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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 d...
Feb 1, 2012

HeroRAT Newsletter - January 2012

Attendees to APOPO
Attendees to APOPO's TB Workshop

APOPO ranks 24 in Global Top 100 Best NGOs list!

This month, The Global Journal published its inaugural “Top 100 Best NGOs” list, the first international ranking of its kind. An initial group of 2,000 non-governmental organizations was researched, edited, and eventually cut to 400, before the final group of 100 was selected – and APOPO came in at No. 24

The Global Journal is a print and online publication based in Geneva and New York that covers the issues and players shaping global governance today. All organizations considered for the Top 100 were assessed based on five key criteria in relation to their humanitarian efforts: impact, innovation, transparency, sustainability and efficiency.

Recognizing the role we play as influential agents of large-scale change, “The Global Journal has sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. From humanitarian relief to the environment, public health to education, microfinance to intellectual property, NGOs are increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.”

APOPO is excited to have made the list, among an incredible group of worthy organizations. With this validation, we will continue to strengthen our impact and further our efforts to provide solutions to global humanitarian detection challenges. You can take a look at the full list of Top 100 Best NGOs here

 

Wrapping up 2011 with a Win

For creatures that live and work so close the ground, the HeroRATs definitely finished their year on a high note with the news that we had been declared Second Winner in McKinsey’s Social Innovation Video Contest! Thanks to the tireless voting and promoting of our friends and fans (that means you!), the good news came as an early holiday gift to APOPO’s HeroRATs, when the contest winners were announced on December 13th, 2011.

Our video entry, “Training HeroRATs to sniff out TB,” received 709 votes throughout the ten-day voting period and placed us Second out of 11 Finalists. We were honored to be included with First Winner, “Embrace,” and Third Winner, “The sOccket,” whose videos (along with the Fan Favorite Winner submitted by “Duto:IRIS”) can be watched here.

The top three winners will be included in a print edition of McKinsey’s publication What Matters (out this month!), will be featured in a special TV program co-produced by Link TV and Viewchange.org, and will be honored at a networking reception in New York City. Winners have also already been featured on the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog!

We’d like to send our gRATitude to everyone who voted for our video in the contest. Thanks for your support! 


TB Workshop a Top Success

In December, APOPO held a successful TB workshop at our headquarters in Tanzania. Representatives of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program (NTLP) were invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at our TB Detection Rats, in order to better understand the processes and importance of our collaborative efforts to increase the rate of new case findings in Tanzania. 

There were 27 in attendance, including Regional TB and Leprosy Coordinators (RTLCs), District TB and Leprosy Coordinators (DTLCs), and lab technicians from collaborating DOTS Centers. Professor Kazwala, from Sokoine University of Agriculture, was also present, along with members of APOPO’s TB Detection team. 

The workshop started with a demonstration of the TB Detection HeroRATs, followed by a video clip explaining how detection rats technology works as a diagnostic tool. The 2011 data was then presented, showing the total number of samples screened by rats during second-line screening, the total number of patients screened, and the additional cases identified by rats, from each of the DOTS centers APOPO partners with. The floor was then opened for discussion. 

A newly developed reporting system was adopted, which is designed to assist the DOTS Centers in calling back patients with new cases identified by the rats. A consensus was reached for all involved to continue working closely to ensure diligent patient follow up. With the new system in place, it is hoped that the NTLP will gather strong evidence that highlights APOPO's contribution to the TB control effort in Tanzania. 


HeroRATs hit the newsstands in Germany

Extra, extra! The HeroRATs found their way onto newsstands in Germany on the first day of the new year, when popular women’s magazine Brigitte published an ode to our heroes in their opening issue of 2012.

Beginning with the encouragement to “Forget everything you know about rats. One day they will save the world,” the article paid homage to the human-and-rat-team of APOPO through its detailed description of our work, and by spreading the word about our furry heroes throughout the country. Its publication resulted in new adoptions and donations from over 130 German supporters, all of whom referenced the article as how they heard about APOPO – now that’s some influential liteRATure!

The HeroRATs thoroughly enjoyed their moment in the journalistic spotlight of writer Claudia Münster (an adopter of HeroRAT, Tyson!) and under the flashing lights of photographer Ulla Lohmann. We would like to send many squeaks of thanks their way – and of course, to the adopters and donors who took an interest in our work after reading the magazine. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the article yet, be sure to download a PDF of it here.


APOPO in attendance at the 11MSP in Cambodia

From November 28 to December 2, the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty convened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The annual meeting – also known as the MSP – not only includes the 159 States Parties, but also representatives from States Not Party, civilians, landmine survivors, and delegations of experts from organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). In attendance were Håvard Bach, APOPO’s Head of Mine Action, and Andrew Sully, Program Manager for APOPO’s Thailand Mine Action Program.

Attendees were greeted with a keynote address by Song Kosal, a Cambodian ICBL Youth Ambassador and landmine survivor. Her address implored attendees to follow the theme of this year’s meeting and “Push For Progress” by accelerating mine clearance, sustaining funding and cooperation, destroying existing stockpiles of landmines, and ensuring the rights of survivors, among many other crucial goals.

Cambodia’s well-known struggle with landmines – deadly reminders of past civil war – causes many to feel that, as Ms. Kosal stated, “the heart of the mine ban movement is in Cambodia.” Bringing the 11MSP to Phnom Penh allowed visitors to take note of the progress that has been made, but also to take stock of the remaining work to be done in a country that lives daily with landmines.

In 2010, APOPO found our way to the region when we launched our Thailand Mine Action program with the help of a grant from the Lien Foundation. The team is currently at work in the Thai province of Trat, surveying land along the Cambodian border. To learn more about our work in the Southeast Asia, visit our Thailand Mine Action page.


KKNH Sponsors “Elvis” the HeroRAT

The mission of German NGO Kriegskindernothilfe (KKNH) is to provide emergency aid for child victims of war, and for many years, the organization has supported Elvis, a young landmine survivor from Sarajevo. KKNH have paid for Elvis’ operations, financed his new prostheses, and supported his social and professional development. 

Now, in a fitting and heartfelt gesture, the team of KKNH has connected with APOPO to fund the full training program of one landmine detection HeroRAT, named – you guessed it – Elvis! In doing so, they endeavor to provide support not only for victims of war, but also for preventative measures which aim to reduce the landmine impact in other affected regions. 

The work of the HeroRATs was first introduced to Kurt Amert of KKNH through a friend and fundraiser, Luise Zempel. Luise, together with her knitting group, had initially raised funds for APOPO in order to support Ziko the HeroRAT as part of our shared adoption program.“This commitment, which we now begin with APOPO, strengthens our work, because with you we now can also act preventively,” says Luise. “And – we think this is an important emergency aid, which is deeply rooted in the name Kriegskindernothilfe.”

APOPO is grateful to Kurt, Luise, Elvis & the KKNH organization for their important advocacy work, raising awareness and support for landmine survivors. We have no doubt the young trainee rat, Elvis, will carry his name with pride as he goes about his daily detection missions, sniffing out mines and preventing the loss of lives and limbs. 

Elvis shared his story and his thoughts on his HeroRAT namesake with APOPO! If you would like to read it in his own words, please click here

***

The HeroRATs thank you for your interest in our work, and wish you a prosperous start to 2012!

Best wishes,

The HeroRAT team

herorats@apopo.org
www.apopo.org
facebook.com/herorat
twitter.com/herorats

Dec 21, 2011

A Year of Heroic Happenings

Asante Sana!
Asante Sana!

Mozambique Mine Action Achievements  

 

This year was filled with milestones for our Mozambique Mine Action Program. Thanks to the intrepid work of the team, which now boasts 44 accredited Mine Detection Rats, a grand total of 748,488 square meters of land was cleared in the Gaza Province of Mozambique. While clearing that land, 787 mines were found and destroyed, along with 220 items of unexploded ordnance and 2,683 small arms and ammunition. 

The payoff of this dedication is great: APOPO plans to finish demining of the Gaza Province, which is the most heavily mined province in Mozambique, by early next year – a full two years ahead of the 2014 deadline!
 
The Mozambique Mine Action Program also saw a changeover in management this year. We bid farewell to three-year Program Manager Andrew Sully as he moved to Southeast Asia to pick up the reins of our Thailand Mine Action Program, and welcomed new Program Manager, Tess Tewelde, who came to APOPO from the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).
 
So what’s next for our resolute team? Once clearance of the Gaza Province is completed in early 2012, the team has been tasked to clear two southern districts of the nearby Manica Province, bringing Mozambique another step closer to being mine-free at last.

APOPO-PRO Progress in Thailand 

Our Thailand Mine Action Program headed into the field for the first time in 2011. Equipped with 25 staff and a partnership with the Thai NGO Peace Road Organization (PRO), the team launched a combined Technical and Non-Technical Survey of all Suspected Hazardous Areas in the province of Trat in June.  

APOPO-PRO’s tactic of Land Release Methodology is proving essential in accelerating the daunting task of demining the Thai-Cambodian border. Since the start of the survey, the team has been able to confirm that 25% of surveyed land can indeed be re-classified as Confirmed Hazardous Areas, while 75% of the land can be classified as either Canceled Land or Area with Restriction. During the course of the surveys, the Thailand Mine Action Program has found and destroyed 393 landmines and 859 items of unexploded ordnance.  

These early results already prove that APOPO-PRO’s aid will be instrumental in bringing an end to Thailand’s deadly landmine problem. In 2012, the team plans to continue their survey in the province of Chantaburi. The longer-term vision is to utilize a team of trained Mine Detection Rats to speed up clearance efforts in the region and further the reach of our program’s impact. 

Significant funding is required to sustain this vital undertaking, and APOPO is appealing to anyone who might be able to support this effort to connect with us directly at apopo@apopo.org to further discuss the possibility of collaboration.

 

TB Detection: Saving Lives, Crossing Borders 
 
Our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program, based at our headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania, served as a second-line screen for more than 10,000 patients who had already been tested for TB via microscopy. Thirty-two trained TB-Detection HeroRATs screened more than 20,000 sputum samples provided by these patients, and detected over 300 new cases of Tuberculosis that had been previously missed in hospitals.  
 
While the detection rats were sniffing and saving lives, their human colleagues were hard at work increasing the capacity and recognition of the program. Our 2010 results were published this year in the Pan-African Medical Journal, and our TB Detection Center started working with the newly developed automated line cage to enhance the HeroRAT training process 
 
New hospital partnerships were also established, with APOPO’s technicians now gathering patient samples from a total of 11 DOTS Centers. In addition, as part of our ongoing research and development, studies are being conducted to directly compare the rats’ evaluations of samples with the results of fluorescent microscopy (FMs) and the state-of-the-art Cepheid GeneXpert.
 
The hard work and remarkable results produced by our TB Detection Program in Tanzania has resulted in a huge victory for HeroRATs as a diagnostic method. In October, the Flemish government approved a grant of 590,000 Euros for APOPO to replicate our TB detection successes in Mozambique, another high-burden TB country. The first phase of the project is already underway, and APOPO will spend early 2012 establishing an operational TB capacity in Maputo, Mozambique.

 

APOPO HQ: Training, Research & Development 
 
This year, our HeroRAT Headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania, continued transforming ordinary African giant pouched rats into extraordinary mine-detecting and TB-sniffing heroes. As of the end of 2011, we currently have 223 rats in various stages of landmine detection training and accreditation. In June, 20 graduRATs of our HeroRAT training course flew to the minefields of Mozambique to fulfill their destinies as life-saving Mine Detection Rats. 
 
Staff and rats in our Remote Scent Tracing Program have been lending their minds, noses, and energy to detecting and discriminating new scents, such as salmonella bacteria, illegal tobacco, and bedbugs. In addition, preliminary research into the CameRAT application was conducted. This project currently involves training six young rats to search for humans and to respond to a command to return to the site where they were released. Some of these initial research programs may result in operational applications in future, provided the necessary support is secured. 
 
Meanwhile, nestled in their comfortable burrows deep inside our breeding kennels, still other HeroRATs have been hard at work with the rewarding (but tiring!) task of contributing to the next generation of heroes. Between October and December alone, the HeroRAT nursery welcomed 36 new baby rats, eager and willing to learn the ropes in one of our life-saving detection programs.

 

HeroRAT Campaign Highlights
 
In addition to the incredible progress of our teams, word of the HeroRATs’ amazing deeds spread all over the world again this year. This exciting exposure helped draw in fans of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, to join us in the fight against landmines and TB!
 
Highlights included:

 

Help us make “Peace on Earth” a reality! 
 
If you’re looking for a more meaningful Christmas gift than the usual knick-knacks and electronics, you’re in luck – a HeroRAT gift adoption helps make the world a better place, while being a hassle-free and instantly delivered gift, to relieve the pressures of last-minute holiday shopping!
 
 
Our featured TB and Landmine Detection HeroRATs are not only super-skilled and extra lovable, they’re also articulate: adopters receive updates from their rat after the giving season is over, keeping them informed about their heroic work. By teaming up with Nala, Mojo, Cheeky or Blossom this season, you and your gift recipient are truly helping to make the dream of “Peace on Earth” a reality. To get the whole banana on the perks of adopting a rat for yourself or for others, check out our Adopt-a-Rat webpage and download our Adopt-a-Rat FAQ! 
 
There are a number of other inspiring initiatives for givers looking to lend a paw this holiday season, too. One way is to visit our project on GlobalGiving, which allows you to contribute a year's worth of banana treats for one of our rats - that's cause for a full-cheeks celebration! And if you'd like to support our work as a heroic holiday gift, check out the GlobalGiving Gift Card Challenge. For every 500 gift cards sold, something amazing will happen thanks to GlobalGiving's bonus grants - now that's the giving spirit!

***

HeroRATs are naturally humble creatures, and this year, we’re more humbled than ever by the generosity of our friends around the world. APOPO's teams could not have come this far without the help you’ve given, and continue to give, throughout the holiday season. Thank you, and happy holidays!

With gRATitude & good wishes,

Links:

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
herorats@apopo.org
www.apopo.org
facebook.com/HeroRAT
twitter.com/HeroRATs

 
   

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