With a vision that began as the simple love of animals, Bart Weetjens kept rodents in his home as a child, and made money from breeding his pets. But in the 1990's, the Belgium-born Zen Monk, Weetjens, was drawn to humanitarian issues, particularly the deadly danger of landmines in Africa. According to Weetjens' research, the main problem with navigating mined areas was the high cost, dangerous, time intensive work of detection. With their susceptibility to disease, and their need for trainers, mine detection dogs wouldn't do well in Africa, so he turned to local rats. They were cheaper, already accustomed to the environment, and easy to train. Weetjens was mocked by the leading experts in the mine removal field, but he persisted nonetheless. In 1997, the Belgium government provided a grant that allowed Weetjen and his team to create HeroRat, a leading technology in African mine detection that led to the foundation of APOPO, an organization with the overall objective of to developing efficient methods for the detection of landmines and disease. In 2008, HeroRATS was responsible for the reopening of over 400,000 square meters of African land that had been suspect to landmines. In 2009, Weetjens was given the Skoll Foundation's "Social Entrepeneur Award." Bart Weetjens teaches the importance of seizing ideas, even if contrary to public opinion, that could change the world into a safe place.
"The future is not about what you HAVE; it is about what you DO, what you SAY, and what you THINK, . . . in that order of importance."
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