Saving Lives One Rat At A Time

NGC caught up with Board Member and Founder of Youth Philanthropy Worldwide, Esther Hewlett, to discuss her recent trip to Tanzania on a journey to visit our favorite creatures: Hero Rats. 

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NGC Asks: What did you learn specifically about the HeroRats that you found most interesting during your visit?
Esther: APOPO trains rats to save lives.  I am in awe of how receptive these little creatures are to behavior training, and how eager they are to do a good job!  Every rat has a name, and each one is treated as a valuable part of the APOPO team. They all go through a rigorous nine month training course to learn how to sniff out the explosives in landmines or to detect positive tuberculosis samples.
NGC Asks: Why do you think organizations like APOPO are so important in creating change?
Esther: It’s not just *what* you do that is important, but also *how* you do it.
I love the work that APOPO does: training African giant pouched rats for humanitarian purposes, including landmine removal and tuberculosis detection.  But I also love the way the organization does its work — in a sustainable manner that is respectful of local knowledge, skills, and needs.  The problems APOPO addresses are global.  But from the rats themselves (who are indigenous to East Africa), to the highly skilled Tanzanian staff working at the headquarters in Morogoro in Tanzania, to the handlers in the mine fields in Mozambique — APOPO has local roots.
NGC:  Do you have a favorite memory of your visit with APOPO?
Esther: It was very exciting to see the APOPO Research & Development training site for the CameRats, who are being trained for search and rescue operations after natural disasters.  When the rat (with a little camera around her neck) scampers through the rubble and finds a “target” (i.e., the trainer), the trainer gives the rat a squirt of mashed banana from a syringe as a reward.  Then the rat scampers back to home base, with the photo of the victim on the camera so the rescuers will know where to look.  I got to try my hand as a trainer/target!  At first I was a little nervous at the thought of a giant rat putting her paws on my leg when she found me, but I was surprised at how gentle and friendly these animals actually are.  Of course I am born in the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac, so that might be why I ended up getting along so well with them!

What cause will you champion?

NGC’s Program Coordinator Maggie Broderick shares her evolved definition of global citizenship.

Center for Regional Development is an NGC Global Project located in Ecuador.

Center for Regional Development is an NGC Global Project located in Ecuador providing services to the disabled.

Global citizens have the ability and desire to champion causes that are universal, problems that every community faces and handles in their own way. Global citizens fight for equality and compassionate treatment of the most vulnerable populations. Global citizens are motivated to prove that change can, in fact, be created by one person.

Every person has the capacity to be a global citizen. We all have at least one cause that drives us to develop sustainable, positive solutions for our world. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all dedicated time to improving the conditions of our peers in our local and global communities?

For me, I am continuously driven to ensure access to people with disabilities. These individuals deserve equal access to a rich education and fulfilling, life-long employment. As I have traveled around the world, I have been amazed at the similar challenges facing people with disabilities.

In some countries, simple tasks such as traveling on public sidewalks are near impossible for people with physical disabilities; thus, many of those individuals end up homebound. In others, people with disabilities are not given the opportunity to receive an education with their peers or even one at all.

Disabilities are even seen as an illness that can be “caught” if others spend time with the “inflicted.”

Therefore, people with disabilities frequently are unable to socialize with others outside of their home, and as a result, a large part of our global population does not have the opportunity to form personal relationships with people with disabilities. These individuals deserve better.

I will not solely be able to alter the societal structures that thwart the advancement of people with disabilities, but I can do my part to advocate on behalf of and with this population. I can champion and volunteer at incredible organizations like Best Buddies, Special Olympics, SAARC, and Foundation for People with Disabilities (an NGC Global Project). I can also educate others on the injustices that people with disabilities still face abroad and in the United States.

I will be a global citizen as I work to provide access for all people with disabilities. What cause will drive you to be a global citizen? How will you provide solutions to our ever changing global society?