(left) People relaxing at the party with Ron Ranson’s Yule Fire video in background.
Photo from Kate Devitt.
On Saturday, December 1, Returned and Potential Peace Corps Volunteers gathered together for our annual holiday potluck. Over 70 people enjoyed food from around the world and scrumptious desserts.
Guests generously brought gifts and essential items for the Holiday Basket Program SDPCA Board Member Lisa Eckl gathered the items and also organized opportunities for SDPCA members to volunteer for the Holiday Basket program.
As a special treat, National Peace Corps Association staff member Anne Baker and NPCA Board Member Susan Neyer were in attendance.
(below) seated: Brenda Terry-Hahn, Tracy Addis, Lisa Eckl, Kate Devitt. standing: Lynn Jarrett, Gregg Pancoast, Marjory Clyne, Don Beck, Sharon Darrough, Carl Sepponen. Photo from Kate Devitt
Sign up for monthly Advocacy Newsletter from NPCA to find and support action opportunities in line with PC goals--esp the third goal of bringing it all back home--to work for positive change.
Advocacy Areas include:
To find out more about an Advocacy Area, contact email@example.com
See Conections: Advocacy section of SDPCA website for more info.
The work of a social entrepreneur–someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles such as resourcefulness and collaboration to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
Peace Corps Entrepreneurs
Sam Goldman was a Peace Corps volunteer in the village of Guinagourou, Benin, from 2001 to 2005 and co-founded a Benin organization to promote and commercialize Moringa oleifera--a miracle tree that has tremendous amounts of vitamins and minerals. He is committed to eradicating kerosene lanterns and is the chief executive officer of d.light design in Palo Alto, California. See http://www.dlightdesign.com and a podcast of his work at www.socialedge.org/blogs/let-there-d-light Taken from World View Magazine Online, Winter 2007
In my years working as a Peace Corps volunteer, a student at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and as a social entrepreneur (see more in article above), I’ve learned the importance of story telling. I have several stories to tell you.
The first story
Ours was a Bariba village, steeped in culture but little else: no running water, electricity or telephones. I spent my nights in Guinagourou cooking, reading and socializing by a kerosene lantern, just like Finagnon. My own lantern was little and blue and had been smuggled over the Nigerian border along with expired medicines, knock-off Suzuki motorcycles and recently smelted pots. The kerosene I bought was adulterated with water or diesel. It smoked badly but it was the only option for all but a handful of people in town who could afford generators. And yet the cost of kerosene was high, about 15 percent of a family’s total income. That’s like paying my social security tax all over again.
I would squeeze out the last few moments of daylight before entering my house to light my lantern and inhale fumes as I read or wrote in a small halo of light. The light was too poor for cooking, and I couldn’t read in bed for fear the light might tip over inside my mosquito net and catch fire.
I ran a club promoting reforestation and battery clean-up, trained masons and built cement cisterns to store rain water, established a program to finance affordable cement latrines and worked with a team of local masons constructing dozens of latrines. When my 27-month Peace Corps service came to an end, I partnered with David Ogoudadja, a visionary Beninese man, and created Groupe d’Action et de Recherche pour la Promotion de l’Enfance to train women, nurses, and doctors about the nutritional values of Moringa oleifera, a miracle tree that has tremendous amounts of vitamins and minerals. When I left Benin 18 months later, the organization was getting ready to build a small facility to process the leaves and sell them on a commercial basis to health centers and hospitals under David’s direction and with the assistance of a new Peace Corps volunteer. However, I was thinking about how to offer cheaper, better, safer light to 90 percent of the world.
Kerosene also produces an absurd amount of CO2. I am a semi-maniacal environmentalist and recently calculated that if you burn one kerosene lantern for five years you’re creating roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as driving a car from San Francisco to New York City. Multiply that by two billion people and three lanterns per house and we have a serious problem. There was an obvious need for solutions–and I found them in abundance, only they were everywhere except in the developing world.
Toward the end of 2004, a friend gave me a headlamp with a light-emitting diode–called LEDs–which he had bought at Target for $10. I loved my little headlamp: LEDs didn’t attract bugs or produce heat and they gave a uni-directional light. Where my kerosene lantern cast wandering shadows around my hut and scattered light up to the ceiling, the LED pointed a crystal clear light directly at what I wanted and it would not burn me. That headlamp lasted throughout my work in Benin and a six-month motorcycle trip across West Africa afterward.
I had been researching LEDs for a while, and thought of creating a street-lighting business to save cities tens of millions of dollars on electricity bills and hours on bulb replacement. LEDs will replace existing lights in the coming decades: and they already provide up to 120 lumens per watt while compact fluorescent and incandescent bulbs provide only 45 and 20 lumens per watt. In Benin, it was very economical because I could get up to tens of hours of LED light with a small battery that lasted for about three weeks when I used it every night. The LEDs last for up to 100,000 hours of usage. An LED light can cost as little as 1 cent or as much as $4. At any price, it’s a lot less than a $3 lantern that lasts a year and the requisite kerosene, which can run up to $6 a month on the black market
I vividly remember attending a local wedding ceremony when around 2 a.m. the rented generator conked out and all the fluorescent lights died. I pulled out my headlamp and lit up the entire courtyard. The musicians started drumming again, and 200 people focusing intently on the batori–that’s me, the stranger, in Bariba–as I held up my tiny device, shining like crazy. The dancing stirred up clouds of dust and the wedding continued full of energy.
Every single one of my friends wanted me to sell it to them.
The story continues
In this class I met my co-founders of d.light design: a mechanical engineer who has worked for Boeing, another who had worked for Apple, a friend from the business school who had already started two businesses and a Silicon Valley electrical engineer who was married to another Stanford classmate. We spent the first year designing prototypes for our lights and building and patenting a technology to fast-charge batteries. In Benin, few can afford solar, but they could recharge a battery in a town marketplace. They needed something that recharges in one-fifth the time of a normal battery and will hold the charge for a couple of weeks.
We wrote business plans, entered design competitions at school and began attracting venture capital. Eight months ago, we finalized our financial plan through friends, angels and venture capital firms: Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Gray Matters Capital, Acumen Fund, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Nexus India Capital. These are the people who funded skype and hotmail. We hope to have the same impact but for a different audience.
We made sure that all our technology development was off-campus so that Stanford couldn’t claim rights to it. Our designs remain confidential and are being patented. We worked on our graduate school degrees by day, met in the afternoons and built prototypes long into the night. At midnight, I would do a few hours of homework, then start making calls to Asia. On a given week, we would discuss which design features to incorporate in our first three products, how to negotiate with suppliers, how to price, sell and distribute units, how to prioritize partners, how to manage pilot tests across diverse cultures, and how to negotiate the legal issues of trademark, patents and manufacture.
We’ve been piloting the lights in Asian countries like Cambodia and India and soon we’ll test them in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. We are lining up partners in Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi. When we scale up manufacturing, we will have to start the business process all over again for equity financing, valuing our company, giving investors a percentage of the company, fundraising and pushing for quality production and high speed product design.
The stress on all of us is high and the degree of uncertainty in a social enterprise like ours is tremendous. We have assumed huge legal bills to be incorporated, and larger obligations will come with foreign contracts. As for myself, I love building our company culture, I like the fact that we have a boxing bag hanging in the middle of the office, we can wear shorts to work and determining our speed and aggressiveness as we pursue our dreams.
Daw Shwe Mi lives in an elevated bamboo house in Southeast Asia with her nine children, and her husband, a day laborer, who makes about $1 a day. Daw Shwe Mi collects her neighbors’ vegetables and when the children are asleep, she washes the vegetables by candlelight and wakes up at 5 a.m. to deliver them to the market.
When we met in late 2006, she was using candles for light at night because the diesel dealer–they don’t have kerosene–was too far away. She spends about 15 percent of her income on candles: one for her two eldest children to study, and the other for light so she can cook and clean up the house. She had to make one of her older children watched the younger ones so they didn’t knock over the candles and burn down their bamboo house. It was a real danger and a local law required that each house have a fire area with buckets of water and sand outside.
She used a fluorescent tube and battery but it died within weeks. However, when she tried our light the battery still didn’t need recharging after two weeks and she hadn’t bought a candle in that time. Zero expense.
For the first time in her life, she was not worried the candles would tip over and ignite the house and her children were able to study easily. The light we provided is brighter so she can clean the vegetables quicker and better and can, therefore, charge a higher price for her produce at the market.
Next time you are traveling in Asia and Africa, look out for d.light design-branded products on village shelves. Then I will know we have succeeded. In the meantime, if you want to start a project and empower entrepreneurs to sell or finance our lights, we are looking for partners to create big change across entire continents.
I would also like to make our lights available to every student in the world and particularly to Finagnon, who just had another operation at a hospital and is doing much better. His high school teacher says he is a model student. The future is bright.
Scaling for the Poor
by David Arnold
Innovators look at the base of the pyramid, the bottom rung of the global economy where more than 2 billion people live or die based on their ability to get by on less than $1 a day. One who has done ground-breaking work targeting the most appropriate solutions is Amy Smith, a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Senegal who runs an innovation lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When Amy spoke at the annual gathering in Monterey called the TEDS, Ideas Worth Spreading, she followed Dean Kamen, the Segway’s creator, and Nicholas Negroponte, whose $100 laptop we examine on page 16 of World View Magazine – Winter 2007.
Onstage, Amy held up a burnt corn cob from Ghana. “This is my $100 laptop,” she said, “and like Nick, I brought samples.” She got a good laugh from the audience, but she was serious. Smith is genuinely excited about the corn cob and other waste materials that communities in Ghana, Haiti and India can turn into cooking fuel to replace the charcoal and wood. Why? To slow deforestation and save the lives of two million women and children who die of acute respiratory infections.
Building up to scale is the hardest part of contributing better technology to the world’s poor. In this issue of WorldView we present some of the latest technology for helping the world’s poor. But it won’t work if the poor can’t get it. Negroponte thought he could take orders from the presidents of a few countries and Quanta of Taiwan would start producing laptops for the children of the world. It sounded like a variation of the Clinton Global Initiative’s buying clubs in which Bill Clinton and Ira Magaziner went to third-world capitals, asked how many HIV/AIDS patients there were, and found some non-U.S. pharmaceuticals that lowered their price based on the great demand.
But it didn’t work for Negroponte, so his non-profit asks you and I to buy one laptop for the price of two and the cost of the second will somehow advance sales for children in Zambia, India and Nepal. Others use this buy-two-give-one scheme for the developing world market: The Freeplay Foundation with a hand-crank radio called Lifeline that was designed for orphans in Africa and Mark Bent, a former foreign service officer and Texas oil executive who now markets his BoGo, an orange solar-powered flashlight for the developing world. But Bent has also parlayed his career connections into bulk distribution of his flashlights. One example is Luanda, Angola where the U.S. ambassador suggested Bent partner with Exxon-Mobil and AfriCare. The oil company paid $75,000, and AfriCare delivered 7,500 solar-powered flashlights to refugees. However, that’s not a marketing model most inventors can follow.
The Peace Corps experiences of Sam Goldman in Benin (see p.6 in this newsletter) and Matt Orocz in Lesotho placed them on the same path Amy Smith has been traveling for more than 17 years. Goldman studied design and business at Stanford, created a solar-powered LED task light and founded a company he hopes will put the world’s kerosene lanterns out of business. Orocz went to Smith’s MIT lab, won a World Bank prize and is testing a device to make hot water and electricity for towns and schools not on anybody’s power grid. Read their accounts on pages 13 and 26 of World View Magazine – Winter 2007. Both will need to scale up.
The method Amy Smith recommended to her Monterey audience was micro-credit, bringing very small-scale capitalism to the bottom of the pyramid. In Bangladesh, where micro-credit was born, Iqbal Quadir built that nation’s largest telephone company using cell phones and the micro-credit concept. He now turns to a century-old engineering principle called the Stirling slingshot to turn sewage into electricity and heat using cow dung as fuel. You can bet if the design works, the delivery system will be micro-credit.
U.S. public interest is growing. The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York exhibited some of this technology in “Design for the other 90 Percent” and for six years Silicon Valley’s Tech Museum of Innovation has given prizes to technologies that benefit humanity. Dick King, who served in Peace Corps in El Salvador in the 1960s, runs the museum’s laureate program. King recalls a rule that comes right from the Peace Corps manual: “You have to empower local people to own and be responsible for the technologies. They can’t be viewed as something only outsiders can do.”
(Here is a piece from Victor Bloomberg’s blog: http://www.xanga.com/vicparaguay)
Dear Friends, Happy Winter Solstice and blessed holidays of everyone. I have posted my latest and probably last entry in http://www.xanga.com/vicparaguay. The movie will be in a living room near you after I come home in April. Love to All, Vic -- 12/24/07
Saturday was hot, but not oppressively. There was not a cloud or a breeze, the broad-leafed trees were in full bloom and provided shade. I sat sipping the cold-steep tea that is a cultural icon and waited for Ceveriano and Mar ía to return home. The 20-minute trip had taken 1½ hours to get there; the Christmas holiday reduced the number of buses. It was another hour before they returned.
Too urgent to ignore are the string of broken promises to build homes for the people that live in the garbage dump. And the prospect of a premature end to funds to create sustainable jobs looms, the administrative entity has a history of funding initial start-up and putting the rest in their pockets. Everyone in positions of power are functionaries and officials in the political party that has ruled for 70 years.
After a resident burned to death in his plastic and cardboard tent, we organized a series of meetings with public officials. Each meeting was videotaped and the edit included the ongoing documentation of life in the garbage dump. The turnaround was one or two days, each time the product was shared with the residents and the next agency staff. The final outcome was a firm commitment by an international authority to fund the housing, pending approval by City Hall. The official word is that it is on the agenda, but a date for consideration has not been made public.
There is a legend and iconic figure, “The Virgin of Caacupe”. A resident told me she has kept her statue in every home she has ever had, so I asked María and Ceveriano if this might be a symbol that could bring pressure on City Hall. My reference was César Chavez and the constant presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the early organizing of the United Farmworkers Union. María responded that not everyone adores the Virgin of Caacupe and that the Spaniards that fund the project (and exercise ultimate authority) are set against religious references. Ceveriano observed that the average Paraguayan that has the icon hopes their prayer for a specific thing is granted; and any pressure on City Hall will be answered with a punitive counter-punch.
Why did we organize intense pressure previously? Ceveriano replied:
Health and human services in the U.S., including the agency that brought me to Paraguay, counts things to justify budgets. The procedures commonly employed ignore all statistical principles for reliability and validity; nonetheless the myth of rational management is ubiquitous.
How do you count a change of consciousness among people that the society discards as garbage?
When it isn’t counted, what is its value?
So, I assumed that for sure my fridge would be filled with all sorts of goat meat and chicken meat for the next week or so, but it turns out I was wrong. Apparently it is believed that if an animal is killed by lightning they become poisonous and you cannot eat them! Who knew? So, my family burned all those goats and chickens! Quite a loss! Anyway, aside from that, the week has been fairly average. I am heading down to Windhoek tomorrow because the new volunteers are here! Crazy!
On Tuesday I will be presenting information to the newbees about the Volunteer Support Network at one of their training sessions. That day also is the official one-year mark! I have been in Namibia a year already! Time sure flies by! So, anyway, I’m really excited to meet all the newbees. It’s going to be really exciting to have all these new people in country that are potential life-long friends! Also, now this is also crazy, one of the new volunteers is from Scripps Ranch...Her name is Heather Reese, neighbors to Adam Carlin!!
On a very sad note, (and I always seem to change modes/moods without warning. I need to work on my transitions; maybe by now you are prepared for something sad) a fellow community member has passed away. Tate Simone Kushomwa was the father of one of my grade 7 learners and also the chair person for our school board. He passed away last Tuesday. It was a very sudden death. He was not ill…he was simply at the cuca shops enjoying an afternoon with friends. He felt tired and got up to leave and then collapsed. He never woke up again. I just couldn’t believe this news. He was only in his early 50’s! He used to always come to my classroom and greet me and compliment me on how nice my room was; he was always smiling and really helped to make those long community meetings much more bearable. I really don’t know who could replace him as a member of the school board. It’s just awful. I went with many of my colleagues to pay our respects to the widow at her homestead. Traditionally you are supposed to pay a visit before the actual funeral. I was not prepared for the emotional scene I had stepped into. We arrived and came inside, and there were already close to 20 people there. We greeted everyone and sat down. We then sang some hymns in Oshiwambo to the widow and some of the teachers said some prayers. We then had to all shuffle out of the house while singing because the first born child had just arrived home. We all had to be out of the house so that the first born can enter first with her mother. Well, this was the first time the mother and daughter had seen each other since the death. They both started hysterically weeping and then it seemed as though everyone followed. We headed back into the house and sat back down. Everyone was fed some goat meat; we sang some more songs and then left. It was a very emotional event…I will truly miss Tate Kushomwa, he was a great leader and spirit in our community.
Okay, love you all. I hope everything is going absolutely wonderful in your lives. In light of recent events, I am reminded that we really must live as though we might die tomorrow. We are blessed with a short time on Earth so let us make the most of it…for ourselves and those around us….strangers and all! Enjoy Thanksgiving if I don’t write before then…My Thanksgiving: I am thankful for having the people in my life that I have and for having the ability to understand how lucky I am to have those people. I am thankful for the support that I receive from the people in my life, the positive feedback, and for finally connecting with the higher spiritual power in the universe that has given me so much strength over the past year. I am thankful that I have made it one year, and that I want to make it through the next here in Namibia. I am thankful for my amazingly open and caring Owambo family and friends and for waking up each day feeling excited about what is in store. I am thankful that my family is healthy and happy. I am thankful that people here in Africa are recognizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic and many people are standing up together to help slow the rate of infection. I am thankful that there are support systems in place, at least in this country, for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and that each year more people are utilizing these support systems/organizations. I am so thankful that I was blessed with such amazing young children to teach and grow with while in Namibia. Okay, I could go on and on. What can I say? We all have a lot to be thankful for.
Much love, Ali
(above) "The school had a field trip to Tsavo national park back in September. The driver knew of a place we could get close to the elephants safely.-- I was lucky to get this photo." Photo August Konrad
It’s been quite a few months since I last sent out any message from these Taita Hills. This last spell, 6 weeks, was rather busy with the national exams for the fourth year students and the end of the year exams for the remainder of the school. Writing exams, testing, and grading papers has been most of the work.
We finished Tuesday of this last week in November and tomorrow I’ll begin my travel to Nairobi for the mid service medical exams. Peace Corps will make sure I’m still in good health then back to Mwanda. I have enough to do in the community and on my new dwelling.
About two months ago I was informed that there were some complications between the landlord and the school over my rent. The end result was my relocation to another set of rooms. It was a bit of a chore but I don’t have that many things and some of the young men around helped me to move the heavy stuff. So I’ve been in this new set of rooms for a few weeks. The other place was a better all round situation but I’m certainly happy here but already I miss the wind. The present location is just a short walk to the opposite side of the hill. It’s so quiet and the houses are close together.
My neighbors are all involved with their children or their work and in all it is a relaxed atmosphere. I will do some work on the windows to keep the insects out and put up a device to catch the rainwater. There is water available but it is not always close at hand. I get the drinking water I need from the school and use the rainwater for everything else.
My first year here is now complete. It has been a very productive year and many of my students are doing well. I look forward to January actually to improve on the pattern I’ve set up.
It’s beautiful in these hills and I certainly enjoy my work but I realize that when my time comes to return to California I’ll be ready to go home. As friendly as my hosts are and as well as I get along here I will still need to get back to a more familiar environment. I hope it all hasn’t burned down. I read a magazine article about the recent fires and expect when I get to my emails there will be some accounts of how things were in San Diego.
Peace Corps Week 2008
Girl Scouts International Dinner – high school
Jefferson Middle School in Oceanside
High school teacher with at-risk students in SD
K-6 and High School & Middle School
If you are an RPCV and would like to share your experiences contact:
Membership Renewals Are
Family Membership Change 2008
This change reflects the change that was made by NPCA as well as some other RPCV groups across the U.S.
Do NOT send SDPCA dues to NPCA
When these dues are posted in our own system, you are paid for only three-fourths of the year, not the total year. ALL members’ dues are $20 per year, and we’re working to get the word to EVERYONE that we went on a calendar year at the beginning of this year at a rate of $20!
So please make a note of this important fact. And know that if you send $20 to SDPCA, you’ll be paying for a full year.
Please do NOT send your SDPCA dues payment to NPCA.
Board Meetings –November
November 28 , 2007
Next meeting Carl’s on Jan 16th, 9105 Oviedo Street in Rancho Penasquitos. Tracy hosts February 20th.
--Sharon Kennedy-Darrough, Thailand 1989-91
We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods. --Virginia Woolf
from the Vice-President
I especially loved meeting all the nominees and those recently returned as it brings back the freshness of my Peace Corps experience. I also was grateful to see and spend time with some of my dearest old friends in the group.
Now, we have just a few months left for this current board. I met a few people at the Holiday Party who want to be on the board next year; I encourage more of you to do so. We welcome new ideas, bold movement, bigger engagement with the San Diego community and you can be a part of that. Come and join us. Let me thank Dena Lewerke for volunteering as our Community Action Chair until May.
As I sign off you might just notice this is not a message from Sean Anderson, who resigned recently. I hope you all will join us at upcoming events and start thinking about volunteering with this great organization in 2008.
The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy. --Martin Luther King
Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary Plans
At our request, Deputy Director Jody Olsen has compiled an overview document that outlines some of the key plans to date, including launch by Peace Corps of a 50th anniversary landing page in January 2008. The document can be downloaded from the NPCA website at
Peace Corps at 50: An Anniversary Story Project
Each book will be divided into sections that focus loosely on Expectations, Peace Corps Tasks, Unexpected Shadows, and the Context of History. If the Peace Corps were a person, these stories would be her memoir.
First deadline for submission is January 2008.
Martin Luther King Day in LA with RPCVs
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep you updated.
The Los Angeles Kingdom Day Parade is one of the largest MLK Day parades in the United States. Come have a fun marching with RPCVLA in the 30th Annual Kingdom parade to honor Dr. King and to let viewers know more about the Peace Corps.
We will have a contingent of 20 people. The parade starts at 11:00 AM. We will gather at 9:00am at the Anaiscourts’ house at 3789 6th Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90018-4215, and will then head over to the parade formation area.
Numerous details will follow, including information about what we will wear (our outfits have to coordinate), what we will carry (signs, flags, banner, decorated car), where we will assemble, and much more.
MUST-SEE: PBS to Air Documentary on PC Founder Sargent Shriver
All but forgotten today, Shriver initiated social programs during the 1960s that helped shape an era that dared millions of young Americans to live out their ideals.
Recruiter’s Corner – Jan-Feb 2008
Happy New Year to everyone in SDPCA!
2007 was in many ways a fantastic year for the agency. With much fanfare, we were able to re-open our program in Ethiopia after an 8-year absence, and send the first ever group of volunteers to Cambodia.
Overall, thanks in no small part to the earnest efforts of RPCVs around the country, we have grown to our largest volunteer force in 37 years, with over 8,000 active volunteers!
This year, we hope to continue our efforts in encouraging baby-boomers to consider Peace Corps service as an adventurous option during their golden years. We have an enormous need for their lifetime of skills, especially in the arenas of health and education, so keep spreading the word that we have no upper-age limit.
I look forward to another fun year of recruitment in the San Diego area, and getting the chance to get to know many of you and the sincere achievements you all made as PCVs.
--Jacob Hall, Regional
Recruiter, SD County, 310-356-1114
Welcome: New Members
SDPCA extends a warm welcome to our newest members, as of November 2007. We’ve seen some of you at events already, and we want all of you to get involved in our activities. Let us hear from you!
Pacific Waves is published six times a year by the San Diego PeaceCorps Association which is fully responsible for its content. Except for copyrighted material, articles may be reprinted without permission with credit to the SDPCA.
Contributions are encouraged: e-mailed text file on disk- Mac preferred, or typed copy.
Please send to Editor, SDPCA, P.O. Box 26565, San Diego, CA 92196 or e-mail:
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