Giving children a Flying Start

 
Sapna'sStory
Life couldn’t get much harder for eight year old Sapna from India. Her dad died when she was just a baby and her mother is too sick to work…

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Sapna's

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Life couldn’t get much harder for eight year old Sapna from India. Her dad died when she was just a baby and her mother is too sick to work, so her family are struggling to survive.

At the age of five, just as Sapna should have been taking her first tentative steps into primary school, she started her daily grind - scavenging around the local market, collecting discarded vegetables to sell. She works extremely long hours to earn a very meagre sum, but it’s what it takes to put food on the table and keep a roof over her head.

Her family’s survival is dependent on the little money she brings home and, because Sapna works such long hours, it’s difficult to get the education she needs to escape the poverty trap. Thankfully, she is now being helped by a special project called Butterflies.

The project has given Sapna the chance to get an education around her working hours, so now she’s learning to read and write. The project also runs a secure children’s bank where she can keep any money she earns that isn’t spent on food, bills or medicine for her mum. It’s not much, but over time, these small deposits are building up and will be the key to unlocking a far brighter future for Sapna.

Children's Development Bank, India

There are millions of children across the world struggling to survive on city streets. Living alone, they’re forced to do almost anything to scrape together enough money to get through each day. Many of them have severe health problems and are at constant risk of abuse.
They try desperately to earn money as porters, scrap pickers, street vendors, shoe shiners or shop helpers. But sadly, this leaves them very susceptible to muggings by older people living on the streets.

Thankfully, Comic Relief funds a whole range of projects that offer vital help and support to these extremely vulnerable children.

One such project is called Butterflies. It’s run by a hugely dynamic organisation that enables street children to save what little money they earn in a safe Children’s Development Bank. The banks even pay a small amount of interest, so that slowly, but surely, children can begin to work their way out of poverty.

The project also provides children with an informal education, which is the single most important tool they need to transform their lives. Some children are even reunited with their families and helped to live away from the dangers of the streets.
Butterflies has been enormously successful and now supports street children across India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal.

Sapna.
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Simeon'sStory
Thirteen year old Simeon from Birmingham has had to grow up incredibly fast since his mum, Trudy, became very unwell with two debilitating muscle conditions…

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Simeon'sStory

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Thirteen-year-old Simeon from Birmingham has had to grow up incredibly fast since his mum, Trudy, became very unwell with two debilitating muscle conditions.

Trudy’s illness means it’s exceptionally hard for her to move around and she needs help to do daily tasks, like preparing meals, shopping for food and taking her medication.

Seeing his mum in physical pain breaks Simeon’s heart. At times he feels helpless, but he’s actually the thread that holds his family together. He helps with all the household chores and has little spare time for himself.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. A special project means he now has a chance to meet friends, take part in fun activities and receive counselling. He gets his childhood back for a few precious hours each week and receives help to juggle all the responsibilities in his young life.

Action for Children

For the tens of thousands of children and young people who care for a sick relative at home, life can be incredibly tough. In fact, research has shown that young boys who care for a poorly family member are particularly at risk of leaving school without any formal qualifications. This is because they don’t have the time to keep up with their homework. With so many responsibilities to juggle, schoolwork often has to come lower down on their list of priorities.

Action for Children (Birmingham Young Carers) works with young boys, providing them with one-to-one support, help with their homework and a much-needed break from their caring duties. This gives these vulnerable children time to enjoy their childhood, enables them to thrive at school and means they have the opportunity to become confident and successful adults.

Simeon.
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Joy'sStory
Despite her name, ten-year-old Joy wasn’t a happy child.  How could she be when she lived in grinding poverty, with no chance to escape the hardship she faced?…

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Joy'sStory

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Despite her name, ten-year-old Joy wasn’t a happy child. How could she be when she lived in grinding poverty, with no chance to escape the hardship she faced?

While she should have been at school, she spent her days digging through a vegetable patch, trying to find food for her family.

Her dad was on a desperate mission to find work, but he often returned home exhausted and empty handed, knowing his kids would have to go another night without food.

Things seemed hopeless for Joy and her family, but, thankfully, a special Comic Relief funded project was there to give them a helping hand.

Joy’s father received a small loan to start growing tomatoes and onions to sell. Before long his business began to thrive, he paid back the loan and could even afford to send Joy to school.

Now she can get the skills and knowledge she needs to build a far better life and free herself from the terrible grip of poverty.

The Busoga Association

Millions of children live in slums across the world. For them, life is beyond tough.

Each day can be a struggle for survival as they have no access to the everyday things that are so easily taken for granted, like clean water, good sanitation and basic health care.

In Jinja, a sprawling urban slum in Uganda, men, women and children live in squalid conditions with very few opportunities to improve their lives. The Busoga Association is a great project that aims to help thousands of people living there. It supports families to find better housing, get work to make ends meet and have access to basic health care too.

By helping parents to earn a living, their children’s lives can change drastically as a result. Rather than staying at home or working long hours to help their families get by, the children can go to school and start to build a life free from poverty.

Joy.
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Connor'sStory
Not so long ago, ten year old Connor was just a shadow of the boy he’s now become. He was being bullied at school and he’d regularly come home in tears…

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Connor'sStory

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Not so long ago, ten year old Connor was just a shadow of the boy he’s now become. He was being bullied at school after struggling to learn as quickly as the other children and he’d regularly come home in tears. His confidence was shattered and he couldn’t see how things would ever improve.

To make matters worse, Connor lives in a very deprived area of inner city Manchester where violent gangs control the streets. With very few ways to escape the crime and fear, Connor’s future looked bleak.

Thankfully, Connor discovered the Moss Side Fire Station Amateur Boxing Club, which gave him the chance to shine. At the club, he could focus his energy on learning to box and getting fit. The coaches soon spotted his talent for the sport and his confidence has now soared.

The children who are part of the project are far less likely to get caught up in the violence that surrounds them. This is because when they start to believe they can achieve great things, they also begin to work towards a much brighter future.

Moss Side Firestation Boxing Club

In the UK, there are thousands of children and young people growing up in inner-city communities. With few opportunities to develop, learn new skills and channel their energies, many get incredibly frustrated and feel like they have no chance to improve their lives.

Moss Side Fire Station Amateur Boxing Club was established in 2008 by fire fighters living and working in Moss Side, a disadvantaged inner-city area of Manchester that suffers from severe social problems, poverty and gun crime.

This innovative project helps children in the area find ways to get involved in fun, constructive activities so that they don’t get caught up in the dangerous world in which they’re surrounded.

The club is dedicated to tackling the problems in the local community and giving children and young people the chance to do something positive with their time. Through their boxing training, they learn vital life skills and the values of discipline and respect, which will help set them up for a far more optimistic life.

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Geanyne'sStory
Fourteen-year-old Geanyne has known nothing but grinding poverty all her young life. For as long as she can remember, her family have had no choice but to work…

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Geanyne'sStory

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Fourteen-year-old Geanyne has known nothing but grinding poverty all her young life. For as long as she can remember, her family have had no choice but to work on a stinking landfill site. In fact, they’ve had to live there too.

Every morning, Geanyne would step out of her house in Recife, Brazil, straight onto a vast dump to collect bottles and cans to sell. It’s all she could do to scrape together enough money to survive. The work was back breaking, but essential to buy food, clothes and medicine for the youngest children at home.

Geanyne’s mother knows that her lack of education means she can’t give her children the life they deserve. She’s been desperate for them to go to school, but if they didn’t work, the family simply couldn’t make ends meet.

Thankfully though, Geanyne has found help through a special project called Passage House – an amazing centre that supports children who live on the streets or work in hazardous conditions.

There, she receives food, medicine, access to a hot shower and, crucially, the chance to learn to read and write. She no longer has to spend her days scouring through discarded waste either – the project has enabled her family to get a government grant to live in a house that’s far more safe and secure.

Passage House has not only helped Geanyne get her childhood back, but has given her a future too.

Passage House, Brazil

It’s estimated that around 7 million children are living on the streets of Brazil. With their parents too poor to care for them, or having fled abuse at home, many of these street children are living unimaginably tough lives despite being so young.

Living in extreme poverty on the streets, they are often malnourished, physically unwell and emotionally scarred. They don’t have access to clean water or decent toilet facilities and they struggle to survive.

As they grow up, these children don’t get an education or learn the skills they need to get good jobs when they’re older and so their situation goes from bad to worse. The girls are particularly at risk of abuse and being forced into dangerous work but there is very little support available to them.

Passage House is a project that provides a safe haven for vulnerable children, especially girls, who face grave danger on the streets of Recife, Brazil. They’re given decent food, health care and a lot of love and emotional support. Without this help, they’d be completely alone in the world with no one to look after them, feed them or give them a safe place to sleep at night.

Through counselling, care and training, Passage House aims to turn children’s lives around so they can look forward to far happier futures.

Geanyne.
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Rohit'sStory
Rohit comes from a small village in Bihar, which is one of the poorest states in India. He lived with his parents and brothers and helped his father on the farm.…

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Rohit'sStory

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Rohit comes from a small village in Bihar, which is one of the poorest states in India. He lived with his parents and brothers and helped his father on the farm. Rohit’s father was very violent towards him, beating his son with bricks or sticks or whatever he could get his hands on. In one of the worst incidents Rohit’s father locked him in a room and beat him so badly that he hurt his collar bone and right arm. Rohit had no option but to run away, so one day he borrowed a bike and cycled to the train station, where he took a train to a city called Gorakhpur. He lived in the station for a month and survived by selling water near a temple. One of the children that Rohit met told him that there were projects that helped street children in Delhi, so he decided to make the long journey there.

He arrived in Delhi alone and terrified. He had no money and knew no-one in the huge and scary city. After being harassed by policemen he walked until he met some other street children and spent the night with them. He soon got a job at a tea stall, and spent the nights sleeping on the pavement next to the stall. Rohit was frightened because he knew street children were sometimes snatched from the streets in the middle of the night. He also lived in fear of the police who would constantly harass and sometimes beat street children, often stealing from them and demanding bribes.

Rohit lived like this for 6 months, until one day he met some Butterflies outreach workers in a park. He went to a night shelter and was given a safe place to sleep. With encouragement, Rohit also returned to school where, 2 years later, and with help from the Butterflies staff, he is now thriving – scoring 98% in a recent test!

Rohit also became very involved with the Children’s Development Bank, run by Butterflies, where he deposits and saves the money he earns from part-time jobs. Saving his money is really important to Rohit as he will need it to help him achieve his dream of becoming a doctor, and opening a hospital in his home village. Rohit also used to be a child volunteer manager at one of the branches and works really hard to try and encourage other children to put their money into the bank so that nobody is able to take it away from them. Rohit knows that it is essential to get a good education and the Butterflies project has given him the chance to escape the dangers of a life on the street, and the hope of a safe and secure future.

Butterflies: Children’s Development Bank

The grant from Comic Relief to Butterflies enables them to run a bank for street children, which gives them a safe place to store their money. The project also provides children with important life skills which helps them focus on the future. The bank’s committee is made up of street children who are mentored and supported to make decisions about who to lend money to, so it also teaches them to be responsible with their money.

Rohit.
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Hajjara'sStory
"It's not hard to look after the children" says 16 year old Harjjara quietly, "because I am their elder sister".…

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Hajjara'sStory

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“It's not hard to look after the children” says 16 year old Harjjara quietly, “because I am their elder sister”

Yet the stove, sitting cold and unused in the families’ one roomed shack, reveals a different story. There is no food to cook with today. Hajjara has two HIV positive sisters who must take their medicine on empty stomachs leaving them weak and exhausted.

Hajjara’s words are a brave front. There is nothing easy about her situation.

Feeding the family is a daily struggle and some days there is just no food at all.

Not only is Hajjara dealing with the loss of both parents to AIDS, Hajjara is bringing up four of her younger siblings all on her own. Oruzia is just six years old. They look to her for everything.

’It’s very difficult for them to the medicine when there is no food. It makes you feel ill,” explains Hajjara. “There is no money to buy soap so our clothes are dirty, and I feel embarrassed to take my sisters to the hospital when they look so bad.”

The younger siblings happily continue to play, seemingly unaware of their plight, but the strain of coping hangs heavily on Hajjira’s small frame.

Hajjara has been caring for her brothers and sisters since she was thirteen. Her mother left two small shacks from which they earn a little rent from tenants, but it’s never enough. The children cannot afford school fees and without an education it’s a struggle for Hajjara to find work that will put food on the table.

Luckily the children are not completely alone. Yudaya, a volunteer community worker from Nacwola, a Comic Relief funded project, is on hand to offer guidance.

“I feel so happy when Yudaya comes to visit” says Hajjara. “She brings us food, sometimes clothes and she guides us. She tells us to keep the house clean, to be hard working and to take our medicine. She comforts the children when they are crying and makes us feel better. We don’t feel so alone.”

“The children are good children” says Yudaya “but their situation is desperate. It pains me to see them living like this. We are doing what we can to make things better for them.”

Nacwola is working to find organisations that could help the children go to school and get Hajjara some vocational training, so she can begin to earn some decent cash to support herself and her family. They are also trying to make contact with the childrens’ grandmother so they can make a Memory Book, a book that records all the details of their parents’ lives so the children have vital information about their property and family history so they can plan for the future.

NACWOLA

It is estimated that by 2010, 20 million children living in Africa will have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. The toll on children is especially great when parents and guardians do not prepare children for the future before they die.

In 1997 a Ugandan organisation of HIV-positive women set up something called ‘The Memory Project’ to help parents prepare their children for an uncertain future.

The prejudice and stigma surrounding HIV & AIDS has led to culture of silence, which means that children and young people don’t know how to get support when their parents die from the disease. They feel lost and alone and are not at all prepared to cope with their loss.

The National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) is a Ugandan national NGO with a membership of over 40,000 women living with HIV/AIDS, which employs 7 people (5 women). HIV positive women set up NACWOLA and in 1997 the first memory book was produced.

This project aims to give parents the confidence and skills to disclose their HIV status to children and to plan for the future of the family. Crucial advice and guidance is given on writing wills and writing ‘memory books’.

Memory books are scrapbooks of memories, photos, poems and family histories so that children can carry them into adult life. Compiling the book provides a framework to help parents and children work together to save vital information about the family’s background.

The books explore and chart details of their origins, their clan, the family history, lifestyle, culture and beliefs, as well as their own early years. With this tool, children will better understand the past and be stronger to face the future.

There is recognition that younger siblings need additional care and emotional support through the difficult period of parents and older siblings becoming HIV positive. The project is developing ways to bring young and old together to discuss what is often a difficult and taboo subject, and helping older children to strengthen their coping skills.

This particular grant aims to reach almost 6,000 families and over 17,000-orphaned children across East Africa.

Comic Relief has awarded £2,872,969 to Healthlink Worldwide to support its work in Africa and some of the poorest countries in the world. We have awarded two grants of £1,000,000 and £116,333 for their work with NACWOLA in supporting vulnerable children and orphans with the memory book project.

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Francis'sStory
Under the glare of the midday sun Francis reveals his prize possession - an old exercise book.…

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Francis'sStory

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Under the glare of the midday sun Francis reveals his prize possession – an old exercise book.

He gently turns the handful of pages, which are almost transparent from wear, and exposes the careful hand writing and addition sums that form the tapestry of his precious memories of school.

But Francis is not an old man recalling his youth; he is a 10-year-old boy desperate to learn. School should not be a distant memory for Francis – it should be an everyday reality.

Yet poverty, aggravated by war, has stopped him from getting schooling.

Clutching the book’s flimsy cover, which he has wrapped in newspaper to protect, Francis said: “I used to go to school but I stopped because my uncle couldn’t afford it. If I could have one wish it would be to have books and pens so I could write and go to school again.”

Francis had to drop out of school last year after his uncle, Walter, struggled to pay for the materials he would need.

Francis’s mother, Walter’s sister died from HIV and his father went missing. Walter has been caring for Francis since he was a baby.

Walter has four other children and the conflict in Northern Uganda has robbed him of his livelihood. This had left the entire family living a hand-to-mouth existence.

Walter said: ”If it wasn’t for the war our home and family would be stronger. The rebels killed my brother and they destroyed our hut and land. After the attack on our village we had to move to the camp.

“The camp wasn’t safe either. A few times the rebels entered and attacked. Each time I had to grab Francis and my other children and run into the bush to save them.”

But Francis almost lost this small amount of protection when Walter was abducted by rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Walter was captive for two weeks before he managed to escape when he saw an opportunity after the militia men ordered him to keep watch for the Ugandan military.

After that the family moved to a large camp before being moved to a smaller one where they have been for the past four years.

Francis and his family are still waiting to return to their original village but they can't go until they rebuild their old hut and their vegetable garden, which was burnt by hunters, grows back.

Walter hopes this will happen in a year, but until then he farms in other vegetable gardens which are a two kilometer walk from their camp. Francis often helps his uncle grow and harvest the maize the family consumes.

Francis’s responsibilities also include fetching water, looking after his baby cousin and taking maize to be milled.

Although Francis likes farming, he knows that’s not where his future lies and his desperation to study is apparent.

He said: “I want to study and go to secondary level and after that I would like to train and become a driver because then I could earn money. Money is important because it can help you to buy utensils, books and other things.

“My happiest memory was when my uncle asked someone else to look after the baby and I could go to school.”

“If I could change one thing in the world I would make sure all children in Uganda could get books and pens so they could go to school.”

Walter admits that education is important for Francis but poverty means he is struggling to send the little boy to school.

Walter said: “I cannot afford educational materials for Francis. Sometimes I come home and I see Francis has been crying because he couldn’t go to school.

“I know that if he studies and succeeds in education he will be able to support himself and his family. If he doesn’t go to school he will have no future. I didn’t get an education but I try to look after the children. I try to make sure I can look after them if they are sick or get food for them. I hope to get Francis go back to school soon.”

War Child

Up to 80% of the population in some of the most war-torn districts of northern Uganda have been badly affected by years of conflict. This has led to large numbers of people being displaced from their homes. Children feel the impact of this most keenly and have experienced an array of violence, abuse and neglect often leading to them being stigmatized. Their education has been disrupted and many are orphaned. Often children were also abducted by armed groups and have been through traumatic experiences.

This project provides much needed support to 1200 socially excluded children to attend primary school. It has also enabled 240 older children to receive vocational training and young mothers to study and learn new skills to improve their ability to support and protect themselves.

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Gemma'sStory
As Gemma turns 11 she's not thinking about birthday parties or presents - she's thinking about looking after her little sister and brother..…

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Gemma'sStory

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As Gemma turns 11 she’s not thinking about birthday parties or presents – she's thinking about looking after her little sister and brother. That’s because little sister Megan, 8, is recovering from Leukaemia and little brother Oscar, 5, has curvature of the spine meaning he has to have regular operations.

Gemma is the only able bodied sibling and the family faced further tragedy when her youngest brother George died just hours after being born.

On a day-to-day level Gemma does all she can to help her mum at home. But the bigger picture is that her caring role has meant she's had to grow up quicker than some of her peers.

Gemma said: “It can be quite hard at home, my mum has to take my brother to hospital a lot and when she is away I often have to get the meals for me. My little brother can get hurt or bruised easily so I try to make sure he doesn’t get hurt if there are other kids around. I also make sure he is in a comfortable position. I watch TV or play with my brother and sister to help make sure mum isn’t too stressed.”

Gemma gets her own chance to have a break when she comes to the sessions run by Gloucestershire Young Carers. And despite the obvious challenges Gemma faces at home she is still thinking of the situation other young carers face.

She said: “Coming here helps me to get away from the problems at home. When I started coming here I realised there were other people like me. I wasn’t the only one. Before when I was at school I thought I was the only one. I have also learned that there are people who have had bigger losses than me. There are other kids who have lost a mum or a dad. I haven’t been in that position.”

Gemma’s mum Yolanda says the project has helped Gemma to open up about the challenges she has at home.

Yolanda said: “Gemma helps me in so many ways. It’s the little things, like if I stood at the school gates with Oscar she will make sure no other children bump into him as they run out. She notices little things that I might not and helps her brother and sister.”

“Since coming here (Gloucestershire Young Carers) Gemma has been able to open up to people. She can share her experience as all children like to do. I think it’s really important to her. She met a child who had a sister with Leukaemia and she came home and said ‘mum we are like two peas in a pod’. Every Monday evening she is really excited to be coming to young carers.”

Currently a new Comic Relief grant is being spent on a group of young carers – aged 8-11, who meet every week at a community centre in the UK. Here they are encouraged to take part in group activities such as making crafts, playing games or eating pizza. The evenings give the young people a crucial break from their duties at home and help them make friends with other kids in a similar situation to themselves.

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Click to view previous case studies.
  • Sapna.
  • Simeon.
  • Joy.
  • Connor.
  • Geanyne.
  • Rohit.
  • Hajjara.
  • Francis.
  • Gemma.
Click to view next case studies.

About flying start

Flying Start is our global charity partnership with Comic Relief. It was launched on 30th June 2010 and aims to transform the lives of some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children around the world. We want to give these children a flying start in life, so they can look forward to a much brighter future.

Click on a child to read their story.

Donate now

Donate online now with just a few clicks. You can also donate your spare change on-board any BA flight or give unwanted currency to Travelex at UK airports.

Where Comic Relief are helping

A map of locations Comic Relief works in.

Comic Relief supports projects in the UK, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Through Flying Start, we’ll be raising money for a number of these projects that have been set up to help vulnerable children.

We’re particularly pleased that we’ll be able to build on our long-standing commitment to community investment in the countries in which we operate.

For more information about Comic Relief's projects visit www.comicrelief.com.

Click here to find out more about British Airway's community investment.


How Your Money Helps

All donations received from the public through Flying Start will go directly to transforming children’s lives. In fact, we aim to raise up to £6 million by 2013 to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children living in the UK and in some of the poorest countries across the world.

We want to create lasting change by giving children and their families the chance to start supporting themselves. We want to make sure that children have a chance to enjoy their childhood, whether that’s by giving them a break from caring for sick family members, supporting their education or helping children living on city streets to break free from poverty.

For more information on how your money helps visit www.comicrelief.com

 

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