa...

The HeroRAT team is grateful for Stephen and his team’s dedication and support of our cause, educating their communities about our HeroRATs’ potential!

Finally, our team of heroes (rats and humans alike) in APOPO's Mozambique Mine Action Programme is making great progress towards our goal of a mine-impact free Gaza Province. So far this year, they have already cleared 564,910 square meters of land!

Thanks so much for your continued belief in our HeroRATs' work, and enjoy the month ahead!

Warm regards,
The HeroRATs team
herorats@herorat.org

www.herorat.org
http://twitter.com/HeroRATS
http://www.facebook.com/heroRAT

Links:

Aug 3, 2010

June-July 2010 Newsletter

Greetings from Tanzania, and welcome to this double edition of the HeroRAT e-newsletter for June-July!

As always, it has been a very eventful couple of months – here’s the rundown of some of our HeroRAT happenings…

HeroRATs over neckties for Father’s Day!

‘It’s a rare dad who would choose a store-bought card over a homemade card; or for that matter, a necktie over a gigantic, bomb-sniffing rat.’ We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Following Nicholas Kristof's thoughtful New York Times column for Father’s Day, ‘Dad Will Really Like This,’ APOPO's HeroRATs received an overwhelming wave of support for our work:

- More than 4,000 individuals contributed to the cause - More than $170,000 USD raised - 180 new HeroRAT adopters have been welcomed into our Adopt-a-Rat program

Nicholas highlighted many worthy charitable organizations in his article, and his message was simple and genuine. ‘Wouldn’t most dads feel more honored by a donation to any of these organizations than by a donation to commercialism?’ We are so grateful to Nicholas and the New York Times for the opportunity to share our HeroRATs’ work with their followers.

GlobalGiving has been amazing in supporting our small team to cope with the influx of donations: huge thanks to the entire crew at GG for all your help!

A significant portion of the funds raised will be used to get things off the ground in Angola, the next country our heroes will target in their humanitarian demining work. Angola is the most mine-affected country in sub-Saharan Africa. The landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) littering the country are a result of four decades of almost continuous warfare. For more information about the landmine situation in Angola, check out the ICBL Landmine Monitor at: http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/angola.

There is a mismatch between the landmine problem itself and the resources currently used to resolve the problem. If Angola is to resolve its considerable landmine problem, there is a need to strengthen the current capacity. DanChurchAid (DCA) is currently operating a Humanitarian Mine Action Programme in one of the areas worst affected by mines, Moxico province. APOPO is looking at partnering with DCA to assist in the further expansion of their programme, by incorporating HeroRATs in the survey and clearance work to increase efficiency.

Two manual deminers with metal detectors typically clear 50 to 100 square meters of land each day, dependent on ground conditions. Two people using APOPO’s mine detection rats typically clear 300 to 600 square meters of land each day, and will be able to release between 600 and 1,000 square meters of land each day if the rats can be used in technical survey (one rat covering the ground once instead of twice, which is required during clearance).

There are currently no animals used for landmine detection in Angola and APOPO's HeroRATs have the potential to compliment other efforts by DCA and increase land release rates considerably while keeping costs down. The HeroRATs will work in partnership with their other demining colleagues to do their part to clear and release suspected areas in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

To those of you who read Nicholas’s column and chose to take action – by making a handmade card for your dad, or by supporting any of the organizations mentioned in the article – thank you. It is a real privilege to be a part of this global gesture of ‘giving’ to causes that aim to improve the lives of others, and make the world safer for everyone.

Funding successes and flying HeroRATs

APOPO and the HeroRATs were grateful to receive a significant increase in the annual funding provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Our operational team in Mozambique is on schedule to meet the 2014 goal for Mozambique to be mine-impact free, and some new recruits have just arrived on the scene to provide additional support.

Eight recent HeroRAT graduates from the training center in Tanzania boarded the plane to Mozambique for their official accreditation test and first humanitarian demining assignment! Once they pass their accreditation test with the National Demining Institute, they will be official Mine Detection Rats (MDRs) and can start helping their teammates in clearing more land, faster!

The team at our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Center also received the exciting news that the funding for our three-year research plan for TB detection by rats has been approved! A new building is almost finished at the TB Detection Center, which will create more space for our HeroRAT kennels and training rooms to conduct further experiments into our rats’ disease detection abilities. New young rats are being trained for the task, and the aim for the next three years is to optimize our rat detection technology in this area and work on implementation models.

HeroRATs welcomes new corporate sponsor, A12 Business Club

The A12 Business Club of Antwerp, Belgium, recently joined APOPO as a corporate sponsor, generously offering to support the entire training journey of one of our HeroRATs! Freddy Michiels and Johan Dillen of A12 Business Club, joined with APOPO Chairman of the Board, Professor Mic Billet, and communications volunteer, Hedwig De Pauw, in celebrating the naming of their new sponsored HeroRAT: De Nacht van de KMO.

The newly named pup has just begun the socialization process and will soon commence HeroRAT ‘school’ with her trainer, Kombani. It’s the exciting beginning of a nine-month journey to become a fully accredited life-saving detection HeroRAT! This support from A12 Business Club means that every aspect of De Nacht van de KMO’s training is fully covered: food, veterinary check-ups, trainer’s salary, overhead on training rooms, etc. Coverage of these costs allows us to devote more of our funds to our programs in humanitarian demining and tuberculosis detection.

Thank you A12 Business Club: together, we can save more lives and limbs! If your organization would like to learn more about supporting a HeroRAT through its training, please visit the Corporate Adoption page of our website: www.herorat.org/get-involved/corporate-adoption-herorat.

Bart Weetjens and the HeroRATs at TEDx events

APOPO Founder Bart Weetjens recently presented our HeroRATs to audiences at independent TEDx events in Hamburg and Rotterdam. Check out the clip of Bart explaining the life-saving work of his much-loved HeroRATs at TEDx Rotterdam: http://www.tedxrdam.nl/2010/05/bart-weetjens.

Call-out to Rotarians across the world

Are you a member of a Future Visions Rotary Club in your area, or know someone who is? The Rotary Club of Morogoro Central (District 9200) in Tanzania, together with the HeroRATs team, is keen to connect with Future Visions Rotary Clubs in other districts who are interested in sharing support of our HeroRATs’ life-saving work. To find out more, please reach out to us by sending an email to herorats@herorat.org.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to sign up to receive our monthly e-newsletter at www.herorat.org.

Warm regards,

The HeroRATs team www.herorat.org herorats@herorat.org http://twitter.com/HeroRATS http://www.facebook.com/heroRAT

Links:

Jun 20, 2010

Thanks you for your support of APOPO and Happy Father's Day!

Dear friends,

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof's thoughtful NY Times column on honoring dads through supporting charity instead of commercialism, we have received an overwhelming number of donations, emails, and overall support for our HeroRATs' work. In the past three days, through Global Giving alone, we have received 2,969 donations and $128,239 in revenue! Coupled with the 341 donors who had contributed to the project before, this resulted in donations exceeding the total fundraising goal for the project. We have been truly moved by the number of people who have been connected to our work, and the generosity in which they have shared with us. It is an honor to be a part of celebrating fathers everywhere with our "educated, supermacho giant rats!"

Currently, our demining operations in Mozambique are helping to ensure the Gaza province is mine-impact free by 2014. Thirty-eight HeroRATs and their human colleagues are currently deployed there, offering villagers safe return to their homesteads, access to vital farmland, and opening the doors to essential infrastructure. In Mozambique, our work has returned land to over 44,547 families and helped to heal communities scarred by war.

In Tanzania, we are working to address the challenges of screening for the deadly but curable disease, tuberculosis. Our HeroRATs have discovered over 905 patients that were missed by microscopy at local hospitals, and on a weekly basis find an average of five to ten more undetected patients with active TB. Those patients have been notified, asked to return for another test, and are now receiving treatment. Our HeroRATs have already increased TB detection rates in the five urban hospitals we work with by over 30%, and prevented more than 13,575 healthy people from contracting TB!

Your donations help to ensure the continuation of our demining work in Mozambique, screening for tuberculosis, research for future applications, and the maintenance and training of our rats. We truly value your support, and consider you a partner in this work. More than 80% of the money raised goes directly towards our programs on the ground (15% goes to Global Giving for administration of the donations and the site). We will send an update shortly on how the generous funds will be put to work on the ground.

We have done our best to respond to your inquiries and get your materials to you in a timely manner. If we have made any mistakes or were a little slower to respond than you would have liked, please accept our sincere apologies. In truth we are a very small team, just two of us working on donor support, and we have not yet experienced a response of this magnitude. But if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at herorats@herorat.org. We thank you for your patience as we do our best to answer each of the inquiries we receive.

Nicholas did a great job of highlighting a number of amazing organizations in his column. Whether people chose to celebrate dad by supporting our work, the work of another great organization, or with a handmade token of appreciation, we are honored to be a part of the collective effort to honor the contributions of each father/father-figure out there, in helping to make the world a better place.

With gratitude,

Courtney and Hannah on behalf of the HeroRATs and APOPO team

P.S. An update regarding the plan for the funds will come from our leadership team later this week. Many, many thanks again.

Links:

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