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...
Dec 1, 2011

HeroRAT Newsletter - November 2011

Rat snacking!
Rat snacking!

A mine action milestone for Mozambique 

As the year is drawing to a close, so too are our team’s Mine Action efforts in the Gaza Province of Mozambique! Back in 2008, APOPO was tasked as the sole demining organization to continue clearance of the province. In early 2012, our Mine Action team is scheduled to complete clearance of all designated areas, well ahead of the 2014 deadline.

With the help of HeroRATs, APOPO’s team has cleared over 1.9 million square meters of land in the Gaza Province alone, in the process ensuring the safe destruction of 1,762 landmines, 972 unexploded ordnance and 12,168 small arms and ammunitions. A total of 26 tasked areas have been cleared and released to the local community, while clearance efforts continue in two remaining areas.

But the job isn’t over yet! APOPO is committed to helping Mozambique rid itself of its landmine problem by 2014. Next year, we will continue to assist with clearance operations in two of Manica Province’s southern districts, Mossurize and Machaze, covering a total area just over 1.6 million square meters.


Vote for HeroRATs in the McKinsey Social Innovation Video Contest!

The HeroRATs’ skill at hamming it up for the camera has paid off: we’re excited to announce that our video clip, “Training HeroRATs to sniff out TB,” has been selected as a Finalist in the McKinsey Social Innovation Video Contest!

As part of their effort to “create a hub where [McKinsey] can highlight the incredible work taking place around the world,” McKinsey & Company asked social innovators, wherever in the world they might be, to create a one-minute-or-less video showcasing their ideas or solutions to social problems. We are honored that our entry, featuring the talents of our TB-sniffing heroes and longtime APOPO employee Peter, was selected as one of the top 11 finalists, out of 141 entries!

Between November 30th and December 9th, the public is welcome to view all of the finalists’ videos and vote for their favorite! You can vote on one video, once per day, until the December 9th deadline. The three winning organizations with the most votes will be announced on December 12th. As incentives, the lucky final three will be included in a print edition of McKinsey's flagship publication What Matters, have a chance to be featured in a special TV program co-produced with Link TV & Viewchange.org, and will be honored at a networking reception in NYC where the Link TV program will be screened. As an added bonus, each finalist will be featured in The Huffington Post!

Click here to watch all of the finalists’ videos, and cast your vote for the one you think showcases the best innovation and impact. Or, click here to vote for HeroRATs now – and every day until 9th December!


Ashoka Globalizer Summit steps up social change

Between 5 – 7 November, APOPO’s Founder, Bart Weetjens, along with 14 other Ashoka Fellows, went to work exploring the possibilities of scaling social impact at the Ashoka Globalizer Summit in Vienna, Austria. With a core mission that aims to match social innovators with the resources and mentorship needed to advance their innovations, the Globalizer Summit asks: “What do you need to take change to a global level?”

In order to answer this question, the Summit aligns selected Fellows with a team of expert panelists, comprising some of the most accomplished social and business entrepreneurs in the world. The teams then spend three days developing the strategies needed to advance their ideas to effect greater social change. 

For Bart, being invited to participate in the Summit was an enlightening experience, and he savored the chance to learn from the experts on his assigned panel – including Jerry White, a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. “This was a great opportunity to learn from accomplished individuals, both in traditional business enterprises as well as in the NGO and social action world,” says Bart. “The interaction with these panelists was quite personal, and went deeply into proven strategies to scale social innovation, like smart networks and open source strategies.”

“In line with Bill Drayton’s ‘Everyone A Changemaker’ vision, there was an emphasis on personal commitment and leadership,” explains Bart, “a call for everyone in society, no matter where you are or what you do, to help make change happen.”


“Poppies for Peace” sprouts support for APOPO

It’s a beautiful garden for a great cause: the Klaprozen voor Vrede (“Poppies for Peace”) project began in 2004, when Belgian ceramic artist Anita Huybens conceptualized, created, and exhibited more than 1,000 ceramic poppies to fundraise for APOPO. Although Anita sadly passed away in September 2008, Klaprozen voor Vrede continues to grow under the leadership of a team of volunteers, and their commitment to the APOPO cause remains strong. Earlier this month, we were grateful to receive a donation of 42,000 Euros thanks to their amazing efforts!

Klaprozen voor Vrede is instrumental in raising both funds and awareness of the global landmine problem. In the past, the sale of these poppies – at 50 Euros each – enabled APOPO to purchase two brush-cutting machines, vital pieces of equipment for our Mozambique Mine Action team!

The project continues Anita’s work by exhibiting the poppies at events throughout the year, and there are several permanent displays throughout Belgium; you can learn more about their locations here. If you are interested in purchasing a poppy, you may also download a PDF of their brochure (in English, French, and Dutch).

We are truly touched by the Klaprozen voor Vrede project’s recent donation, and would like to thank all of the volunteers involved for their incredible support of our work!


HeroRAT Trainer profile: reflections from the minefields

Hamoud (also known as Moudy) has been working with APOPO for five years, training HeroRATs at our headquarters in Tanzania. In January of 2011, he was among four Tanzanian trainers chosen to spend six months working with our Mozambique Mine Action team.

Because this was his first trip to Mozambique, Hamoud was excited to see how his work in Tanzania was implemented, and while there, he was determined to learn all he could from the Mozambique Mine Action team. “It’s important to interact well,” he says, “and you must get used to the new language and new people. You can’t take the culture from Tanzania and bring it to Mozambique. They [the team] are used to working there, so you must listen to them and implement their advice.” In order to listen, he had to first learn their language. Mastering Portuguese, he says, was one of his proudest accomplishments.

Of course, he also took pride in the great work he did with the HeroRATs. In one morning alone, he remembers, his rat located no less than four mines! He also discovered that he enjoyed working with one rat in particular. “Out of all of the Mine Detection Rats, Chosen One was my favorite,” he reveals. “He was polite, he walked very well, and he did good work!”

Hamoud is now back in Tanzania, and has resumed training HeroRATs each morning at our headquarters. Although he is glad to be home, he says he would certainly return to Mozambique. “We are giving land back to the people for development and for infrastructure,” he explains, “and I’m proud of this work.”


1000 Dinners for HeroRATs

Night of a Thousand Dinners (N1KD) is a student-run gala dedicated to raising awareness of the global landmine crisis and its devastating effect on international communities. The International Relations Students Association (IRSA) of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, recently held their 9th Annual N1KD event. This year, the IRSA chose to highlight the work of APOPO’s mine detection HeroRATs at their gala!

About 230 people attended the event on 21 November, which featured a silent auction, a string quartet performance, a mouth-watering three course dinner, and a presentation on the mine action efforts of APOPO. A video message came all the way from HeroRAT headquarters in Tanzania, featuring APOPO’s Founder, Bart Weetjens, who expressed gratitude to the audience for being a part of such a wonderful initiative.

A huge thanks to the IRSA team for all the time, energy and enthusiasm they put into organizing this event: we appreciate their efforts to bring the global problem of landmines into the spotlight and offer support for mine action efforts around the world.


Give a rat, help save lives this holiday season!

Move over, Kindle and iPad: this season’s hottest holiday gifts have four legs, long tails, and sniffers even more useful than that of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Their names are Nala, Cheeky, Blossom, and Mojo, and supporting their life-saving work through a HeroRAT Gift Adoption is a hassle-free way to bring holiday cheer to anyone on your gift list!

Lucky gift recipients will be warmly welcomed into our Adopt-a-Rat program with a snazzy adoption certificate and welcome letter introducing them to their brand-new HeroRAT. Throughout the year, they will also be able to enjoy regular progress reports lovingly written and emailed from their adopted rat.

A HeroRAT adoption truly is a gift that continues to give. Long after the presents have been unwrapped and thank you cards have been sent, our HeroRATs will still be doing their life-saving detection work – and bringing cheer wherever they go!

For more info, email us at herorats@apopo.org.


Finally, to get yourselves in the festive spirit, be sure to visit us on Facebook and Twitter in the lead-up to the holiday season - we'll be posting 12 Days of HeroRATs for the Holidays to put a smile on your face and spread some joy to the world...

On behalf of the HeroRATs, we wish you a safe and peaceful lead-up to the festive season!

Warm regards,

The HeroRAT team

Nov 4, 2011

HeroRAT Newsletter - October 2011

Young TB-sniffing HeroRAT
Young TB-sniffing HeroRAT

TB sniffing rats on the move to Mozambique

In an exciting new development, APOPO’s proposal to expand our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program into Mozambique was approved by the Flemish Government. Minister-President Kris Peeters announced on October 21st that APOPO will be awarded a grant of 590,000 Euros to implement the first phase of a project designed to accelerate TB case detection in Mozambique. 

Increasing the detection rate of TB patients remains one of the main challenges to combat this fast spreading disease. Mozambique has a high incidence of TB, with an estimated 431 cases per 100,000 people (World Health Organization, 2007) and remains in the list of high TB burden countries. 

In the short term, APOPO aims to significantly increase the rate of new TB case findings in Mozambique by replicating the success of our TB Detection Program in Tanzania. APOPO’s detection rats technology meets the seven top priorities required for a diagnostic method, as determined by the TB diagnostic group of the World Health Organization.The first phase of this exciting new project will involve implementing collaboration agreements, establishing an operational TB detection capacity, and evaluating the established operation. APOPO is grateful for the ongoing support of the Flemish Government, in furthering our efforts to provide an efficient and reliable solution to this global public health challenge.


TakePart feature: A Nose Knows 

Earlier this year, TakePart travelled to the Skoll World Forum in England to pick the brains of the world’s biggest thinkers. The resulting video series of these “Innovators in Action” showcases their ideas, enthusiasm, and solutions for creating a better world.

Among those featured in the collection is APOPO Founder, Bart Weetjens. In a clip titled “A Nose Knows: HeroRATs Sniff Out Tuberculosis and Land Mines”, Bart talks of changing perceptions in regards to detection rats as a disease diagnostic technology: “Rats are thought of as a cause of disease, they are not necessarily a solution to disease – well, we turned this around completely.” 

You can view Bart’s interview, along with many other “Innovators in Action” working to improve our world, on the TakePart website here: http://www.takepart.com/video-series/skoll-world-forum


Tanzania’s Uhuru 50th Anniversary event 

This month, APOPO’s HeroRATs stepped out to join the celebrations of Tanzania’s Uhuru Festival, marking the 50th Anniversary since independence! APOPO was invited by partner organization, the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), to share a display booth providing information about APOPO’s Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program during a week-long event hosted by the Ministry of Health.

HeroRAT trainers Haruni and Mark showed great national pride in demonstrating the skills and efficiency of our Tanzanian-born TB detection rats. In a series of training sessions, our expert sniffer rats screened line-ups of human sputum samples and were able to accurately indicate which samples were TB-positive. While the rats took a rest in between sessions, footage of APOPO’s work was displayed on a monitor and staff was at hand to answer the questions of many curious visitors.

Our HeroRATs stole the spotlight as one of the most popular displays at the event, regularly drawing large crowds of onlookers – including none other than  the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Blandina S.J. Nyoni, who was impressed with the sensitivity of APOPO’s innovative diagnostic method!

APOPO is grateful for the opportunity to attend this event and raise awareness about the TB problem. We forward to continuing a strong and productive partnership with NIMR, as together we strive to increase TB case findings in Tanzania. 


Thailand Mine Action Program update

A mine action workshop on “Enhanced Operational Approaches through the Application of Land Release Methodology” took place last month in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The workshop was hosted by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) in cooperation with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).

Among those in attendance was APOPO’s Thailand Program Manager, Andrew Sully, who presented the preliminary results of the APOPO-PRO Mine Action team’s survey progress along the Thai-Cambodian border.

After ten weeks of surveying an area of approximately 30 square kilometers, APOPO-PRO’s Technical Survey (TS) intervention teams located 165 anti-personnel mines and 17 anti-tank mines. These items were found during targeted investigations of Non-Technical Survey (NTS) information.
The team also determined that 40% of land could potentially be re-classified as Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA), while 35% of land could potentially be re-classified as either Cancelled Land (16%) or Area With Restriction (19%).

These preliminary results are promising, but a long-term strategy is needed to help Thailand rid itself entirely from its landmine problem. APOPO-PRO intends to implement a full cross-border mine action approach in Thailand and Cambodia, provided the necessary funding is secured. If successful in attaining this much-needed support, a team of trained Mine Detection Rats will be deployed to South East Asia to assist in speeding up clearance efforts in the region. For more information, please contact APOPO-PRO Program Manager, Andrew Sully.

On behalf of the entire APOPO team, we’d like to extend our best wishes to everyone affected by the devastating floods in Thailand.


Raising a GOOD question about giant rats in Thailand

One good thing a day – that’s the promise of GOOD. Over 180,000 online subscribers receive “the daily GOOD” newsletter in their email inbox each day, and last month our giant rats were lucky enough to be the GOOD topic of the day!

In their email, GOOD raised the question: Could Giant Rats Eliminate Landmines in Thailand? The effect of the email and its counterpart post online was instant, with more than 330 responses via the website and Twitter, as well as over 700 recommendations via Facebook. It seems if the public had their way, a team of APOPO’s trained Mine Detection Rats and handlers would be on the next plane to South East Asia! To view the article & comment stream online, or to get the daily GOOD, click here

In their own words, "GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006, they've been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn. The GOOD team cares about what works – what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, and just – for each and every one of us." Visit www.good.is for more. 


APOPO website now online in German 

APOPO is excited to announce that our website is now available in German! With this new linguistic offering, we hope to spread the word of APOPO’s life-saving riesenhamsterratten to all of our German-speaking supporters around the globe.

We’d like to thank our dedicated team of German-speaking volunteers, who worked tirelessly to translate and edit our entire website text. A round of applause for Agapi, Benjamin, Christine, Dirk, Domenique, Fatima, Katharina, Katrin, Maren, Mario, Sarah, Sebastion, Stefan, Susette, and Wencke!

The HeroRAT team would also like to extend a special hero-sized thank you (and several years’ worth of banana treats) to journalist and HeroRAT adopter Claudia Müenster, who not only translated much of our text but also worked around the clock to proofread all of our website for accuracy and consistency.

We, along with our German fans, extend our deepest gRATitude to all those who volunteered their time and skills to make this translation happen! You can visit the new German website here: http://www.apopo.org/home.php?lang=de.


Adopt-a-Rat Ambassadors put their best paws forward

Thanks to all of our fabulous Facebook fans who took part in our online Vote-a-Rat contest – and had the rare opportunity to suggest names for the new faces of APOPO’s Adopt-a-Rat program!

Our four beloved HeroRATs, Kim, Tyson, Ziko and Chosen One have enjoyed their tenure as rats featured for adoption on our website. While they will continue to save lives and limbs and mail updates to their legions of loyal adopters, they are graciously stepping out of the limelight to allow four young HeroRATs to share their training journeys with our Adopt-a-Rat community.

Visit our Facebook page to meet the fresh new faces of our Adopt-a-Rat program, who will soon appear on our website for adoption – and join us in wishing them every success as they commence their heroic training journeys!


Many thanks for your ongoing support as we work towards creating a safer, healthier and better world for all.

Warm regards,

The HeroRAT team


Oct 17, 2011

Help HeroRATs earn bonus bananas on October 19 Bonus Day!

Banana treat for a young HeroRAT-in-training
Banana treat for a young HeroRAT-in-training

Greetings, friends of HeroRATs,

We need your help on GlobalGiving's LAST Bonus Day of the year, this Wednesday, October 19th!

Starting at 12:01 am EDT, all donations to our NEW project, Train HeroRATs for Life-Saving Detection Missions, will be generously matched by GlobalGiving at 30%!

(Up to $1,000 per donor, per project, until matching funds run out.)

GlobalGiving has a whopping $100,000 available in matching funds, which will run out quickly! It’s an amazing opportunity to score our HeroRATs more bananas for your buck, in exchange for their heroic efforts sniffing out global problems...

And with the extra funds, we can ensure even more rats are trained for life-saving detection missions! So, please help by making your donation count for 30% more this Wednesday, October 19th. Contribute to our cause here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/herorats/

We truly appreciate your ongoing support & belief in our HeroRATs!

With gRATitude,
The HeroRAT Team



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