Why I Moved to Tanzania to Work with Rats Why I Moved to Tanzania to Work with Rats
Why I Moved to Tanzania to Work with Rats
Training rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis? How could I turn down an opportunity to help develop this innovative solution to such immense worldwide problems?
During a post-graduate degree in International Public Service at DePaul University in Chicago, I studied in Kenya and fell in love with East Africa. The colors, noises, people, sunsets, and even the odors were more vibrant and full of inspirational energy. While researching waste recovery methods in Nairobi’s informal settlements I began collaboration with a health NGO that would soon give me valuable background experience.
After finishing at DePaul in 2010, I jumped at the opportunity to work for APOPO, an innovative organization in Tanzania that trains rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. It was the perfect storm, all my interests colliding into one: humanitarian development, health research, East Africa, and animals all at one international NGO. This combined with similar core values and a unique approach to problems made this an opportunity to which I could not say no.
One month later I arrived in Tanzania and immediately knew the organization and location was the right fit. The first time I saw the rats and watched them in action I had the same awestruck reaction as most of our visitors:
1. They are huge.
2. They are adorable.
3. They are clever.
4. This is unreal.
Building on the early success of the organization, the potential was clear for APOPO and the HeroRATs to make a significant impact on the world. This was exciting for me, and everyone at the organization.
Since then, we have facilitated the growth of the organization from 150 employees with a budget of 1.5 million euro with operations in two countries to almost 300 employees with a budget of 5.7 million euro and operations in five countries. A number of factors contribute to this success, including:
- Very high-quality product of trained rats with supporting evidence
- Excellent, motivated employees and board members with a shared vision and passion
- Strategic investments in the programs and infrastructure of the organization
- Loyal partners, donors, and stakeholders
During this growth, I was able to experience every aspect of the organization through a rotational manager development curriculum. Thematic areas I was able to contribute to, while gaining valuable career experience in international development, included business development, research, finance, accounting, fundraising, program support, staff management, and human resources.
I developed very close working and social relationships with all managers, as I strongly believe this is a major factor in motivating and bringing the organization together. In addition, many of APOPO’s best ideas have come from social gatherings and brainstorming outside of work.
Working, living, and basing an international NGO in Tanzania is not without challenges. The poor infrastructure is the first thing I noticed. Power outages, unreliable internet, and poor roads make sometimes the littlest things seem like a difficult process. Many other more intricate and deep-rooted challenges exist; however, the rewards far exceed the disruptions. Improving livelihoods and building local capacity in Tanzania and throughout the world easily outweighs the minor inconveniences of daily life. And Tanzania itself is a beautiful country with many skilled, experienced and very friendly people who made us feel welcome.
The HeroRATs have changed thousands of lives and will continue to do so everyday. One of APOPO’s priorities is expanding into other countries and funding is being sought for locations where the HeroRATs will have the most impact. It is an exciting time to work for APOPO and we look forward to bringing the HeroRATs to more destinations to fight these terrible post-war leftovers and a horrible disease.
What to Do When Your Country is Drowning The effects of climate change are literally swallowing entire countries.
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.
Politics by Yummier Means An Israeli-Palestinian popup restaurant and the precarious art of gastric diplomacy Two chefs win over hearts, minds, and stomachs in Jerusalem.
Rag Time Seven seriously f’d up t-shirts that somehow made their way onto shelves Brazil’s “lookin’ to score” tee is, unfortunately, part of a recent tradition of aberrant apparel.
LeBron James Complicates Cleveland's Comeback Story Returning to Cleveland, LeBron James contends with a city’s past and conflicting views of its future