HeroRATs: Sniffing Out Landmines and Tuberculosis

by APOPO vzw
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 www.herorat.org



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Organization Information


Location: Morogoro, Tanzania - Tanzania, United Republic of
Website: http:/​/​www.apopo.org
Project Leader:
Paul Delbar
Public Fundraising Manager
Sokoine University, Morogoro Tanzania, United Republic of

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