Sharing the Story of an Unlikely Hero

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Communication Leadership student Zac Murphy traveled to Cambodia in 2015 with the Belgian organization APOPO. His mission? To document an extraordinary story about rats, casting the typically villainized vermin in a more heroic light.

Thanks to the generous support of Peter Clarke and Susan Evans Graduate Research Fund, Zac’s storytelling reveals how APOPO trainers instruct rats to sniff out landmines, ultimately saving thousands of lives.

Zac’s intention was to visualize Cambodia’s infamous K-5 belt, a region contaminated with unexploded landmines; a situation that serves as both a physical and psychological barrier to the area’s inhabitants, preventing them from cultivating their lands and building community.

Zac’s narrative focused on K5’s surprising potential savior – a rat. Once responsible for spreading disease that devastated a third of the world’s population, rats are now used to “sniff out” landmines and tuberculosis.

The video Zac captured of the rat training helped APOPO forge relationships with crucial partners and garner support for their continued efforts and their Adopt a HeroRAT program.

But this is only the beginning.

Zac recently returned to Cambodia to finish the story, this time using Virtual Reality (VR) technology. He hopes this immersive technique will draw upon the empathy of an audience and deepen their connection to the content.

Zac’s exploration of how technology can be used to tell influential stories embodies the mission of the Communication Leadership program and echoes the values supported by Peter Clarke and Susan Evans Graduate Research Fund.