APOPO vzw, Morogoro, Tanzania, United Republic ofhttp://www.apopo.org
Raised so far: $249,738.87
Great news - this project has reached its funding target. Thank you to everyone who donated. Search for another cause to support
APOPO's trained HeroRATs are saving lives and limbs, by using their exceptional sense of smell to sniff out unexploded landmines and tuberculosis.
APOPO addresses the need for cheap, reliable and locally manageable demining detection services and Tuberculosis screening by training and providing HeroRATs. APOPO’s HeroRATs are currently working in Mozambique to offer villagers safe return to their homesteads, access to vital farmland, and open doors for essential infrastructure. APOPO also partners with DOTS Centers to offer second-line TB screening to a population of 500,000 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
HeroRATs are part of a Mine Action team in Mozambique and are working towards the goal of a mine impact free country. In Tanzania, HeroRATs find an average of 5-10 TB-positive patients each week that were missed by the hospitals.
This project will allow families to return to their homes, reclaim and utilize their land, and live without fear of landmines. We will also screen the most vulnerable populations for TB, providing access to treatment and longer, healthier lives.
Since 2008, APOPO’s HeroRATs have been a part of the GlobalGiving community. We’ve shared our triumphs, challenges, and achievements; we’ve celebrated Bonus Days, Father’s Days, and the holidays. We've been truly honored to have your help along the way. And now, we’re very excited to announce that our project, “HeroRATs: Sniffing Out Landmines and Tuberculosis” is only a sniff away from being fully funded!
Thanks to your generous support, our GlobalGiving project has raised $248,830. That’s a lot of banana treats for the HeroRATs, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you: our 4,671 loyal friends and fans. Because you believed in our cause and were moved to help our heroes, APOPO has grown. Together, we have ensured the release of millions of feet of mine-free land to communities in Mozambique, significantly increased new TB case findings in Tanzania, and extended the reach of our life-saving efforts in new regions.
While we’re celebrating the completion of one project on GlobalGiving, we’re also excited to present a brand-new project page for our supporters: "Train HeroRATs for Life-Saving Detection Missions".
A hero’s work is never done, and this project is the new home for the same life-saving HeroRATs on GlobalGiving. We’d like to invite you to join us there for ongoing Project Reports on our work, as well as up-to-date information, fun photos, and new donation options that go towards supporting all aspects of HeroRAT-hood!
We hope you’ll continue with us on our life-saving journey, as we “Train HeroRATs for Life-Saving Detection Missions!”
Curbing the spread of TB, one sniff at a time
Our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program, based in Tanzania, continues to slow the spread of TB thanks to the efforts of our human and rat staff. Our HeroRATs’ effectiveness in rapidly screening large populations is undeniable – in the month of August alone, our rats served as a second-line screen for 1,324 patients. Of these, 280 patients were already found to be TB-positive by a partner treatment center. While sniffing the sputum samples provided by the patients, the rats located an additional 30 new cases of TB that had been missed using standard microscopy, enabling these patients to be accurately diagnosed and begin life-saving treatment.
Our TB Detection Center has also been making progress in the use of the new automated line cage, which was received in July. It links up to a laptop computer and accurately measures and rewards the rats’ indications with an optical sensor. This avoids human influence but also makes the training process more precise. Rats have taken this high-tech cage for a spin, and four of our youngest TB-detecting rats have begun training in it exclusively. If training in this new set-up continues to go smoothly, APOPO’s TB Detection Program might transition to working only with automated cages.
To learn more about our HeroRATs’ fight against this deadly killer, please visit the Tuberculosis Detection page of our website!
HeroRATs star on Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet
On September 15, audiences of Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet were treated to an in-depth look at the work of APOPO and the HeroRATs. The segment was featured as part of the program’s “The World is Just Awesome Week,” and saw the rats sniffing and scratching their way across the small screen while interviews with behavioral researcher Dr. Alan Poling and HeroRAT trainer John Fidelis informed the public about our work.
Over 267,000 viewers tuned in to see our rats in their element, working to rid the world of landmines and tuberculosis. The segment went a long way in showing the world that rats are not the creepy creatures some people may think they are.
As Dr. Poling explains, “A lot of people think rats are naturally bad, but rats are like people – whether they are good or bad depends on what they learn to do. And we try to teach our rats to do good things.”
In case you missed the episode and would like to see some spectacular footage of our rats learning to do some (very) good things, we’ve uploaded it to our Video page here.
Ashoka team visits HeroRAT HQ in Tanzania
Earlier in the month, APOPO was honored to host a visit from two members of Ashoka’s team. Valeria Merino, Ashoka’s VP for Venture, Fellowship, and Integration, paid a visit to our Tanzanian headquarters with Simon Stumpf, Senior Change Manager for Rural Innovation and Farming for Ashoka East Africa.
Ashoka is a global organization that supports leading social entrepreneurs like Bart. In introducing the work of Ashoka to diverse audiences worldwide, Valeria and her colleagues commonly use a slideshow, which features examples of the innovative social impact of their Fellows – including information on APOPO! It was after Bart saw his own HeroRATs on the big screen at a global event in Paris in June that he invited Valeria and the Ashoka team to come nose-to-nose with our rats.
Throughout their visit, Valeria and Simon were able to view firsthand the innovation that led to Bart’s selection as an Ashoka Fellow in 2006. In addition, they visited several departments of Sokoine University of Agriculture, a top agricultural university in Africa where APOPO is based. While at SUA, they had the opportunity to meet with other researchers and innovators working in the fields of agriculture and rural innovation.
APOPO and Ashoka have enjoyed five years of dynamic partnership, with Ashoka providing a great platform to spread the word about APOPO to a large community of innovators, social entrepreneurs, volunteers, and changemakers. We look forward to continuing a long and productive relationship with Ashoka and welcome them back to Tanzania anytime – karibuni tena, Valeria and Simon!
Welcome to our newest Corporate Sponsors!
We’re proud to announce that our HeroRAT Corporate Sponsorship Program is growing – and we are excited to introduce our newest sponsors! For those who are not familiar with the program, our Corporate Sponsors provide vital support to APOPO by funding the entire training costs of a HeroRAT. For 6,000 €, they cover everything from their rat’s food, to veterinary care, to the clay pots in which their rat curls up to sleep – and of course, unlimited banana treats throughout the course of training! Sponsors also obtain the exclusive opportunity to name their very own rat and receive personalized updates as their rat progresses in its training.
Earlier this quarter, we welcomed Belgium-based Rotary Club, Rotary Antwerpen Oost, to the Corporate Sponsorship program. The club is now the proud sponsor of “Rotarat,” who recently began training to become a Mine Detection Rat! We really appreciate the club’s ongoing support of APOPO.
We would also like to welcome and congratulate HeroRAT supporters Tom Kindermans and Petra Faltysova, who sponsored the full training of their own HeroRAT by collecting donations for their wedding in August. Their young rat, “PetRATom,” has also just begun mine detection training. On their desire to fundraise for APOPO on their wedding day, Tom said “We carry the HeroRAT organization in our heart!”
Many thanks to our new Corporate Sponsors as their young rats embark on their life-saving journeys!
A conversation with APOPO’s founder on ABC Radio
Listeners of ABC Radio’s Sunday morning program in Melbourne, Australia, recently had the opportunity to hear a conversation with APOPO’s founder, Bart Weetjens. #mce_temp_url#Host Alan Brough delved into the origins of Bart's fascination with the African continent, and how the idea of training rats to sniff out landmines originally came about.
If you missed the program and would like to learn more about APOPO’s history, click here to listen.
UN International School promotes peace through our heroes
APOPO, on behalf of the HeroRATs, is especially grateful to the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York City. Socially conscious and on a mission to promote peace, students chose to support HeroRATs as a like-minded recipient of their fundraising efforts! Pictured here are two representatives of the Middle School Student Council, Sahil Patel and Sarah Blau, and here’s what Sahil had to say about the students’ decision to support our heroes:
“The Middle School Student Council at the United Nations International School raised $1,000 for HeroRAT. We chose your charity because UNIS is a school of peace and HeroRAT strives to create a peaceful environment in many countries by detecting and removing landmines. During the year, we organized dances and fundraisers. We sold chocolate roses for Friendship Day and set up environmental activities for Earth Day. It was lots of fun and for such a good cause.”
APOPO sends our thanks and congratulations to the UNIS students for their incredible achievement and dedication in advocating for a more peaceful world.
Poverty Matters: Development in a changing world
Looking for more inspired reading on innovation? Check out Louise Stoddard’s latest post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog, centered around the recent development conference organized by the Development Studies Association (DSA) and the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI).
Louise notes the need for the development community to adapt to a changing world, and think outside the box in coming up with innovative solutions for the world’s big problems. Among the projects mentioned, APOPO makes an appearance as an initiative that “typifies the creative nature of modern development.” Read the full post here.
Thank you for following us in our life-saving adventures, and we wish you an inspired month ahead!
The HeroRAT team
2.6 million meters cleared & counting!
APOPO’s Mine Action team in Mozambique has ensured the safe return of over 2.6 million square meters of land to date. With the ongoing clearance and release of safe land, a sense of freedom is given back to communities affected by the landmine problem. Families can live on their land again and farm without fear of injury; children can walk safely to school; and community development through agricultural or infrastructure projects is made possible.
This year, our Mine Action team has already cleared 530,160 square meters of land in the Gaza Province, unearthing 554 landmines, 208 unexploded ordnances and 1,852 small arms and ammunitions in the process. These items have now been destroyed, so no further harm can be caused to innocent civilians living or passing through the mine-affected areas. Find out more about APOPO’s humanitarian demining efforts: check out the Mine Action page of our website.
A new addition to our Mine Action team
Tesfazghi Tewelde (or Tess, for short) recently landed in Mozambique to take up the role of Program Manager for our Mine Action Program. "I'm very impressed by the extraordinary work APOPO has achieved so far, and the commitment of APOPO in expanding its capacity and productivity to help Mozambique become mine free by 2014," Tess said upon arrival.
The new manager was warmly welcomed at a team-building barbecue, where he emphasized the importance of fostering a healthy team spirit. “Bringing staff together is very important in mine action…due to the size of the operation, and all the different people living and working in one place.”
Before joining APOPO, Tess worked for the operations section of the Geneva International Center of Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), and contributed his technical field experience to the land release methodology. Tess brings to our team 11 years of experience in Mine Action operations in Africa, in both humanitarian and commercial sectors. Welcome to the team, Tess!
Making the move: Mozambique to Thailand
Andrew Sully, our previous Mozambique Program Manager, made the move to Thailand last month to lead the APOPO-PRO Mine Action team in our survey project along the Thai-Cambodia border. Reflecting on the move, Andrew said: “I was sad to leave Mozambique and the people I had known and worked with for three years. So much excellent work and growth had happened during that time, and there still remains so much to do.” What made the move easier was knowing that the program would be in excellent hands with Tess.
Compared with Mozambique, Thailand is a real change for Andrew. While being more advanced in areas such as infrastructure and technology, Thailand’s mine action effort is only just beginning. “Many years with very limited funding have meant that they have been trying to do it on their own, and the result is the very traditional approach,” he said. “This approach needs to be replaced with the Land Release methodology, and this is what APOPO brings with its Mine Action Program.”
This new approach to Thailand’s landmine problem could drastically shorten the lifespan of the remaining minefields and increase the number of cleared mines. It also opens an avenue to encourage more funds, both internal and external, to be spent on solving the landmine problem in Thailand. “It’s an exciting project, as it can make a real difference to Mine Action in Thailand, as well as strongly influence the neighbouring countries,” Andrew said.
The APOPO-PRO team is already making great progress in Trat province, having found more than 140 anti-personnel mines (as well as one anti-tank mine, and 168 explosive remnants of war) during the first seven weeks of non-technical and technical survey. To learn more about APOPO's Mine Action efforts in Thailand, click here.
HeroRATs steal the show at Nane Nane
Each year, all of Tanzania comes together for a week of festivities in honor of “Nane Nane,” a vibrant celebration of agriculture held in the cities of Morogoro and Dodoma. The revelry concludes annually on the eighth day of the eighth month (the name “Nane Nane” itself means “Eight Eight” in Swahili), when farmers, businesses, NGOs, and the general public flock to the local fairgrounds.
APOPO and the HeroRATs joined in the fun as part of the display put together by our partner institution, Sokoine University of Agriculture. Throughout the course of the week, trainers Haruni and John demonstrated the amazing capabilities of our detection rats to intrigued and astonished crowds. Lucky visitors to APOPO’s display were able to witness a mock training session, with one of our rats showing off her detection expertise as she walked along, sniffing out (and digging up) tea eggs filled with TNT.
With hundreds of spectators stopping by to check out our work for themselves, the HeroRATs certainly enjoyed their time in the spotlight and can’t wait for next year’s Nane Nane fair!
Selemani & Abdullah: Looking back
HeroRAT trainers Selemani and Abdullah have each been working with APOPO for nearly nine years, and have helped us expand while remaining committed to APOPO’s mission. They also share the distinction of being the first Tanzanian trainers to enter the real minefields in Mozambique with their HeroRATs!
When they took on the role of humanitarian deminers in 2003, they were conscious of how important it was, and came to Mozambique feeling both confident and anxious. Selemani remembers, “It was like a dream come true. It was an historic event, because we were the first Tanzanians to enter the real minefields in Mozambique!” Abdullah adds, “I was happy, but it was my first time out of my country, so I was also afraid. There was pressure to show the rats to the world, but because we received training and followed procedures, we became comfortable.”
Along with learning a new language and being far from friends and family, the pair also faced the challenge of preparing themselves to finally enter the real minefields with the HeroRATs – a tough task even after years of training. “When we arrived, we attended a course in mine detection principles and techniques,” Selemani says. “We were shown how mines killed people – we even saw skeletons in the minefields, and old bones with military clothing. It made us afraid, but it didn’t stop us.”
Their determination paid off: on the very first day, the team of trainers and HeroRATs found 10 landmines!
Almost eight years on, Selemani and Abdullah have grown with APOPO and watched the organization grow – and have a few words of advice for HeroRAT trainers who might want to follow in their (careful) footsteps to the minefields in Mozambique. “Our work needs concentration. It needs focus,” says Abdullah. “We need to be cooperative with each other and help each other, because at APOPO, we are all like family.”
Subiaco Rotaract Club goes wild for HeroRATs
On the evening of August 12, more than 200 revelers joined the Rotaract Club of Subiaco in Western Australia for a fantastically fierce fundraiser in honor of – you guessed it – the HeroRATs! As Rotaract is a Rotary-sponsored organization designed for service-oriented young men and women, club members in Subiaco decided to put their principles into action by throwing a great party for a great cause.
The night’s theme of “Urban Jungle” was made complete by a strictly wild dress code and six live performances, including a fire performance troupe, African dancers and drummers, and Brazilian samba dancers. Among the creatively decked-out attendees were safari-goers mingling with animals from the African savanna, adventurers, warriors, and even a giant banana treat (the perfect costume for our HeroRATs)!
In between the performances, club Community Services Director Choy Lin Lee took to the stage to present a slideshow describing the work of APOPO. The untamed enthusiasm of the club and their guests certainly paid off: in total, the Urban Jungle fundraiser raised more than $4,200 for the HeroRATs.
APOPO would like to thank the Rotaract Club of Subiaco for their amazing efforts on our behalf! Be sure to check out the club’s blog post about the fundraiser and spectacular photos by photographer Emiko Watanabe, and read why they chose to support the HeroRATs.
Every voice counts for GlobalGiving
Our friends at GlobalGiving are working on an exciting new initiative here in East Africa, known as the Storytelling Project: an experiment in collecting community knowledge on a massive scale, and feeding it back to audiences that can use it. Over 20,000 stories have already been collected from 6,000+ community members by asking this simple question: "Tell us about a time when a person or an organization tried to change something in your community."
The project will soon make its way to Tanzania, and we’re looking forward to hearing stories from our local community about the challenges and the changemakers – and using these insights to create better links between the two. Find out more about the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project here.
Join our online community!
Can’t get enough of the HeroRATs through our website or newsletter? Want to learn more about our rats and the global challenges they’re helping to solve? Join our online community of fans, friends and supporters! By following our rat-tweets on Twitter, and “Liking” our hero fan page on Facebook, you’ll be able to easily see (and share!) all of the latest updates, news, pictures, and videos of APOPO and the HeroRATs. Whether you’re familiar with the humanitarian work we do, or just stopping by for a look at our brave heroes, we’d love to have you join the conversation. Be sure to invite your friends, too!
Until next month, we send our sincere gratitude for your ongoing support of our heroes!
The HeroRAT Team
At the end of another month, we are pleased to report that our Mozambique Mine Action team has now cleared more than 423,106 square meters of land this year! These latest clearance figures bring us to a grand total of 2.5 million square meters of suspected minefields, cleared and returned the local population in Mozambique.
Give a rat. Help save lives.
Make your contribution in honor of your father, and watch as his face lights up when he realizes that together, you've helped provide banana treats for one of our life-saving, bomb-sniffing heroes in Mozambique, or tuberculosis screening for villagers in Tanzania.
Alternatively, you can surprise your father and Adopt-a-Rat as a gift for him. Not only will he receive an adoption certificate and updates on the life-saving work of his expertly trained rat, but he will also have the satisfaction of knowing he raised his child to care about the well-being of those around the world.
Through your support, our HeroRATs will be able to continue saving people from becoming landmine victims and reducing the spread of tuberculosis. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
For more reasons on why to give a rat, take a look at the Support HeroRATs section of our website or read Nick Kristof’s Father’s Day article from last year in the New York Times, "Dad will really like this".
20 new HeroRATs embark on their first mine-sniffing mission
On May 18th we said farewell to 20 new graduates of our HeroRAT landmine detection training program, who embarked on their first life-saving mission in the Gaza Province of Mozambique. There was a flurry of activity at APOPO’s headquarters in Tanzania on the morning of departure: making transport arrangements, providing in-flight entertainment (peanuts in a small container, just waiting to drop down!) and settling the rats into their first-class transport cages.
Before they left us, our future heroes feasted on tomato, apples, peanuts and small fish, along with plenty of water. We then proudly waved them off on the first leg (or paw) of their journey to Dar es Salaam to meet the connecting flight to Maputo, Mozambique. The rats were accompanied by some of their human colleagues, to make sure they arrived at the airport in peak condition and ready for their new adventure: saving lives! We wish the new graduates well in their work in the real minefields, and trust our Mozambique Mine Action team will take good care of them as they settle into their new homes.
UK reception for ASHOKA Fellow Bart Weetjens
ASHOKA UK hosted a reception in London for our founder and ASHOKA Fellow, Bart Weetjens, on May 11th. Although none of our four-legged heroes could be present for the event (they were busy saving lives), Bart represented them well, sharing his experiences with an intimate audience of dedicated HeroRAT supporters and members of ASHOKA’s network.
Dr Sima Barmania was among those who attended the reception, and followed up with a blog post, ‘HeroRATs – No Ordinary Rat’, on The Independent's website. She wrote: “Quite sheepishly, I admit that until recently the triumph of the HeroRAT had managed to escape my attention. I suspect my lack of knowledge of these furry labourers was partly due to my self-confessed rat prejudice.”
It’s a common perception, held by many who stumble across APOPO’s work for the first time, before they learn the facts behind the fiction (and discover that our rats are in fact lovely and sociable creatures!) Bart’s talk aimed to challenge these preconceptions about rats, inviting the audience to look beyond the surface to the social problems that exist which his “heroes” are helping to solve.
And as Dr Sima Barmania’s blog post concludes, it appears at least some perceptions were changed: “Given the affection Bart has for his workers, it is hard to not find the HeroRAT endearing; admittedly, it may be a while before I can have a face to face interaction with a rodent but perhaps I could be convinced to adopt a HeroRAT.”
The APOPO team wishes to thank Jenny Prosser and the team at ASHOKA UK for organizing the night, which was a fantastic opportunity for people to hear first-hand the story of how our HeroRATs came into being.
Get your Dad's Day gift this GG Bonus Day – June 15, 2011
Get your Father's Day shopping done early and help APOPO and our HeroRATs! Make your donation in your dad's honor on June 15th and your online donations to the HeroRAT project will be matched by GlobalGiving at 30%. That’s more bananas for your buck!
In the words of Nicholas D. Kristof in his Father's Day article last year "Dad will really like this", in the New York Times, "What man wouldn’t pass up a necktie for the chance to be associated with an educated, supermacho giant rat?"
These extra funds mean...
Once the $75,000 that GlobalGiving has set aside for this event has run out, GlobalGiving will also give a $1,000 bonus to the project that receives the most donations and another $1,000 bonus will go to the project that receives donations from the most individual donors.
So make your contribution count even more on Wednesday, June 15th, and donate at: www.globalgiving.org/projects/herorats/.
Thank you very much for your support! We truly value your friendship.
The HeroRAT team
APOPO and the HeroRAT team in Mozambique are off to a great start for 2011! So far, we’ve cleared over 239,859 square meters of land. In doing so, we’ve found and destroyed: 282 landmines, 78 unexploded ordnances, and 1,763 small arms and ammunitions. That’s a lot of TNT!
APOPO-PRO project gets started in Thailand
Full accreditation for our newest heroes
Collaborative action at Skoll World Forum
Trendsetting APOPO at the WCMP
On behalf of APOPO and the HeroRATs, thank you for continuing to follow and support us in our efforts to save lives and limbs. We wish you all a wonderful month ahead!
Help HeroRATs on GlobalGiving Bonus Day – March 16, 2011
On March 16, your online donations to the HeroRAT project will be matched by GlobalGiving at 30%. That’s more bananas for your buck!
These extra funds mean...
Once the $75,000 that GlobalGiving has set aside for this event has run out, GlobalGiving will also give a $1,000 bonus to the project that receives the most donations and another $1,000 bonus will go to the project that receives donations from the most individual donors.
So make your contribution count even more on Wednesday, March 16th, and donate at: www.globalgiving.org/projects/herorats/.
Thank you very much for your support! We truly value your friendship.
The HeroRAT team
Strategic Planning Week 2011
As always, thank you very much for your continued support and interest in our life-saving work!
A Hero-Sized WELCOME and THANK YOU
The HeroRAT team warmly welcomes all of our new found friends and supporters who came on-board throughout 2010. We are lucky to have an ever-expanding community of amazing individuals who are as committed and passionate as we are about the life-saving work of our HeroRATs.
We are most grateful to those of you who continue to share our work with your friends, family or colleagues – you are helping us to change people’s somewhat negative perceptions of rats! If you haven’t already joined the HeroRAT network, feel free to connect with us via Facebook and Twitter to ask questions, see the latest images from HeroRAT headquarters, and keep up to date with all the latest hero happenings.
We also want to extend a very special thank you to all of our wonderful supporters who made this holiday season the best one in APOPO’s history! Our HeroRATs were quite the popular gift this year, with 436 new adoptions throughout the month of December. Not to worry, we have spoken with Chosen One, Kim, Tyson, and Ziko, and they are all up to the challenge of making their adoptive parents proud!
Thanks to our record number of generous donors and adopters over the holidays, it looks as though 2011 is going to be a massive year for APOPO’s HeroRATs!
Plans for 2011
APOPO is setting our sights high with some big goals for our HeroRAT teams in 2011.
APOPO continues its effort to establish mine action programmes in Angola and Thailand. Angola is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world and we aim to work with a potential partner organization and to send HeroRAT teams to the Moxico province in 2011. This province is the most mine-affected province in Angola. In Thailand, APOPO has started preparations for a non-technical survey of two mine-affected provinces along the Cambodian border. The project is undertaken in close cooperation with Thailand Mine Action Centre (TMAC). The survey will provide a more realistic picture of the real mine problem and will help to focus future mine action efforts in areas that are actually mined while returning areas that prove mine free to the local population. The two expansions into Angola and Thailand are, however, subject to available funding.
In addition to the daily sniffing activities of our Tuberculosis (TB) detection HeroRAT team in Tanzania, we will also be busy preparing our case findings for future publication in 2011. New research experiments have already begun, with the aim of further validating and optimizing our HeroRATs as a diagnostic method. In one experiment, our HeroRATs have been sniffing prepared microscope slides of sputum samples – rather than the sample pots we receive initially from collaborating DOTS Centers – and so far, the results are encouraging.
Our Remote Scent Tracing (RST) research will be taking on groundbreaking new applications in 2011. RST involves taking a sample of air, soil, or other compound, and bringing it to a remote location for evaluation by our trained sniffer rats. Pending funding, APOPO hopes to begin feasibility studies on the rats’ abilities to detect multiple explosives and salmonella as soon as possible.
APOPO’s 2009 findings published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
APOPO’s most recent tuberculosis journal article, led by Dr. Alan Poling entitled “Using Giant African Pouched Rats to Detect Tuberculosis in Human Sputum Samples: 2009 Findings” was published in the December edition of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The study presents our results from 2009 using our Gambian pouched rats (affectionately known as HeroRATs) to sniff for mycobacterium tuberculosis in human sputum samples. That year, out of 10,523 total patients, our rats found an additional 620 TB-positive patients that were previously misdiagnosed as ‘TB-negative’ by the local DOTS centers using smear microscopy. Thanks to our rats’ identification of these additional patients, the study found that our rats truly are heroes, having increased detection rates in our partnering DOTS centers by 44% in 2009.
Karen Hopkin also presents a summary of the results from this study in her 60-Second Science podcast on the Scientific American website. Click here to listen!
To date, including data from 2010, APOPO’s HeroRATs have found over 1,600 TB-positive patients that initial smear microscopy missed. According to estimates from the World Health Organization, this has helped prevent the spread of TB to over 16,000 healthy people.
We look forward to future success and publications about the great achievements of our Tuberculosis detection HeroRATs and their equally hard-working human colleagues.
APOPO’s research in New York Times and on the radio
This month, APOPO appeared for a third time in the widely distributed New York Times newspaper. APOPO’s Behavioral Researcher, Dr. Alan Poling, was interviewed for the January 3rd article, “Detecting Tuberculosis: No Microscopes, Just Rats”. The article reported on APOPO’s findings from the above-mentioned study, led by Dr. Poling, which were published in the December issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
In the article, Dr. Poling expressed one of our hopes for the future. “We think that eventually there will be a place for them in first-line screening.” Currently, our TB-detection HeroRATs provide second-line screening: they evaluate the sputum samples after they have been checked under microscopy at the hospitals. However, our rats find 5 – 10 patients on a weekly basis who have been missed by first-round screening. We believe our furry colleagues are up to the challenge of proving their TB-sniffing capabilities, and hope that HeroRATs will someday become a go-to resource for efficient and effective TB diagnosis.
Dr. Poling was also interviewed by WMUK, a public radio program in Michigan, USA, to talk about APOPO and our HeroRATs. In the seven-minute news segment, Dr. Poling discussed the landmine and tuberculosis problems in sub-Saharan Africa and how APOPO trains our HeroRATs to help solve these problems. To listen to Dr. Poling’s interview, please click here.
Say “I Love You” with a HeroRAT!
Tired of giving chocolates and roses for Valentine’s Day? Shake things up this year and show your love by making the world a safer place for your loved one to live in: support a HeroRAT!
A contribution to our HeroRATs project on GlobalGiving will support us greatly in our efforts to save lives and limbs by sniffing out more landmines and tuberculosis in communities in need.
Make your contribution in honor of your Valentine and send them a GlobalGiving gift card. Watch as their face light up when they realize that together, you've helped provide banana treats for one of our life-saving, bomb-sniffing heroes in Mozambique, or tuberculosis screening for villagers in Tanzania.
Alternatively, you could surprise your Valentine with a HeroRAT adoption!
Our HeroRATs are more adorable than any teddy bear, they live longer than roses, AND they are helping to save lives and limbs in Tanzania and Mozambique.
Your loved one will receive a personalized email announcing the gift from you, along with an adoption certificate and letter from his/her adopted hero as well as updates throughout the year. To give the most unexpected and unique gift this Valentine’s Day, please visit our Adopt-A-Rat page.
Thanks for your support, and we wish all of you an inspiring and rewarding year ahead!
The HeroRAT team
Holiday greetings from the HeroRAT team!
On behalf of all of us at HeroRAT headquarters, we wanted to extend a huge hero-sized thanks to you for following our life-saving work throughout 2010. We’re so grateful for your ongoing support and appreciation for our heroes.
It has been a productive year, and our HeroRATs are becoming more known for their sniffing abilities all over the world. Here are a few highlights from some of the places we’ve appeared throughout the year:
2010 Progress: The Year in Review
The HeroRAT landmine-detection training program is constantly being refined to get our rats hero-ready even faster at our Center of Excellence in Tanzania. In total, we currently have 195 rats in various stages of landmine detection training or accreditation procedures.
Our Mozambique Mine Action team has made a huge impact in land clearance this year – with over 792,893 square meters of land returned to the local population! In doing so, the HeroRAT team has found 860 landmines, 374 unexploded ordinance and 6,216 small arms and ammunitions. That’s a lot of TNT! Not only have countless landmine-related accidents been avoided, but barriers restricting development in affected communities have been lifted, and people are free to move about their land without fear.
In Tanzania, our HeroRAT team at the Tuberculosis (TB) detection center has been busy sniffing away to save lives. In 2010, our TB-detection heroes have so far discovered over 594 TB-positive patients who were initially missed by traditional diagnostic methods. As a result of these tireless efforts, more patients can begin their life-saving treatment sooner, thus significantly reducing the spread of TB. In fact, using projections from the World Health Organization, we have helped to prevent at least 5,940 new cases of TB this year alone!
On a lighter note, our breeding couples have thoroughly enjoyed the improvements that were made to our HeroRAT breeding program earlier this year. They have shown their appreciation by increasing the number of births this year to 148 baby rats – our future heroes!
We are working on expanding our mine action work into Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, as well as embarking on a new continent – Asia – for initial landmine survey work along the Thai-Cambodian border. Initial visits by members of the APOPO team have already taken place, in preparation for setting up and getting started in these new countries.
Our Remote Scent Tracing research program will also expand next year to look at other scent detection possibilities. Our research and development team has a number of new proposals in the pipeline for the many potential applications of this work. We’ll keep you posted along the way as plans for future applications continue to be developed and refined.
Our Adopt-a-Rat Program has seen a great deal of support this year, with more and more of you taking action to help us save lives and limbs in communities in need!
Don’t forget: our deadline for Holiday Gift Adoptions is 18 December, simply to guarantee delivery of your gift recipient’s HeroRAT adoption materials before 25 December. Of course you are most welcome to adopt one of our HeroRATs anytime after the 18 December, and we’ll send your adoption materials as soon as we can! Please visit our Adopt-a-Rat webpage for more details, or email the HeroRAT team at email@example.com.
Thank you so much to all of you who have contributed to our cause throughout 2010: we feel truly honored to have such a warm-hearted and dedicated group of supporters.
On behalf of APOPO and the HeroRATs, we send you warmest wishes for a safe, happy and peaceful holidays, and a wonderful start to the coming year!
The HeroRAT team
Looking for a unique and inspiring alternative gift this holiday season?
A contribution to our HeroRATs project on GlobalGiving will support us greatly in our efforts to save lives and limbs by sniffing out more landmines and tuberculosis in communities in need.
Make your contribution in honor of someone special, send them a GlobalGiving gift card, and see their face light up when they realize that together, you've helped provide banana treats for one of our life-saving, bomb-sniffing heroes in Mozambique, or tuberculosis screening for villagers in Tanzania.
Alternatively, you could surprise your friends or family with a HeroRAT adoption!
Here are three good reasons to adopt one of our heroes:
1. It’s a fun, creative and unique gift, that has a lasting impact.
2. Your lucky gift recipient will receive a certificate of adoption, an introductory letter from the chosen HeroRAT, and regular updates on their rat's progress!
3. It's only 5 euros a month (roughly $7) - a small amount that will be a big help to us in our efforts to sniff out more landmines and curb the spread of tuberculosis.
Contributions we receive for the Adopt-a-Rat program go towards the training, vet check-ups, housing, food and loving-care our HeroRATs receive. For more information on giving the gift of a HeroRAT, please visit the Adopt-a-rat page of our website, or click here to adopt a HeroRAT now.
Thank you for your wonderful support, and warmest wishes for peace and happiness this holiday season!
APOPO’s HeroRAT Mine Action Team passed an important milestone this month, in our efforts to rid Mozambique of its landmine legacy: over two million square meters of land have now been returned to the local population in Mozambique! In opening this land, we have found over 1,030 landmines, helped bring electricity to communities, made traveling between villages safer, cleared access to water pits, allowed thousands of people to return to their land, prevented countless mine-related accidents, and much more!
None of this could have been possible without our dedicated supporters and funders. We want to sincerely thank everyone who has believed in our unique and innovative approach to landmine clearance.
APOPO is thrilled to announce a seven-year cooperation with the Province of Antwerp, Belgium. The Province has supported APOPO in our humanitarian efforts since 1999, and has now extended its financial support for seven more years to help with the further development and expansion of APOPO’s operations.
On November 11, APOPO and the HeroRATs were honored to welcome a delegation from the Province of Antwerp to Morogoro, Tanzania to mark the beginning of this cooperation. The delegation included Mrs. Inga Verhaert and Mr. Ludo Helsen, Members of the Provincial Council, and Mr. Dieter Goossens, head of the department of North-South Cooperation.
While at HeroRAT headquarters, the delegation observed APOPO’s detection rats in training, and signed the official Protocol of Cooperation along with APOPO’s Chairman of the Board, Rudy Van Eysendeyk, and CEO, Christophe Cox. By supporting APOPO, Mrs Inga Verhaert said the Province of Antwerp is both investing in scientific research for humanitarian purposes, while promoting local employment and training in Tanzania. She points out that "landmines and Tuberculosis (TB) affect the most vulnerable individuals and communities in the developing world. They are major obstacles in social and economic development. Therefore, the Province of Antwerp is happy to support this exceptional initiative, ensuring its expansion."
With the support of Antwerp, APOPO will have the capacity to continue to train both our HeroRATs and Tanzanian trainers, as well as make it possible for the project to expand to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the future – two of the most mine-affected countries in Africa.
HeroRATs flood the media following AFP visit
In November, news about our HeroRATs flooded media outlets all over the world! This newfound interest came following a visit from a media crew from Agence France-Presse (AFP), a French news agency. The team of video-journalist William Davies, reporter Otto Bakano, and photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba, were in Tanzania to cover the 2010 election in October – and couldn’t miss a side-trip to our headquarters in Morogoro to see our heroes in action! They toured APOPO’s headquarters and training facilities, speaking with our HeroRAT trainers and staff, CEO Christophe Cox, and Founder, Bart Weetjens.
The stories hit the news circuits on November 7th and spread like wildfire! Otto’s article, Sniffer 'hero rats' saving lives in minefields and lab quickly found itself published in various print and online news sources around the world. On Yahoo! News videos, Will’s news story, Tanzania rats sniff out mines, was the most watched news piece and received over 200,000 views in only two days! And a collection of Yasuyoshi’s beautiful photos of our heroes are featured in an online gallery on the website of The Telegraph (UK).
HeroRAT trainer, Abdullah Mchomvu, who has been with us since 2002, told Otto "This work is not easy...you have to be patient. Sometimes I get frustrated, but then again I tell myself these are animals...[and] this work saves lives." Bart Weetjens also spoke about the difficulties in promoting our work in an anti-rodent society. "Rats absolutely have an image problem. People don't like them and that is one of our biggest struggles… we are trying to change that perception. Rats are very sociable, very intelligent highly-likeable creatures."
It appears that the recent media attention has helped change a few people’s opinions about rats! In the two weeks following the publication of these stories, we were overwhelmed with support and welcomed over 100 new HeroRAT adopters from all over the globe. We are thrilled that the stories about our HeroRATs moved so many people to help our cause. APOPO would like to send a hero-sized thank you to the AFP crew, for helping us to spread the word about the great work our HeroRATs are doing to help save lives and limbs!
Latest results from the field and TB lab
Latest results from the lab and field
To date, our tuberculosis (TB) detection HeroRATs have identified more than 1,438 people with TB that were originally missed by microscopy in the hospitals! Samples from these patients were reconfirmed under microscopy by APOPO’s laboratory technicians, and the hospitals were notified of the missed positive cases.
If these 1,438 patients were left untreated with active TB for a year, they could have spread the disease to an additional 21,570 healthy people (and those 21,570 people could spread it even further). We are thrilled with the great work done by our team, in helping the hospitals we support to increase their TB detection rates by more than 40 percent!
Meanwhile, across the border in Mozambique, APOPO's Mine Action team is working hard to reduce the impact of landmines in the Gaza Province. APOPO and the HeroRAT team have helped to return 1,741,954 square meters of land to the population in Mozambique since the start of our operations!
So far in 2010, our HeroRAT team has found 596 mines, 308 unexploded ordnance, and 6,205 small arms and ammunitions. With the recent boost of 20 extra staff to the Mozambique team, we are well on track to complete clearance of the Gaza Province before our 2014 deadline.
COSTECH Award for detection rats technology
APOPO and SUA (Sokoine University of Agriculture, where we are based) have received the fantastic news that our HeroRATs have been honored with a TASTA – Tanzanian Award for Scientific and Technological Achievement.
In most of Tanzania, rats have long been considered a pest – so this is indeed an achievement! APOPO has until now received much of its recognition on a global platform; we are very excited to receive this accolade for our detection rats technology on our home soil!
The award from COSTECH (Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology) recognized our HeroRATs as a local ‘innovation’, with visible socioeconomic impact. The Tanzanian Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Hon. Professor Peter Mahmoud Msolla handed over the Award to the Vice Chancellor of SUA, Professor G.C. Monela.
General Assembly with HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium
The annual APOPO Board meeting and General Assembly took place in Belgium last month, and we were honored by the presence of APOPO’s Honorary Chairperson, Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium. HRH Princess Astrid became Honorary Chairperson of APOPO in 2009, supporting our endeavor towards a landmine-free future for vulnerable communities.
The General Assembly met to review APOPO’s results and outcomes of 2009, followed by an overview of future plans for demining activities and our three year tuberculosis research objectives. Two new members of the General Assembly were welcomed on board – Professor Herwig Leirs, Dean of Sciences at the University of Antwerp, and Professor Bob Colebunders of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.
We also welcomed a number of our major funders for the first time: the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was represented by Ambassador Luc Teirlinck and Mr Paul Ghysbrecht; the Flemish Government was represented by Mrs K. Vandepladutze of Flanders International Cooperation Agency; and the Province of Antwerp was represented by Mrs I. Verhaert, a member of the Provincial Government.
APOPO appreciates the efforts of all involved in helping our organization to further develop our capacities to reduce the impact of global problems such as landmines and tuberculosis.
Flora Family Foundation visits APOPO headquarters
In June, APOPO and the HeroRATs were excited to welcome Flora Family Foundation President, Steve Toben, and his family for their first visit to our headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania.
The Flora Family Foundation supports public benefit organizations working throughout the world in education, health, arts and culture, the environment, global security, civic engagement, and the advancement of women. In 2009, the Flora Family Foundation awarded APOPO with a general support grant over a two-year period.
The Toben family came a long way to see our heroes and their human counterparts at work, and we are grateful for their interest and dedication in supporting APOPO’s work. After an initial introduction and overview of our facilities, we got down to business…holding and petting the HeroRATs!
APOPO is honored to partner with the Flora Family Foundation in working towards bridging the gap between rich and poor, utilizing local resources and empowering communities to help solve local and global problems.
Nane Nane Agricultural Festival
During the first week of August, we joined the whole of Tanzania in celebrating Nane Nane, a huge annual agricultural festival. Nane Nane literally translates to ‘Eight Eight’ and it takes place each year on the eighth day of the eighth month. As Morogoro is Tanzania’s agricultural capital, there is always a large arena set up with a variety of exhibits including produce, livestock, sugar, and NGOs from the region who are working on farming and conservation practices.
This year, Sokoine Univeristy of Agriculture (SUA), our partner institution, invited us to set up a display in their designated area to showcase our landmine detection rats. Two of our experienced HeroRAT trainers, Mark and Shirima, set up a mock landmine field with small TNT-filled tea eggs where APOPO demonstrated the HeroRATs’ ability to sniff out the scent of landmines. Over the week, we welcomed many visitors, including families, government officials, and the South Korean Ambassador. Our heroes definitely loved all of the attention (and earned some extra banana rewards)!
Creative ways to support HeroRATs
HeroRATs love weddings!
In June, we were delighted to receive word from soon-to-be-wed Simon Stumpf and Ashely Kiehnau (pictured left) of Washington, D.C., USA, that instead of receiving wedding gifts, they would be directing their friends and family to HeroRATs! Simon and Ashely are committed to a life of service, and the couple recently moved to Nairobi, Kenya, to strengthen the Ashoka East Africa office. A huge thanks goes out to Simon and Ashely for choosing HeroRATs to be a part of their special day, and raising awareness of our cause. So, if you have a special celebration coming up, and you have enough plates, cloth napkins and cutlery sets to last you a lifetime – why not think about suggesting a worthwhile cause for your friends to support in your honor?
HeroRATs are the life of the party!
HeroRATs love to party, especially when they are the center of attention! We are very grateful to Karen Riccio, Allan Debelak, Margie Frazier, and Dave Lippert, from Colombus, Ohio, USA, who threw a HeroRAT beer-tasting fundraising party. In addition to gathering together with friends to enjoy good beer and food, their guests each contributed to a collective donation that was generously given to APOPO. We are extremely appreciative of their efforts in fundraising to support our heroes in their life-saving work.
Parry Gripp gives a cheer for us!
There is a new song circling the globe, and it is about HeroRATs! Singer-songwriter Parry Gripp chose our rats as the inspiration and subject matter for his highly addictive song, “Hero Rats”. His song has already attracted over 63,000 views on YouTube! Be sure to listen to the catchy tune, if you haven't already done so. You can also download the song as an MP3 at Parry Gripp's website. Happy listening!
As always, thank you for your ongoing support of APOPO and the HeroRATs!
The HeroRATs team
HeroRATs making headlines: CNN World & Inside Africa
On 8 September, our HeroRATs were on display on computer screens around the world, when Eliott C. McLaughlin’s article ‘Giant rats put noses to work on Africa’s landmine epidemic’ was published online and became the lead story on the CNN homepage shortly after.
In researching our story, Eliott took the time to speak with HeroRAT Training Supervisor Niko Mushi (pictured left), Founder Bart Weetjens, and Havard Bach, Head of Operations for Mine Action & Human Security. The result was
an engaging story that highlighted what our HeroRATs can do, and the experiences of humans working alongside them.
"I was amazed that rats could do such a thing," Niko said, explaining his initial doubts about the rats’ abilities to pinpoint the exact location of landmines. Bart provided his personal account of the early stages in getting APOPO off
the ground, while Havard contributed to the factual content of the article with his many years of experience and knowledge of the landmine problem.
The article made it to the Top 5 most popular stories for the day on CNN, and has attracted over 10,400 recommendations on Facebook. There was also a steady stream of comments, blogs and tweets to follow, from people who read our story and felt compelled to share it further. The response was so wonderful that Inside Africa decided to include a news report on HeroRATs in their weekly program.
On behalf of the HeroRATs, thank you to everyone who put time and effort into telling, reading, or sharing our story. We are so grateful for your belief in our life-saving work.
WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China
As part of the “Summer Davos” series in Asia, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions took place in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, from 13-15 September. The theme of the meeting was ‘Driving Growth through Sustainability’ and many of Schwab Foundation’s social entrepreneurs, including APOPO’s Founder, Bart Weetjens, took part in the sessions. Bart was honored with an invitation to participate in a special task force on social investment, in an effort to have more social entrepreneurs playing key roles within the WEF community.
The sessions also involved many of the Young Global Leaders network, and members of the Global Young Academy, a dynamic network of young researchers and scientists that APOPO’s Analytical Chemist, Dr Negussie Beyene, is part of. These communities will play important roles in future collaborative action on a number of topics raised during the meetings.
Webcasts from the event can be viewed here, or for more details on the positive outcomes of these sessions, check out the WEF blog from Schwab Foundation’s Head and Senior Director, Mirjam Schöning, 'Accomplishing Great Things Together'.
Lightning-quick HeroRATs are the talk of the town
Muhimbili Medical Research Centre held an Open Day recently to mark the 30th anniversary of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), one of APOPO’s research partners. Our tuberculosis (TB) detecting HeroRATs were delighted to be among those invited, and gave a demonstration of their sniffing skills for a captive audience.
Maureen Jubitana, APOPO’s TB detection training supervisor, was there to answer many of the questions asked about APOPO’s work, along with two of our HeroRAT trainers Said and Rajabu who showed exactly what their young charges are capable of! Georgies Mgode, a researcher who is working with APOPO to find the specific compound in tuberculosis that our rats are identifying, was also there to explain the progress of APOPO’s experiments and research findings to date.
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Director of Preventive Services, Dr Donan Mmbando, was impressed with the research and work being done to curb the spread of TB in Tanzania.
New experiments are being commenced at APOPO’s TB detection center, which will directly compare the rats to more traditional screening methods. The result of this will be a detailed comparison of the costs involved, the efficiency and effectiveness of the rats as a diagnostic tool. This next important stage of our research will provide useful information in planning a pilot implementation program for communities affected by TB.
Leaving the world a better place
This month, we welcomed Patrice Macar and Dirk Vercoutter of Testament.be to our headquarters in Tanzania, to see firsthand the impact of APOPO’s work, as an organization they support. Testament.be is a campaign that was launched in Belgium by 70 social organizations aiming to provide people with more information about the possibility of including worthwhile non-profit causes in their wills. As emphasized on the Testament.be website, ‘even if you are not there, your influence continues. More than you imagine.’
The team at Testament.be aims to offer personal advice and equip people with the knowledge needed to make informed, important, and often very difficult decisions, about how they choose to leave this world. For more information about the service they provide, and a full list of the many worthwhile causes they support, please visit the Testament.be website.
APOPO would like to sincerely thank Patrice and Dirk for taking the time to visit our project in Morogoro during their recent stay in Tanzania, and gain a greater understanding of our HeroRATs’ work and the communities it benefits.
Supporter spotlight: Stephen Eddy & the Exmoor Zoo crew
It’s not often that we hear from African giant pouched rats in other parts of the world, but HeroRAT supporter Stephen Eddy and the crew at the Exmoor Zoo are educating the UK public about our sniffing successes. They recently held their own ‘Rat Week’ and also attended the London Championship show, where they had a stall sharing information about APOPO and the HeroRATs. Stephen and the team took along the zoo’s Gambian pouched rats to show people the species we train here in Tanzania to become landmine or TB detection heroes.
Throughout the day, Stephen spoke to many people who were familiar with APOPO’s work or had adopted one of our HeroRATs, but also a number of newcomers who were curious to find out more about what we do. He thought the rats might be exhausted from all the excitement of the day, but he said: ‘true to form, when we got back at 10pm the rats were not tired. The little sods were bright eyed, awake and full of beans wanting their hours of exercise.’ We
think that perhaps, after all this talk of HeroRATs, they were just keen to sniff out some TNT like their hero relatives in Africa...
The HeroRAT team is grateful for Stephen and his team’s dedication and support of our cause, educating their communities about our HeroRATs’ potential!
Finally, our team of heroes (rats and humans alike) in APOPO's Mozambique Mine Action Programme is making great progress towards our goal of a mine-impact free Gaza Province. So far this year, they have already cleared 564,910 square meters of land!
Thanks so much for your continued belief in our HeroRATs' work, and enjoy the month ahead!
The HeroRATs team
Greetings from Tanzania, and welcome to this double edition of the HeroRAT e-newsletter for June-July!
As always, it has been a very eventful couple of months – here’s the rundown of some of our HeroRAT happenings…
HeroRATs over neckties for Father’s Day!
‘It’s a rare dad who would choose a store-bought card over a homemade card; or for that matter, a necktie over a gigantic, bomb-sniffing rat.’ We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Following Nicholas Kristof's thoughtful New York Times column for Father’s Day, ‘Dad Will Really Like This,’ APOPO's HeroRATs received an overwhelming wave of support for our work:
- More than 4,000 individuals contributed to the cause - More than $170,000 USD raised - 180 new HeroRAT adopters have been welcomed into our Adopt-a-Rat program
Nicholas highlighted many worthy charitable organizations in his article, and his message was simple and genuine. ‘Wouldn’t most dads feel more honored by a donation to any of these organizations than by a donation to commercialism?’ We are so grateful to Nicholas and the New York Times for the opportunity to share our HeroRATs’ work with their followers.
GlobalGiving has been amazing in supporting our small team to cope with the influx of donations: huge thanks to the entire crew at GG for all your help!
A significant portion of the funds raised will be used to get things off the ground in Angola, the next country our heroes will target in their humanitarian demining work. Angola is the most mine-affected country in sub-Saharan Africa. The landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) littering the country are a result of four decades of almost continuous warfare. For more information about the landmine situation in Angola, check out the ICBL Landmine Monitor at: http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/angola.
There is a mismatch between the landmine problem itself and the resources currently used to resolve the problem. If Angola is to resolve its considerable landmine problem, there is a need to strengthen the current capacity. DanChurchAid (DCA) is currently operating a Humanitarian Mine Action Programme in one of the areas worst affected by mines, Moxico province. APOPO is looking at partnering with DCA to assist in the further expansion of their programme, by incorporating HeroRATs in the survey and clearance work to increase efficiency.
Two manual deminers with metal detectors typically clear 50 to 100 square meters of land each day, dependent on ground conditions. Two people using APOPO’s mine detection rats typically clear 300 to 600 square meters of land each day, and will be able to release between 600 and 1,000 square meters of land each day if the rats can be used in technical survey (one rat covering the ground once instead of twice, which is required during clearance).
There are currently no animals used for landmine detection in Angola and APOPO's HeroRATs have the potential to compliment other efforts by DCA and increase land release rates considerably while keeping costs down. The HeroRATs will work in partnership with their other demining colleagues to do their part to clear and release suspected areas in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
To those of you who read Nicholas’s column and chose to take action – by making a handmade card for your dad, or by supporting any of the organizations mentioned in the article – thank you. It is a real privilege to be a part of this global gesture of ‘giving’ to causes that aim to improve the lives of others, and make the world safer for everyone.
Funding successes and flying HeroRATs
APOPO and the HeroRATs were grateful to receive a significant increase in the annual funding provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Our operational team in Mozambique is on schedule to meet the 2014 goal for Mozambique to be mine-impact free, and some new recruits have just arrived on the scene to provide additional support.
Eight recent HeroRAT graduates from the training center in Tanzania boarded the plane to Mozambique for their official accreditation test and first humanitarian demining assignment! Once they pass their accreditation test with the National Demining Institute, they will be official Mine Detection Rats (MDRs) and can start helping their teammates in clearing more land, faster!
The team at our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Center also received the exciting news that the funding for our three-year research plan for TB detection by rats has been approved! A new building is almost finished at the TB Detection Center, which will create more space for our HeroRAT kennels and training rooms to conduct further experiments into our rats’ disease detection abilities. New young rats are being trained for the task, and the aim for the next three years is to optimize our rat detection technology in this area and work on implementation models.
HeroRATs welcomes new corporate sponsor, A12 Business Club
The A12 Business Club of Antwerp, Belgium, recently joined APOPO as a corporate sponsor, generously offering to support the entire training journey of one of our HeroRATs! Freddy Michiels and Johan Dillen of A12 Business Club, joined with APOPO Chairman of the Board, Professor Mic Billet, and communications volunteer, Hedwig De Pauw, in celebrating the naming of their new sponsored HeroRAT: De Nacht van de KMO.
The newly named pup has just begun the socialization process and will soon commence HeroRAT ‘school’ with her trainer, Kombani. It’s the exciting beginning of a nine-month journey to become a fully accredited life-saving detection HeroRAT! This support from A12 Business Club means that every aspect of De Nacht van de KMO’s training is fully covered: food, veterinary check-ups, trainer’s salary, overhead on training rooms, etc. Coverage of these costs allows us to devote more of our funds to our programs in humanitarian demining and tuberculosis detection.
Thank you A12 Business Club: together, we can save more lives and limbs! If your organization would like to learn more about supporting a HeroRAT through its training, please visit the Corporate Adoption page of our website: www.herorat.org/get-involved/corporate-adoption-herorat.
Bart Weetjens and the HeroRATs at TEDx events
APOPO Founder Bart Weetjens recently presented our HeroRATs to audiences at independent TEDx events in Hamburg and Rotterdam. Check out the clip of Bart explaining the life-saving work of his much-loved HeroRATs at TEDx Rotterdam: http://www.tedxrdam.nl/2010/05/bart-weetjens.
Call-out to Rotarians across the world
Are you a member of a Future Visions Rotary Club in your area, or know someone who is? The Rotary Club of Morogoro Central (District 9200) in Tanzania, together with the HeroRATs team, is keen to connect with Future Visions Rotary Clubs in other districts who are interested in sharing support of our HeroRATs’ life-saving work. To find out more, please reach out to us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading! Don't forget to sign up to receive our monthly e-newsletter at www.herorat.org.
The HeroRATs team www.herorat.org email@example.com http://twitter.com/HeroRATS http://www.facebook.com/heroRAT
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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 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
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 www.herorat.org. 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org www.herorat.org
Dear friends and supporters,
Greetings from Tanzania, where the rainy season is almost upon us! Hopefully this update finds you well in your part of the world. This week, check out the HeroRATs in action on BBC World News series Alvin’s Guide to Good Business, airing March 6 and 7.
APOPO reached an exciting milestone in February: the ten year anniversary of our operations commencing in Tanzania! Special guests, staff and family shared a wonderful evening of celebrations, reflecting on how far we’ve come since those early days.
In other news, it has been a busy month here at APOPO headquarters, with the introduction of some new expertise and equipment! We welcomed onboard Dimitri Geelhand from Belgium, who will spend four months with APOPO, researching our breeding program and looking at ways to maximise its potential. APOPO’s Remote Explosive Scent Tracing (REST) program and resident analytical chemist Negussie Beyene welcomed new scientific equipment, which will aide in their work to analyze explosive vapors.
This edition of the newsletter features a profile of one of our HeroRAT trainers, Miraji, who has worked with APOPO for a number of years.
We also pay tribute to Harold Mangesho, a dear friend and employee of APOPO who sadly passed away recently. Our two newest HeroRAT pups have been named in his honor, and will continue Harold’s great work.
Thank you for your ongoing support of APOPO’s work!
With warm wishes,
The APOPO team
HeroRATs take the stage: BBC segment March 6 & 7
APOPO is featured in the fourth segment of BBC World News series, Alvin’s Guide to Good Business. Business veteran Alvin Hall visits APOPO’s Center of Excellence in Tanzania, and our operational base in Mozambique, and shares his advice with APOPO Founder Bart Weetjens and CEO Christophe Cox.
Don’t forget to put the dates in your calendar! The APOPO segment airs on:
· March 6, 2010 at 2:30 and 8:30 (GMT)
· March 7, 2010 at 14:30 and 21:30 (GMT)
The program will be available online and free to stream at those times at www.rockhopper.tv. Please join us there and tell your friends! You can view the trailer here.
APOPO Celebrates Ten Years in Tanzania!
APOPO recently passed an exciting milestone: the ten year anniversary of operations in Tanzania! Celebrations were held at the nearby Magadu Officers’ Club on Friday 19 February, with approximately 120 in attendance. Special guests included TPDF-APOPO Coordinator, GeneralDr. Charles Muzanila, and his wife, Professor Yacinta Muzanila, and APOPO’s Chairman of the Board, Professor Mic Billet.
The evening began with a presentation from APOPO’s CEO, Christophe Cox, who reflected on our first ten years in Tanzania and how far we’ve come. This was followed by speeches from our special guests, and the announcements of our annual staff awards. The deserving winners were:
Best Worker: Mark Best Caretaker: Mama Lucy Best Trainers: Senga and Heri Best TB Worker: Harruni Best Field Worker: Juma Ten Year Service Awards: Koba, Asnathi, Alex, Shirima, Abu, Jared, and Alfani
Entertainment throughout the night included a performance from a traditional dance group, acrobatic displays, and reggae renditions from one of our trainers, Niko, backed up by APOPO caretaker Albert. Then in true Tanzanian style, the team danced non-stop until the early hours of the morning!
It was a great opportunity to celebrate together the achievements of APOPO’s staff and HeroRATs over the past ten years…while looking ahead to all the possibilities of rat detection technology in the future. APOPO sends out a massive thanks to everyone who has supported us in reaching this important milestone!
REST program receives new mass spectrometer
APOPO’s Remote Explosive Scent Tracing (REST) program and resident analytical chemist Negussie Beyene are excited to receive new instruments (headspace sampler and mass spectrometric detector) to aide in their work to analyze explosive vapors. Previously, it used to take them a full working day to extract explosive compounds from contaminated soils to be ready for analysis by the gas chromatograph. Now, the headspace sampler can take vapor samples directly from the soil (without any solvent extraction, purification and concentration steps) within few minutes and transfer it directly to the gas chromatograph. This is now coupled with a much better detector that gives the profile of most volatile compounds present in the soil samples.
The new set up avoids all the painstaking extraction steps for Negussie and Alex Iyungu, our REST lab technician. Our partner in the REST project, the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), covered the expense for these machines. It is highly anticipated that acquisition of these modern instruments will greatly enhance the contribution of APOPO’s analytical chemistry laboratory towards making REST operational.
Belgian breeding expert In February, APOPO welcomed the arrival of a new volunteer researcher, Dimitri Geelhand from Belgium. Dimitri has completed a Masters in Evolutionary and Behavioral Biology at the University of Antwerp. His thesis involved a study of the small mammals inhabiting Saadani National Park, in the coastal region of Tanzania. Dimitri became familiar with APOPO’s work during time spent at the Pest Management Centre of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in 2008. He has also spent time working as a research assistant for a project on sea turtles in Costa Rica. Dimitri’s initial interest in APOPO’s rats led to him offering his valuable time and skills in a research capacity, and we are very excited to have him on board. He will be in Morogoro until June, observing our HeroRATs in their breeding enclosures and gathering information about our breeding program. Dimitri will also conduct some research experiments; looking into possible areas of improvement and suggesting ways we can get the most out of our breeding program. Welcome to the team, Dimitri, and we look forward to your input! Meet Miraji
Miraji started with APOPO in 2005 as a trainer, but received his first contract with us in 2002 as a casual laborerworker. He helped to build the training field we still use today and laid out the boxes in which our rats train. Prior to starting with us, Miraji was a carpenter who built roofs, houses, furniture, and fences. He currently trains a number of rats with his training partner, Linda, including: Munah, Sasha, Raula, Cooper, Stanley, Harvey, Survivor I, Sniffles, Mtarami, Letti, and Barker.
Miraji was born in the Mgeta region, but has spent most of his life in a nearby village called Magadu. He has a wife, Zaituni, and three children: Saidi, Hassani, and Zuhura. Miraji raises chickens and learns a lot about raising animals here at APOPO, including the feeding and treatment necessary to bring up strong rats. He uses this knowledge to raise good chickens near his home and earns a bit of income from the venture as well.
On the weekend, Miraji stays home and teaches his children. He works with them after school as well, helping with their homework and trying to encourage them to learn in different ways. In the future, Miraji would love to help kids learn more by becoming a teacher. He also helps his neighbors and friends with repairs on their chairs and tables, and enjoys a good motorbike ride as well.
Miraji hopes that more people here in Tanzania will find out about APOPO’s work. He is glad that the local news agencies are starting to cover our story more.
In Memory and Honor of Harold Mangesho
At the beginning of this year, we lost a dear friend to the APOPO family, Mr. Harold Mangesho. He was a born leader and someone you could never forget.
A very kind-hearted man, Harold came from the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, from a long line of farmers and mechanics. He kept many animals and on the weekends enjoyed lively dancing, working on cars, walking, and watching football. A loving husband and father, Harold put those around him at ease and made things happen.
He worked at APOPO for three years, acting as the “point man” for logistics, driving, mechanics, and our TB detection center. CEO Christophe Cox noted, “we will miss his ever-positive attitude and generous contributions to our work.”
On January 29, there was a memorial service held in Harold’s hometown of Moshi, Tanzania, where he was laid to rest. Harold is survived by his wife, Rose, and his twin three children: Doreen, Judith and Robert, who helped to nurse him in his final days. He will be greatly missed by family, friends and all of us at APOPO.
In his memory we have named our two newest HeroRAT pups, Harold and Mangesho. They will continue Harold’s great work and remind us every day of his unshakable spirit and dedication.
APOPO’s work to clear dangerous landmine affected areas in Mozambique and provide a second-line screening tool for TB in vulnerable populations in Tanzania is the subject of the latest documentary in Alvin Hall’s series about social entrepreneurs. The new series, Alvin’s Guide to Good Business, looks at how social enterprise organizations, like APOPO, are helping to create sustainable development in Africa and beyond. See the video on our site at http://www.herorat.org/bbc or it can easily be embedded on your own web site, in tweets, blogs, social action sites and much, much more. To embed the video in your own site please visist: http://www.rockhopper.tv/programmes/366 and click the embed button. The film, made by Rockhopper TV in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, will be broadcast on BBC World News at 2.30 and 8.30 GMT on Saturday 6 March, and at 14.30 and 21.30 on Sunday 7 March. You can check your local listings on the BBC World News website http://www.bbcworldnews.com/Pages/Schedules.aspx. What you can do next: The stories of villagers like Tivane and December featured in the documentary are but a few. Through APOPO’s work clearing dangerous landmine-affected areas in Mozambique, we have seen many lives changed for the better. You can be a part of the work we do, and make a difference in the lives of the communities we serve, by donating or adopting a rat today. Visit our Donate page to find out more. Another way to give is by spreading the word about APOPO’s work to colleagues, friends and family. Here are three simple steps to get you started: 1. If you enjoyed the clip, why not share it with others – just send the following link to everyone in your email contacts list: www.herorat.org/bbc. Include an introduction about why you think the issues being tackled in the documentary are important. 2. Blog about the HeroRATs, tweet about the HeroRATs, or become our friend on Facebook. Post your feedback on the documentary, and remember to share the link to the clip with your community. You can tweet the link www.herorat.org/bbc or even post it in your Facebook status. 3. Learn more about APOPO’s work by subscribing to our newsletter, watching other clips of the HeroRATs in action, or read our latest news articles. Discuss what you’ve learned with those around you. If you’d like a more in-depth look at the work we do, please check out www.apopo.org for the scientific knowledge behind our work. Better yet, if you see synergies between our work and yours, please contact us about potential partnerships or collaboration. Many thanks and feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com if you have questions!
- Philippson Family Foundation visits APOPO Headquarters in Tanzania - Surprise your friends and family with a HeroRAT for the Holidays! - UK Supporters could help APOPO win a prize of £1000 this December! - Endeavor Explorers Scout Troop supports HeroRATs as chosen charity - Meet our Lab Technician, Solomon Mickson
Dear Friends and Supporters,
I hope this holiday season finds you warm and well. For us at APOPO, it’s a great time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this year and look forward to the future. We are pleased to announce that in the month of November ten rats completed their final tests in landmine training. This brings our numbers to 59 rats trained for landmine detection this year (through November)!
Last month, we were honored to host the Philippson family in Tanzania and are excited to have the opportunity to further work with them on developing our projects and potential. Their foundation has been instrumental in helping APOPO develop strategy and capacity and we are grateful for their guidance and support.
‘Tis the holiday season and many are looking for creative and alternative gifts to share with loved ones and friends. You can share your passion for the work of our Herorats by adopting a HeroRAT for your friends or family this season. (There is also an interesting opportunity for our UK supporters who were considering making a donation this month, see more below). Your support and enthusiasm mean a great deal to our work and each of us. We know that the economic climate has many a bit worried this holiday. If you are in a position to give gifts, please consider supporting a HeroRAT for nephews, nieces, friends and/or loved ones. If that is not a possibility please know that spreading the word about our work is also a great way to contribute and much appreciated as well.
Finally, meet one of our TB laboratory technicians, Solomon Mickson, for a chance to meet one of APOPO’s up-and-coming employees! Thank you for your constant support and being part of our growth over this exciting year. We wish you a happy holiday season and a new year of joy! Warm Wishes,
The HeroRAT team
Philippson Family Foundation visits APOPO Headquarters in Tanzania This November, APOPO was delighted to receive a visit from the Philippson family, represented by Marie and Alain, their daughter Françoise and their grand children. The Philippson Family Foundation has helped APOPO tremendously in the last two years, through a capacity building grant, which focused largely on strategic planning. The mission of the Marie and Alain Philippson Foundation is to support social entrepreneurs, strengthen their organizations and help them enhance their social impact. To achieve its goal, the Foundation has adopted a committed partner approach. The Foundation provides financial support and tailored advice to the organizations of it’s choosing to help develop leadership and the capacity to create change. The visit in Tanzania was a wonderful experience, both for the Philippson Family and for APOPO staff and management. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to meet APOPO supporters such as the Philippson Family face-to-face, and look forward to seeing them again and meeting new supporters in the future.
Surprise your friends and family with a HeroRAT for the Holidays! Looking for a great alternative gift this holiday season? Here are the top five reasons to adopt a HeroRAT for your friends and family:
1. It’s fun, a creative surprise (who would ever suspect a rat for the holidays!), and it’s educational too! 2. We will send a personalized email to your lucky gift recipient announcing the gift from you and including a certificate of adoption, letter from your chosen HeroRAT, and a picture of your hero! 3. Gift recipients can keep up-to-date on their rat’s progress and accomplishments and share them with friends (which means you’ll get to share in their joy as well). 4. Supporting our shared adoption program means you help several of our furry friends make their way in the world of TNT or TB detection. Your contributions help support the training, vet check-ups, diet and loving care our HeroRATs receive. 5. Finally, it’s only 5 euros per month (roughly $7.50) to help us eradicate the dangers posed by landmines and curb the spread of Tuberculosis!
You can get more information on giving the gift of a HeroRAT here, or feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get more information on tax-affective giving here. Just don’t wait too long as all orders for HeroRATS must be in by December 22nd to be delivered via email before December 25th.
UK Supporters could help APOPO win a prize of £1000 this December! GlobalGiving.co.uk is offering the opportunity for projects that raise £2000 or more this December via the UK Global Giving site the chance for a bonus prize and prominent marketing. The additional outreach would help us introduce APOPO to more people in the UK who are not yet familiar with our work. Plus, we will be in the running for a bonus prize of £1000! If you are a supporter in the UK and were considering making a donation to APOPO this holiday season, please think about doing so via the GlobalGiving.co.uk and your money could potentially go even farther, which would help Apopo achieve that much more. GlobalGiving.co.uk, is an internationally recognized marketplace for philanthropy that connects individual donors to the causes they care about. Your contribution to this special campaign has the opportunity to make an even bigger impact on saving lives and limbs in Tanzania, Mozambique and beyond!
Endeavor Explorers Scout Troop supports HeroRATs as chosen charity The HeroRAT program is excited to announce our newest partnership with Endeavor Explorers Scout Troop from Sutton Coldfield, UK! The Endeavor Explorers, a troop of about 50 scouts, have elected the HeroRATs as their chosen charity and have undertaken some major awareness and fundraising projects on behalf of the rats! These creative kids, together with their leaders John and Jo Garvey and Tim Taylor, have so far raised over £540 for the HeroRAT cause with concerts, bag packing and coffee mornings. Here, Sam, Jack, Lydia, Sarah, and Will pose for a picture after selling coffee for our cause. The HeroRAT team is honored to be their chosen charity and grateful for all of our supporters contributions and dedication!
Meet our Lab Technician, Solomon Mickson Solomon Mickson is a laboratory technician who joined APOPO just over a year ago. He is passionate about improving healthcare for all Tanzanians and excited to work for an organization that addresses a major disease. Originally from Mbeya, his father was a tailor and his mother worked at home on the large family farm, along with his five brothers and one sister. In 1999, Solomon attended college at the Institute of Technology in Dar es Salaam and, after working as a laboratory technician in a match factory for three years, came to study, with the help of his older brothers, at Sokoine University of Agriculture. Here he received his B.S. in Biotechnology and Laboratory Science, before starting work at APOPO. His goal is to help improve Tanzanians’ access to medical care and treatment, which is why he chose to work in APOPO’s tuberculosis lab. In the future, he hopes to get a Masters degree and further his knowledge base. On a more personal side, Solomon hopes to marry soon and eventually have two boys and one girl. Down the road, he would like to have a farm and raise cows, just like his family back in Mbeya.
Kara for the HeroRAT team
- Thank you for your support in Google’s Race to Save the World! - APOPO granted HIV clearance to study relationship with TB - Interview with Field Manager Mark Shukuru - Founder Bart Weetjens speaker at Lisbon Forum on Social Entrepreneurship - Twelve new HeroRATS! Reflections on our breeding program - Support APOPO’s work: Adopt a HeroRAT!
Dear Supporter, I hope this newsletter finds you happy and in good health. Thank you for voting for us and the landmine issue in the Google 10100 Race! We are grateful for your support and for sharing this incredible opportunity with your friends. The polls closed at the end of the day on October 8th, and we will let you know when we hear back from Google. Again, many thanks for your participation, support, and enthusiasm!
Last month, 20 rats passed their final tests in landmine detection and 50 patients were detected by our TB detection rats after being missed by microscopy! APOPO is proud to announce that the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research has granted us permission to access the HIV status of the patients we screen for TB. We requested this authorization to look into TB/HIV co-infection, and see if our rats can play a role in early detection of these patients, which is crucial! This will allow us to take great leaps toward detecting TB in co-infected patients, and we hope to play a role in early detection and save more lives with this knowledge. Take a look at our interview with Field Manager and Trainer Mark Shukuru and read the article on our breeding program for more information on where our HeroRATs come from! Again, we thank you for your constant and continued support!
The HeroRAT Team
Thank you for your support in Google’s 10100 Project to Save the World!
Exciting news: out of 154,000 organizations Google selected APOPO’s HeroRATs as one of only 67 finalists in their 10100 Project to save the world! Last week, supporters had the option to vote for “landmine removal” at Google’s site and vote for supporting APOPO! With your votes we hope to win this competition and dramatically increase the scope of our work and the number of lives we touch. Thank you for your dedication and for voting for our HeroRATs!
APOPO granted HIV clearance to study relationship with TB
APOPO is pleased to announce that the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research has approved our request to study the HIV/TB co-infection rates in the (anonymous) patients we currently screen for Tuberculosis. Early detection and treatment of Tuberculosis is essential, but it is especially pressing for people infected with HIV. HIV patients are more likely to develop TB than other people and in sub-Saharan Africa, and TB kills more people who are HIV-positive than any other disease! Furthermore, HIV and TB are common co-infections and patients cannot start the drugs for TB and HIV at the same time. If we can detect these patients earlier, they have the possibility of starting the course of drugs to treat the TB, before they begin their HIV treatment regimen.
Our initial research goal is to determine whether our HeroRATs are more sensitive than microscopy in detecting TB in HIV-positive patients. Subsequently, we intend to fine-tune our assessment procedures to maximize the likelihood of detecting TB early in HIV-positive patients. Early detection will maximize the probability of effectively treating TB in this highly vulnerable segment of the population and will thereby reduce the likelihood that they will succumb to the joint burden of two highly infectious diseases.
Interview with Field Manager Mark Shukuru
Mark is a long time employee of APOPO and has been working for us since 2002. He grew up near Sokoine University in a village called Magadu. Mark’s family are subsistence farmers; they have cultivated crops on the slopes of the Uluguru mountains for generations. Mark grows maize and bananas and raises chickens. He is married and has one daughter, and his mother still lives nearby. His mother tongue is Kiluguru, the main language around Morogoro, and he also learned Swahili in primary school, English and a bit of French in secondary school. Others from his village were already employed at APOPO, so when we started planning to expand the landmine training field in 2002, Mark heard about the opportunity and joined the team to help survey the field.
These days Mark does much more than tend the field. He is responsible for its maintenance including keeping it well marked, free of debris and cutting the vegetation. Each morning before dawn he comes to the office to prepare the rats for the field and once there he trains eight landmine rats along with his partner Claude. Later in the day, back at the office, he assists with the training of REST rats in the square cage set-up and maintains the database, entering training and test results.
When Mark first heard about APOPO, he thought it was impossible that people could be training rats to detect landmines! He was very surprised when he found out it was true! He’s glad that many people in Europe and America are starting to hear about the HeroRATs and he hopes this will happen more in Africa where people have less access to the internet. Perhaps more local people will be interested in visiting APOPO and learning about our work. Mark is excited about all of APOPO’s growth and hopes it will continue so that we can save even more people. Furthermore, he really enjoys working here because everyone is close. He says iIf you need help or have a problem, you always get an answer right away. He thinks he’ll be with APOPO forever.
Founder Bart Weetjens speaks at Lisbon Forum on Social Entrepreneurship Bart Weetjens, APOPO’s founder, was an honorary speaker at the Lisbon School of Business Forum on Social Entrepreneurship on September 11, 2009. He had the honor of speaking before 30 MBA Students, press and academics at the University of Lisbon in Portugal about social enterprise. Typically, the Lisbon MBA attracts students with several years of professional experience in various industries, who then re-invent their careers. This is the perfect time to be exposed to social enterprise, the rewards of a socially-oriented business and the challenges, which are in many ways similar to those of any business. Bart shared his experiences with APOPO, and encouraged the students to dare to dream, and take the risks to make their dreams a reality.
Twelve new HeroRATS! – Reflections on our breeding program APOPO has been breeding Gambian Pouched rats since 1998, when our first pups were born. Since then, our breeding program has overcome many challenges and gone through a lot of change! This month we are glad to report that twelve baby rats were born in our captive breeding program!
APOPO’s initial attempts at breeding and training Gambian Pouched rats began in Belgium in 1998. Bart and Christophe were sent 10 rats from a colleague at Sokoine Univeristy of Agriculture’s Pest Control Center. These rats were caught in the wild in Tanzania and sent to Belgium. Within a year, APOPO had its first captive-born, and hence trainable, rats. These two rats, Onzo and Louise, as well as six more born later that year, began their initial training to prove the concept that giant African pouched rats can discriminate explosive scents.
In 2000, when APOPO moved to Morogoro, Tanzania we brought with us captive, Belgium-born rats and set up an indoor breeding facility. We trapped more wild rats from nearby farms, orchards, and the river and paired these rats, one male and one female per cage. These initial attempts at breeding were somewhat successful, but we felt we could do better.
In 2006, we built outdoor breeding cages to allow the rats to live a more natural environment. These large cages with dirt floors and filled with natural materials allow the rats to play and exercise, as well as to burrow as they do in the wild. Furthermore, we began feeding our breeding rats more maize and wheat, similar to what they were taking from farms in the wild. In each breeding cage we put one established male and two female rats. Every month, HeroRAT caretakers Mama Lucy, Asnati and Albert dig out their burrows and check for pups. Then they move the mother and her litter inside and put another female back in the breeding cage in her place. Depending on the pups’ ages, they stay with their mother for further nursing or begin their training once they have opened their eyes.
Since instituting these changes in 2006, APOPO’s breeding program has seen a significant spike in the number of offspring. Our mothers are producing several healthy pups every month for our landmine and TB detection programs. Our breeding success contributes to the sustainability of our program and allows us to increase the number of HeroRATs capable of saving lives.
Support APOPO's Work: Adopt a HeroRAT! APOPO’s staff and HeroRATS are working hard to save lives and limbs from disaster and disease. Please help us eradicate the dangers posed by landmines and curb the spread of Tuberculosis by making a donation or by adopting a HeroRAT.
I need your help today to vote for the HeroRATs in Googleâ€™s Project 10100 by October 8th and help us win Googleâ€™s Race to Save the World together!
Exciting news: out of 154,000 organizations Google has selected APOPOâ€™s HeroRATs as one of only 67 finalists in their 10100 Project to save the world! We need your vote to win this competition. Please VOTE TODAY for landmine removal and HeroRAT could win millions in support!
Winning this competition would dramatically increase the scope of our work and the number of lives we touch. We have proven our ability to more cost-effectively clear landmines and detect TB than any other available technology. In Mozambique our work has returned land to 1,074 families and helped heal numerous communities scarred by war. In Tanzania, our HeroRATs have increased TB detection rates in four urban hospitals by 31%, and prevented 8,655 healthy people from contracting TB!
Your vote could make the difference! It's rare in todays world of large-scale challenges, we have the opportunity to affect real change from our computers. We actually have that chance this week. We have the technology and potential to change the world and I hope you will help by VOTING HERE today for landmine removal!
I deeply appreciate your support and enthusiasm for our HeroRATs!
With heartfelt thanks,
Bart Weetjens Founder of APOPO
P.S. We will need all the votes we can get! Please share this incredible opportunity with all your friends! Check it out at www.Project10tothe100.com/vote!
- APOPO clears land in Mozambique, giving village of 10,000 access to electricity - Professor Alan Poling joins the APOPO team - APOPO showcases HeroRAT’s ability at Nane-Nane public agricultural fairs - Meet the Board: Josse Van Steinbergen - Special thanks to APOPO TB project volunteer: Wit Davis - Welcome to new HeroRAT volunteer: Kara Schnoes - Support APOPO’s work: Adopt a HeroRAT!
Dear APOPO supporter, I hope this newsletter finds you well. Much has happened this last month including new ideas and people to contribute to our organization. We are looking forward to upcoming changes and growth! Furthermore, this month, 5 rats passed their final tests in landmine detection and 24 patients were detected by our rats after being missed by microscopy in Tuberculosis detection. In this addition of our newsletter, we have some great news from Mozambique! Our work has made it possible to bring electricity to a village of 10,000 people. The public utility company in Mozambique had given up crossing this dangerous minefield, but our HeroRATs and skilled personnel removed 32 dangerous mines to bring light to the village!
We also have some exciting new talent on board! Professor Alan Poling will be joining the APOPO team to improve many of our training and research techniques. Wit Davis, who will be returning home this month, has helped clarify many of our research needs and aided in assessing the accuracy of our Tuberculosis rats. Kara Schnoes has joined us to work in communications on the HeroRAT campaign as well as for our upcoming new websites, and in this issue, you can learn more about long-standing board member Josse Van Steinbergen.
Finally, we had some fun this last month at the annual local Nane-Nane celebration! Our HeroRATs stole the show with their demonstrations and we were able to build our relationship with the community both here in Morogoro and in Dodoma.
In the coming months we hope to announce many more new and exciting initiatives here at APOPO. Again, we thank you for your continued support!
The APOPO Team
APOPO clears land in Mozambique giving 10,000 person village access to electricity
APOPO has recently completed clearance of a small minefield at Pfukwe in the district of Mabalane. This was a high priority task, necessary for EDM, the National Electricity Company, to start work connecting the town of Mabalane into the National Grid. The presence of the minefield was causing a significant hazard to the workers and preventing the work from taking place. A survey of the minefield was conducted to establish the extent of the mined area, and in the process revealed the tragedies which had befallen local inhabitants over the years. Within the area, lay scattered skeletal remains of both humans and animals – unsuspecting victims to these deadly legacies of conflict.
APOPO cleared approximately 5000 square meters (100m x 50m) of land, and within this area found 32 anti-personnel mines, of type Gyata and PMN (see picture for example). These are both anti-personnel blast mines, with a high explosive content to weight ratio, causing either immediate death or severe traumatic amputation of a limb, which frequently becomes fatal. Work on the electricity pylons has now resumed and Mabalane should be on the National Electrical Grid within a few months. This work was made possible through the continued support of our donors for 2009; namely the Belgian Government, the Flemish Government and the UNDP.
Professor Alan Poling joins the APOPO team
APOPO is excited to announce the arrival of psychopharmacologist and behavior analyst Alan Poling of Western Michigan University. Professor Poling has published 11 books and more than 250 articles. His work has appeared in 40 different professional journals. He will be working with the APOPO team over the next year to increase our research capacity and to further streamline our training processes. We are happy to have him and look forward to his important contributions! Welcome to the team Alan!
APOPO showcases HeroRAT’s ability at Nane-Nane
Nane-Nane (eight-eight) is a national Tanzanian holiday that happens every year on August 8th. It is meant to celebrate the land and agriculture, but particularly the people who cultivate it. In every city it is a joyous public event in which farmers and craftspeople show-off their finest products in the markets and at the local fair.
This year, APOPO staff Mark, Steven and Majenda set up booths at Nane-Nane fairs both in Morogoro and in Dodoma to exhibit what our HeroRATs can do! It was a great success, attracting crowds of interested on-lookers and demonstrating a unique take on a common farm pest. These exhibitions are an important part of APOPO’s mission to create ownership and awareness within the greater community. Through efforts like these, APOPO continues to be successful at drawing local support and interest!
Meet the Board: Josse Van Steinbergen
Josse Van Steinbergen, studied law and sociology at the University of Louvain and also received his Ph. D in the field of social law. He was a professor of social legislation and policy at the University of Antwerp and lectured at the faculty of law, social sciences, applied economics, and medicine. Josse was also involved in the organization of the law faculty of the University of Rwanda and since 1994 has organized several projects of social policy in South Africa and Mozambique in partnership with colleagues from other universities.
Since 1989, Josse has been the president of Levanto, a social enterprise which attempts to provide employment to long-term unemployed people in the Antwerp region. He is involved in many other social organizations in the field of care, employment, culture and social inclusion and currently, serves as the President of an advisory board on local social policy for the city of Antwerp.
Mic Billet, the chair of the APOPO Board, asked Josse to become a member of the Board the moment APOPO was founded. Josse’s experience as the rector of Antwerp University connected him to a large academic, social and political network in Belgium and his experience with other non-governmental organizations, universities, and relationships with a number of African countries made and continues to make him a great asset to the Board.
“From the very beginning I was enthusiastic about the idea to save lives and physical integrity with the help of biologic sensors and today I am even more convinced of the needs and possibilities of APOPO. From our beginnings as a small initiative of some students and professors, we are now in the process of becoming an international and professional humanitarian social profit organization. It is a real honor to participate in our development and to seek other applications of our technology,” said Josse.
Special thanks to volunteer Wit Davis
Witkind (Wit) Davis has been volunteering for APOPO for the last 3 months as part of her Masters of Public Health coursework in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, USA. Prior to APOPO Wit worked for the International Fund for Animal Welfare responding to international disasters and overseeing scientific documentation and policy development. Wit holds a Masters of Science from the Tufts University of School of Veterinary Medicine and a Bachelors of Science from Bates College and maintains a long-standing commitment to identifying ways where animals and people can improve each other’s health and welfare.
We are grateful for her help over the past several months. Wit has been instrumental in the development of the TB research plan, helping to identify long term research objectives. Furthermore, she made significant progress in analyzing much of the rat’s performance and accuracy as individuals and as groups to optimize APOPO’s success. She has helped us revise our database making it more user-friendly and contributed to our goal of being published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal! Thanks for all your excellent work, Wit! We will wish you all the best in your continued studies and you are welcome back any time!
Welcome to new HeroRAT volunteer Kara Schnoes
Kara Schnoes is delighted to have joined the APOPO team to contribute to the HeroRAT program and improve fundraising and communications for APOPO. She is grateful to be a part of such an exciting and growing organization! Kara graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a degree in Sociology and Environmental Studies and in 2005, she studied abroad in Tanzania. She is happy to have returned to one of her favorite places and is excited to help better the HeroRAT cause!
Support APOPO's Work: Adopt a HeroRAT!
APOPO’s staff and HeroRATS are working hard to save lives and limbs from disaster and disease. Please help us eradicate the dangers posed by landmines and curb the spread of Tuberculosis by making a donation or by adopting a HeroRAT. You can make an online donation through PayPal here or visit Herorat.org to adopt one of our HeroRATS.
We are deeply grateful for your support. If you have any comments or suggestions about the newsletter and how we can improve they are most welcome. Please send to email@example.com. Thank you!
Disclaimer:The HeroRAT brand (website and associated communications) is a brand of APOPO and is designed to connect the public to the staff, stories, and heart of APOPO. More in depth information about the organization, the science behind rat detection technology, publications, etc can be found on the APOPO website.
Alexis Nadin is a student at American University and former intern at GlobalGiving. This summer, she is travelling through Africa and visiting a number of GlobalGiving projects. Alexis visited this project on June 8, 2009. She writes:
“Hi, my name’s Rosie, I’m a HeroRAT. They tell me I’m saving lives by sniffing out landmines, which is all well and good, but I’m just in it for the bananas. Ever since I was little they have been teaching me how to find landmines and how to tell the people where they are. It’s a pretty good gig; I scratch myself and I get some food. Soon I get to go to Mozambique where I’ll get to find real mines. There, because of rats like me, 200,000 square meters of land are cleared of mines per day! That returns the land to the people for personal and commercial use.”
Our visit to HeroRAT was nothing short of remarkable. Through conditioning (think Pavlov and his dogs), this project trains giant African Pouch Rats to smell for landmines, and more recently, Tuberculosis (TB)! During our visit, we were stunned to see this theory we had learned in high school psychology put to use; as rats sniffed unmarked pieces of land, scratched themselves and indicated that a landmine was buried there. Time and time again, the trainers confirmed that the rats had found a real bomb. Equally impressive were the TB detecting rats which were able to sort through 70 saliva samples (what doctors use to test for TB) in 10 minutes, a task that would take doctors three and a half days. These rats have even found 353 cases of TB that doctors originally missed. This means that those patients can receive treatment for this disease, which can be fatal if undetected.
While at first thought, rats seem like an unlikely solution to landmine and TB detection, but we came to appreciate the simple logic of this project. African Pouch Rats, which are local, and thus carry the appropriate anti-bodies for local diseases, are easy to come by, and have an impeccable sense of smell. Further, unlike dogs, which are expensive to impart and care for, rats are cheap (they cost 25% less than any other intervention) and too light to set off mines.
By the end of our visit, not only were we amazed by the ingenuity of this project (and the fact that it works!) but we were jealous of the rats, who are well loved by their trainers, receive plenty of play time, and get to snack all day long!
Alexis said she would tell her friends this project is: Incredible: You need to see this!
GlobalGiving is committed to incorporating many viewpoints on our 600+ projects. We feel that more information, especially from eyewitnesses helps donors like you continue to support organizations doing great work in the community.
We hope this update finds you all well! Our HeroRATS our continuing their important life-saving work or sniffing our landmines and Tuberculosis!
In landmine detection, the HeroRATS have been busy working as usual—training, breeding, and demining in Mozambique. Since January 2009, our HeroRATS have already cleared 87,689 square miles in Mozambique! This is 87,689 square miles that local residents can now use for farms, schools and safe places to play for the children!
In early April, APOPO’s CEO, Christophe Cox, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and APOPO. This Memorandum of Understanding mandates APOPO as the lead agency for Mine Action in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. This agreement sanctions APOPO’s work in the region, and will help APOPO to work more in the 11 member countries in the future. This agreement is very important for the demining work in Africa, and APOPO is very grateful to play a lead role in this vital work with the ICGLR.
In Tuberculosis detection, our HeroRATS have discovered 173 patients with TB since February of 2009. These are patients that were missed by lab technicians working with microscopes, but now are able to get treatment because of the rats’ indications.
We want to send a huge thank you to our friends at Global Giving! On Tuesday, April 21, 2009, Bart Weetjens spoke to an intimate audience of current supporters, neuroscientists, demining colleagues, and interested public at the HeroRATS work. Weetjens was able to connect with supporters in the area, and discuss future possibilities with current and potential partners. A huge ‘thank you’ to Cecilia Snyder and Global Giving for putting the event on for APOPO!
We are very grateful of all for your support! It really helps us to continue our work! We look forward to working with you all more and hope you enjoy the updates!
The HeroRAT Team
We hope this update finds you all well! Here at APOPO we are enjoying a year full of new beginnings and look forward to conquering new challenges and creating new solutions in Tanzania and Mozambique.
In landmine detection, the HeroRATS have been busy working as usual—training, breeding, and demining in Mozambique. 11 rats passed their final stages of training in December bringing the total to 53 fully trained mine detection rats in 2008! We were also blessed with ten new baby rats in our breeding program last month.
Throughout 2008 in Mozambique, our HeroRATS found 33 mines and 83 Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Additionally, due to continuous process refinement by the staff and our Program Director, we have had a giant leap in our clearance capacity; HeroRATS can now clear 2,000 square meters every day.
Our validation study with our HeroRATS as Tuberculosis detectors, is ongoing. Our HeroRATS, as a second screening for Tuberculosis suspected patients at 4 of the best hospital clinics in Tanzania, were able to identify 344 patients over the last year that were missed by human lab technicians. Those patients were contacted again by the hospitals and are now receiving treatment.
The detection of those 344 people affects far more than the 344 people that have TB. TB is an airborne disease that is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits near another person. Therefore it is a very contagious and rapidly spread disease, especially in densely populated areas. A person with an active, untreated case of TB can infect 15 people every single year! As more and more people go undetected, the problem grows exponentially as unknowing people infect others. However, if people with TB know that they are infected, then they can begin treatment and eventually cease to be contagious. In the next year alone, 5,160 people have been protected from developing TB because the HeroRATS have detected 344 TB positive people!
We have had a really great year thanks to our many supporters!
Your support really does make a difference. Thank you again and we look forward to hearing from you and sharing upcoming results.
The HeroRAT Team
Warm regards from APOPO! We hope this finds you well.
We have just passed our halfway point in the validation study we are doing with the TB HeroRATS and wanted to fill you in on the results. As many of you know, our HeroRATS are currently acting as a second opinion for Tuberculosis suspected patients at 4 of the best hospital clinics in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Between January 5, 2008 and July 19, 2008 the HeroRATS have screened (or sniffed) samples from 4,663 patients. They found 129 people who had active TB but were missed by microscopy.
Given that 1 person with active TB can infect 10-15 people each year, HeroRATS have enabled 129 people to be diagnosed early, receive treatment, and potentially save an additional 1,290 - 1,935 from contracting TB. Additionally, given these results it can be said that case findings in these 4 centers has been increased by 2.76%.
While these are very exciting figures, it should be reiterated that the real strength of the HeroRATS as a screening tool is their skill of rapid detection. The current bottleneck remains that microscopy is a slow process, with a lab technician only screening 20 samples a day. In comparison, 1 HeroRAT can evaluate 40 samples in 10 minutes (the equivalent of 2 days work for a lab technician).
(While APOPO is still in the validation phase (in the process of scientifically proving the HeroRATS are capable of screening Tuberculosis) these findings are encouraging. Final validation results are expected to be complete by March of 2009).
We look forward to sharing future reults of the study, and more so the impact our HeroRATS are making on the lives of people here in Tanzania. They call TB the poor man's disease becuase it most often affects people living in close quarters in slums, prisons, and refugee camps. We are grateful to be getting closer to proving the rats can make a real difference, as we will then have the opportunity to reach out to these communities on a much bigger scale.
Your support really does make a difference. Thank you again and we look forward to hearing from you and sharing upcoming results.
Warm regards, Courtney and the HeroRAT team