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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 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.


Jun 9, 2010

May 2010 Newsletter

Welcome to the May edition of the HeroRATs e-newsletter!

This month, we feature some exciting events: another great Skoll World Forum event, brainstorming with changemakers; new pups in our breeding department; a big HeroRAT adventure to WEF Africa, and a hands-on demonstration for the Young Global Leaders; and a moment shared with the President of Tanzania, Mr Kikwete!

It’s been a huge month! You can keep updated with all that’s happening throughout a HeroRATs week on Twitter or Facebook. Founder & CEO attended Skoll World Forum

Founder Bart Weetjens and CEO Christophe Cox attended the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship during April in Oxford, UK. The focus of the week was ‘catalysing collaboration for large scale change’, and one of the sessions the APOPO team found most valuable was a panel on Collaborative Leadership. This hands-on workshop allowed the group to look at ways to increase organizational effectiveness while at the same time maintaining an environment which values and supports changemakers.

During their time at the forum, APOPO also met with the Skoll Foundation to present their latest progress report, as the recipient of a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2009. The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship recognize the most innovative and sustainable approaches to resolving the most urgent social issues.

APOPO is well on track to achieving the objectives and deliverables outlined initially, and was excited to receive the second instalment of their capacity building grant from the Skoll Foundation. APOPO is privileged to be a part of the Skoll community, and congratulates the Skoll Foundation for their visionary leadership in offering unrestricted support for social enterprises. World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Tanzania

The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from May 5 – 7. The focus was of this year’s event was ‘rethinking Africa’s growth strategy’, and the result of the week’s meetings was a collective call to end the continent’s marginalization, and work towards changing Africa’s position within the global economy.

A highlight of the WEF week was a chance meeting with the President of Tanzania, Mr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, who has for a long time been a committed supporter of the HeroRATs’ work in the Great Lakes Region. In his previous role as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Kikwete was actively involved in helping to connect 11 countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa to APOPO. His input was invaluable, and they subsequently endorsed APOPO as the lead agency for Mine Action in the region.

Founder of APOPO, Bart Weetjens, and Training Supervisor in our TB detection center, Maureen Jubitana, shared a memorable moment with Mr Kikwete at the Soirée on the evening of 6 May. Together they discussed the progress of APOPO’s work in Tanzania as well as expansion to other African countries, and the President expressed his continued support for our work. We are very grateful for Mr Kikwete’s positivity and vision to export Tanzanian technology and skills to countries in need, in Africa and beyond. His endorsement of our work will become even more important as HeroRATs’ potential continues to grow. HeroRATs meet a new generation of leaders at WEF Africa

Three of our tuberculosis detection rats, Ishengoma, Peter and Gaitan, had a big adventure to Dar es Salaam recently as part of the World Economic Forum on Africa. The Young Global Leaders (YGLs) were in town for their Annual Summit, and a group of 15 YGLs visited Mwananyamala Hospital on 3 May to learn more about the work APOPO’s HeroRATs are doing.

Mwananyamala is one of five DOTS centers in Dar es Salaam that our rats currently provide a second-line screen for tuberculosis. The hospital was happy to host the YGL ‘Impact Journey’ with APOPO, where the visitors got the chance to learn about a local organization’s work and impact, and then brainstorm potential solutions to challenges faced by the organization.

APOPO Founder Bart Weetjens gave a presentation on the HeroRATs, which was followed by a live demonstration of our heroes in action, sniffing out tuberculosis. A fascinated audience included local medical students and staff from Mwananyamala Hospital, who have been instrumental in assisting with APOPO with our second-line screening program. The HeroRATs gave an impressive display of their exceptional sniffing abilities, locating all of the TB-positive samples and earning their banana rewards!

After the demonstration, there was plenty of lively discussion and the YGLs later provided APOPO with their brainstormed ideas on strategic, marketing, and funding challenges. They also expressed what ‘a truly eye-opening experience’ the session was! The HeroRATs team was equally excited to be able to share our work with the YGLs, and very appreciative of their constructive feedback. Keen to see our heroes in action for yourself? Take a look at clips of our HeroRATs at work.

Breeding success

Breeding a new generation of HeroRATs is no easy feat! Our Belgian breeding expert, Dimitri, and caretaker, Albert, have been working hard to provide all kinds of new and different stimuli for the couples in our rat-breeding program. New toys, extra play time, slow introductions, darker kennels, a variety of tasty (hidden) food treats, the list goes on…

In the month of May, we welcomed 21 new HeroRAT pups, to be heard squeaking on a walk past the breeding kennels. Well done, breeding team! Dimitri says it’s difficult to tell whether the new stimuli may have had something to do with our recent ‘baby boom’, since our rats (Gambianus Cricetomys) are thought to be seasonal breeders with peaks during the rainy seasons (April-May and October-December). Also, the number of breeding couples has been expanded from 9 to 40 – a definite factor in our increased productivity in the breeding department!

You can help us to continue developing our breeding program (and produce even more young HeroRATs) by making a contribution to the HeroRATs cause!

Mine action in Mozambique

So far this year, our Mine Action team in Mozambique has cleared more than 183,640 square meters of land in the Gaza Province! Our HeroRATs have found 92 landmines, and 23 explosive remnants of war.

Landmines pose a structural barrier to development and economic growth. Each landmine found by a HeroRAT brings us another step closer towards helping Mozambique become a mine-impact free country by 2014. And we’ll shortly be sending an additional team of HeroRATs to help expand operations there even further!

Visit our website to learn more about our Mine Action Program in Mozambique.

2009 APOPO Annual Report

All APOPO facts in a nutshell: If you missed out on reading the 2009 APOPO Annual Report, you can download it from the APOPO website. It includes an overview of all our developments, achievements and challenges of 2009, along with our organizational goals for 2010.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to forward to a friend if you think they might be interested in our work too! Warm regards, The HeroRATs team


Jun 9, 2010

April 2010 Newsletter

Greetings friends,

The month of April kicked off to a great start with International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action and World Rat Day, both taking place simultaneously on Sunday 4 April.

Here’s all the latest news in communications from HeroRATs Headquarters… A brand new HeroRAT website The HeroRATs team has been busy launching our brand new website! Check it out at Learn all about how we got started, and why we chose to work with rats. Find out more about the work we do, and meet the team of heroes and humans who make everything happen on the ground. Take a look at the HeroRATs in action, or check out our blog for all the latest news. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact us at We welcome your suggestions! Coming soon: The new membership section of the website will be up and running shortly! For those of you who have adopted a HeroRAT, you’ll receive a username and password so you can sign in and check on your chosen rat’s progress, as well as see pics of your rat at work.

HeroRATs & Bart Weetjens feature in The Economist This month, The Economist featured a special on the HeroRATs – a montage of images of our heroes in action. The video is a part of a series The Economist is producing each month using still images and a commentary sound track; April’s focus is APOPO’s HeroRATs. Bart Weetjens tells the story of our history and our work over the beautiful images and graphics. We are grateful to The Economist for sharing our work with their readership and hope it serves to inform people of where we came from, what we’ve accomplished so far, and where we hope to go. APOPO article on landmine detection published in latest edition of UNICRI’s Freedom From Fear Magazine APOPO was published in the latest edition of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute’s (UNICRI) quarterly magazine, Freedom from Fear. This edition was focused on the environment and is available on UNICRI’s website. It is also distributed electronically to thousands of people. APOPO’s article is focused on training rats for landmine detection. “Although most people view rats as ‘bad animals’ that carry diseases and destroy property, APOPO calls its animals ‘HeroRATs’ for the valuable humanitarian service they perform.” To see the full article, see page 40 of the March 2010 edition. BBC special: thanks for watching, blogging & tweeting! Last month’s BBC special about APOPO, Alvin’s Guide to Good Business, helped to raise awareness about the HeroRATs’ important work in landmine detection and tuberculosis screening. 250,000 people viewed the BBC online article about us, and hundreds more blogged or tweeted about APOPO and the HeroRATs! We wanted to send a massive thank you to everyone who watched the special, shared the link, helped by spreading the word to friends or colleagues, made a donation to the cause, or adopted a HeroRAT. Your contribution ensures our HeroRATs can continue to help sniffing out solutions to global problems! Thank you.

If you missed out on the special, or know someone who might be interested, you can still view it here. Current and Upcoming Events – Skoll World Forum, World Economic Forum on Africa, Young Global Leaders Summit APOPO founder Bart Weetjens and CEO Christophe Cox headed to Oxford, UK, to represent the HeroRATs at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship from 14 – 16 April. This year’s forum was all about ‘catalysing collaboration for large scale change’. Look out for an update on their participation in next month’s e-newsletter! Also coming up soon (5 – 7 May) is the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa, being held for the first time in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Forum’s Young Global Leaders Summit will take place simultaneously, bringing together 200 exceptional younger leaders from all corners of the globe, committed to shaping the global future. APOPO will be present for both gatherings and looks forward to sharing a bit of Tanzania with the participants. More on both events next month! Friend us on Facebook & follow our rat-tweets Keep up with the rat race! Become a friend of HeroRATs on Facebook or follow our rat-tweets for all the latest news. Thanks so much for your interest in our work! Warm regards, The HeroRATs team


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