Making a Difference: Berry & Oak’s Sponsorship of APOPO’s HeroRAT Programme

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At Berry & Oak, we believe in giving back to our global community, and today, we’re delighted to share our adoption of Ronin, “the fastest rat in the east”, through APOPO’s HeroRAT program.

But first, let’s introduce you to APOPO and the incredible work they do.

APOPO is a non-profit organization dedicated to solving global issues through innovative and sustainable solutions. Their mission is unique: to harness the extraordinary sense of smell of rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis, saving lives and livelihoods in some of the world’s most affected regions.

The HeroRATs: Unsung Heroes

APOPO’s HeroRATs, also known as African giant pouched rats, are not your ordinary rodents. These highly trained animals are capable of detecting the scent of explosives and tuberculosis in human sputum with remarkable accuracy, and speed, making them indispensable allies in humanitarian efforts.

And no, the rats are not cannon fodder. It’s their sense of smell that is used. They have not lost a rat to explosions yet…

To put this into a perspective a rat can clear a piece of land the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, yet this would take a human with a metal detector 3 days. Now the rate of pace of clearing mines and ordnance in Cambodia and other parts of the world has massively increased, making the world that little bit safer, much quicker.

Why We Chose to Sponsor the HeroRAT “Ronin”

During a recent trip to Cambodia, Andrew and Sarah, had the privilege of visiting APOPO’s operations in action. Witnessing firsthand the impact of their work on the communities affected by landmines was an eye-opening experience. Seeing how APOPO’s HeroRATs are deployed to detect and clear landmines, as well as diagnose tuberculosis, highlighted the tangible difference their efforts make in saving lives and restoring livelihoods. It was this encounter that inspired us to get involved and support their cause.

By clearing these mines, it makes the land safer and allows farmers to return and use the valuable land to plant more crops, which in turn feeds and gives work to the local community. The knock-on effect of who is positively impacted is staggering. It really is changing lives for the better.

Just one of their many success stories:

Bundoeth, the headmaster of Khna Phtol Primary School for the past four years, oversees a bustling community of 128 children. Nestled in the heart of what was once a minefield, the school sits on the outskirts of Siem Reap’s main road, a former military camp during wartime, where hidden landmines once posed constant threats.

Despite diligently marking safe boundaries around the school, children occasionally ventured beyond, risking encounters with hidden dangers in pursuit of playthings like balls and toys. Thankfully, no accidents occurred within the school grounds, but the spectre of landmine-related tragedies loomed large, affecting many families.

In this agrarian community, the grim reality of landmine injuries in the fields casts a long shadow. Children often leave school to care for injured family members or to replace them in labour when injuries render them unable to work. Witnessing these departures weighs heavily on Bundoeth, knowing that without education, these children face a future of hardship.

However, a beacon of hope emerged with the efforts of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre and their partner APOPO, who cleared the surrounding landmines. With the threat lifted, freedom of movement, work, and play returned to the community. Yet, even with the mines gone, Bundoeth admits to lingering fears, especially when he sees children frolicking in the fields.

The innovative use of APOPO’s rats in mine clearance may sound unconventional to some, but for Bundoeth, the results speak for themselves. As rodents adeptly sniffed out hidden dangers, a newfound sense of safety enveloped the community. For Bundoeth, what matters most is the assurance that they are now safe from the perils of landmines.

How You Can Get Involved

We invite you to join us in supporting APOPO’s mission by learning more about their work and spreading awareness. Whether through donations, volunteering, or simply sharing their story, every contribution makes a difference in saving lives and building a safer, healthier world for all. You can read more about them here or make a donation to support their work using this link or scan the QR code below:

Together, We Can Make a Difference

As we celebrate our sponsorship of Ronin with APOPO, we are reminded of the power of collaboration and compassion. By coming together as a global community, we can overcome even the most daunting challenges and create a brighter future for generations to come.

Thank you for your continued support. Andrew & Sarah