HeroRATs: Sniffing Out Landmines and Tuberculosis

by APOPO vzw
Nov 15, 2010

October 2010 Newsletter

A HeroRAT shows off his skills to school kids
A HeroRAT shows off his skills to school kids

Latest results from the field and TB lab     

It has been a productive year for APOPO’s HeroRAT teams so far.  Our Mine Action team in Mozambique continues to reduce the impact of landmines in the Gaza Province.  Since the start of our operations, we have helped to return 1,951,917 square meters of land to the population in Mozambique!  In 2010 alone, our HeroRAT team has found 817 mines, 350 unexploded ordnance, and 6,216 small arms and ammunitions.
At our Tuberculosis (TB) detection center in September, our HeroRAT team discovered a total of 69 TB-positive patients, bringing our total to over 1,500 patients that were previously missed by microscopy at local hospitals. In a country where about half of all active TB cases go undetected, these findings make a huge difference in reducing the spread of this deadly disease. For every patient with active TB that our HeroRATs help diagnose, we help prevent an additional 10-15 people from contracting it annually!
We are extremely proud of both of our HeroRAT teams in Mozambique and Tanzania for their life saving contributions to the communities we serve.  Keep up the great work!
Heading off to Mozambique
In the next few weeks, one of our experienced Tanzanian trainers, Shafii, will embark on his first humanitarian demining assignment to the Gaza Provincein Mozambique.  While there, he will be working with our HeroRATs, including some of those he trained from socialization right through to their internal accreditation in Tanzania.  He will also be exchanging some valuable skills with his colleagues in our Mozambique Mine Action team.
Before Shafii can enter the real minefield as an official humanitarian deminer, he will first need to pass an accreditation test with the National Institute of Demining (IND) in Mozambique.  Although Shafii went to Mozambique in 2006 with APOPO, he was primarily involved with training and did not get to experience working with the HeroRATs in the minefields. 
This time around, he is very excited for the chance to put all his hard work training mine detection HeroRATs into practice!  “I want to go to Mozambique so that I can get an experience in the real landmine field…in the real landmine field, I will be a full trainer.”  For our Tanzanian staff, this is an incredible opportunity to see first-hand how important their everyday work at our training base is and the benefits it brings to mine-affected areas.
In order to prepare himself for the challenges ahead, Shafii has been trying to learn a bit of Portuguese, the language spoken in Mozambique, as well as talking with other trainers who have recently returned from six months working in our Mine Action Program. 
Shafii will not be making the journey alone.  He will be traveling with eight new HeroRAT graduates including his very own rat, Santola.  The new recruits will also have to pass an accreditation test in Mozambique, in order to be recognized as official MDRs (Mine Detection Rats). 
Shafii enjoys working with the rats and is looking forward to seeing them in action. “I am trusting the rats.  I believe they are doing a good job.”
We wish Shafii and his eight furry colleagues a safe journey!
Back to school at HeroRAT Headquarters
We are proud to announce APOPO is now offering free English language classes to our staff at our Tanzanian headquarters for those interested in learning a new language or brushing up on old skills. A basic knowledge of the English language is essential for our trainers who are deployed to mine action programs abroad, as it helps makes the transition into a new country easier where the native language is not Swahili. 
The English language program has been set up by our Communications Coordinator, Felicia Byrne, who prepared an optional placement test to separate the staff into three levels: Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced. With the help of a local language teacher, Fred Chiwanga, the three classes have now been running for one month and cover a range of topics such as pronunciation, conversation skills, reading, and grammar.  
So far, the response has been very positive with some of our staff choosing to attend two classes in one day! It has been wonderful to see the staff's excitement and enthusiasm for learning. We look forward to watching (and hearing!) their skills develop over the coming months. 

The holidays are on their way!
Don't forget!  The holidays are just around the corner.  Our HeroRATs make great presents through our Adopt-A-Rat program.  For more information please go here.
As always, many thanks for your continued support of APOPO and our HeroRATs! 
Warm regards,
The HeroRATs Team



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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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