MiniActive

MiniActive – A Tale of Two (Former Makeshift) Garbage Dumps

They were smelly times, and they were actually quite dangerous times. Garbage overflowed in huge garbage receptacles and in empty lots throughout East Jerusalem, but they were rarely emptied.  Garbage kept piling up, especially in Kufr Aqeb, and it became a public health hazard. Sometimes, residents burned the trash, just to get rid of it. But that, too, was a public safety and health hazard.

A really horrible sight

A really horrible sight

Until one day, after MiniActive’s almost 2-year ‘We Won’t Live in Filth!‘ campaign, municipal trucks came and emptied the receptacle. And many were happy – for a minute.

 

Until they saw what the garbage trucks had left behind…….A whole lot of garbage, probably enough to fill another truck. And then it became a public health AND safety hazard, as residents started to burn the garbage in an attempt to get rid of it.

 

We called the attention of this ugly sight to city council members and a deputy mayor through the 0202-A View from East Jerusalem Facebook page, and they promised to take care of it. Indeed, a few days later, it was cleared up. Here’s the tractor that was brought in:

Tractors worked hard to clean up

Tractors worked hard to clean up

Congratulations MiniActive! Good job 0202! Here’s the post from the 0202 English page summing up the incident:

 

And in a second achievement, another public health hazard was cleared away this past week in Wadi Joz, also the result of both MiniActive’s campaign. Our director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, told the back story in a Facebook post:

Some time 20 years ago, someone did work with large sewer pipes in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem. It might have been the East Jerusalem Development Corporation, it might have been the Gichon (or what was before the Gichon, can’t remember exactly when the Gichon was formed). The contractor, who did the public works, just left broken or extra pipes, each of them 2 meters in diameter, in an empty field, and left, together with more building waste from work that had been done. There was no oversight on him.

An empty field with building waste is a great way to attract more building waste, or just plain waste, isn’t it kind of like a garbage can? And in this way, the situation in this field kept getting worse and worse, and the field became a serious safety and health hazard.

Three years ago, some residents had had enough and began to ask that the field be cleaned up. It’s private land, but there’s no doubt that most of the waste was left there from public works. At one point, our MiniActive volunteers in the area took it upon themselves to get the field cleaned up. They turned to the Gichon, who were very polite and explained that it wasn’t them, it was the East Jerusalem Development Corporation. The East Jerusalem Development Corporation said that they have no records from 20 years ago….After the MiniActive volunteers met with everyone, they sat down and wrote a letter to the Jerusalem Municipality, which said something to the effect of, “Look – we weren’t able to find out who’s directly responsible, but at the end of the day it’s Jerusalem – please take responsibility as the Municipality. Research, examine, demand – whatever you think fit – the main thing is that this hazard – which is also a serious safety hazard – is taken care of.”

The Municipality – from the regional cluster director to the Director General’s office – worked very hard to find solutions. And on July 12, there suddenly appeared heavy equipment that came to take the building waste away.

The area, after cleanup

The area, after cleanup

Hats off to MiniActive for another impressive achievement! Hats off to the Jerusalem Municipality for taking responsibility. Here’s a video of the newly-cleaned area:

 

Here’s Hagai’s Facebook post (in Hebrew):

 

And here’s the explanation of the event that was posted on 0202-A View from East Jerusalem:

 

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive network.

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2017-07-30T12:26:59+00:00 July 15th, 2017|Blog, Effective Activism, MiniActive, Palestinians/Arabs|

MiniActive Women Leading Ramadan Food Drive

MiniActive never stops. Not even for the month-long Ramadan holiday. During this time, which commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims fast during the day and eat before dawn and after sunset. It is considered a festive month, so although Muslims do not eat during the day, much time, effort and food are invested in preparing the nightly evening meals, (or Iftar).

Food ready to be divided up

Food ready to be divided up as part of a MiniActive food distribution project

Given the severe socio-economic standing of most Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – some 80% live beneath the poverty line – the month of Ramadan can often be a difficult financial burden. In response to this difficulty, the MiniActive network ran a Ramadan food drive for 100 needy families during the first week of June. MiniActive women not only led the drive, they were the ones who donated and collected the foodstuffs. Afterward, the MiniActive staff prepared and distributed the packages.

Baked goods waiting to be distributed

Baked goods waiting to be distributed

Foodstuffs were distributed through baskets and re-usable shopping bags. Packages included staples such as flour, salt, sugar, rice and oil and pasta, canned goods as well as other goodies, that will make their Iftar meals festive occasions.

Food packages ready to go

Food packages ready to go

Ramadan Kareem!

Here’s 0202’s English translation of the original Facebook post:

And here’s the original Facebook post in Arabic:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive project!

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MiniActive – Continuing to Go International

Do you know where Brno is? Did you know that Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic (pop. 380,000) with a considerable population of Roma (est. 15,000 – 17,000), most of whom live in abject poverty?

City of Brno

City of Brno

We reported here about a delegation from an organization from Brno, Czech Republic, who work with the Roma (gypsy) population there, who came to Jerusalem to learn about MiniActive.

In April, Intisar, director of the MiniActive program, and Daud, director of the Atta’a Center, traveled to Brno to provide workshops and hands-on learning to representatives of the IQ Roma organization, one of the largest organizations that works with the Roma population in Brno.

The IQ Roma building in Brno

The IQ Roma building in Brno

It was quite an intensive, 3-day trip. The IQ Roma organization has been working with the Brno Municipality for the past 12 years, includes a rights department, a welfare department and a child care / development center. Intisar  met with professionals, activists and residents. She learned about the Roma population through these meetings, as well as through a trip to the Museum of Romani Culture, which is housed in Brno. She toured the houses and apartment buildings where the Roma population lives (mainly public housing). She answered questions – lots of questions – about the process of the MiniActive program, about challenges, personal and professional, that she encountered, about achievements that they’ve accomplished.

Meeting with residents

Meeting with residents

Through these visits, Intisar learned about the similarities and differences between the Roma population of Brno and the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. They both feel that they are suffering both because of the government actions (or lack thereof) and because of the actions of individuals in their own communities. Both populations have high rates of poverty. However, in contrast to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, the Roma population does not have a sense of belonging to Brno or the Czech Republic, nor is education for their children a high priority.

Presenting MiniActive

Presenting MiniActive

The latter part of her visit was dedicated to exploring if and how principles learned through MiniActive can be applied in Brno. This included meetings with the person in charge of dealing with the Roma population in Brno and his staff, none of whom were Roma themselves. One of the first recommendations (that was accepted) was to hire a member of the Roma community, to be able to better understand their needs on the ground.

Presenting even in IQ Roma's in-house cafe

Presenting even in IQ Roma’s in-house cafe

Intisar also became part of municipal policy planning for the Roma community. Most of the Roma receive welfare payments, but are required to do 20 monthly hours of community service in order to qualify. She, together with the municipal staff, began planning a program that would include cleaning public areas as part of the required community service. It is hoped that by starting with small steps and the satisfaction of seeing results quickly, will spurn further action and hope for the future.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive and the Atta’a Center programs.

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MiniActive Hebrew Courses End another Successful Year

In today’s Jerusalem reality, to get things done – at the Municipality, at the water, telephone or electric companies – you need to know Hebrew.

Learning Hebrew as a tool for communication

Learning Hebrew as a tool for communication

Last year, as part of MiniActive’s efforts to provide professional development to its participants, and in order to improve the women’s effectiveness, they began participating in weekly Hebrew courses, offered by Speaking Hebrew, which takes place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Last year 150 women and teenagers took part. This year, over 200 studied Hebrew from MiniActive!

In class

In class

Last week, they held a year-end party for 300 participants and their families, volunteer teachers, and everyone involved in the program.

Graduation ceremony at Hebrew University

Graduation ceremony at Hebrew University

There were congratulatory speeches.

MiniActive Director, Intisar, speaking at graduation

MiniActive Director, Intisar, speaking at graduation

Graduation certificates were distributed.

Very proud of their accomplishments

Very proud of their accomplishments

And the women shared the fantastic food that they’d prepared for the party.

Fitting finale to a fantastic year

Fitting finale to a fantastic year

The women told of how fun it was to learn in the classes – not the standard frontal lessons, but also games and other interactive methods.

The first of many steps to Hebrew fluency

The first of many steps to Hebrew fluency

See you next year!

Here’s the Facebook post (in Arabic):

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support for this project.

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MiniActive – and Jerusalem – Featured in International “Cities of Migration” Newsletter

MiniActive, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center and the Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference are featured in the May 2017 newsletter of the Cities of Migration Network.

As part of the preparation for the conference, Dr. Adit Dayan, our colleague at the Jerusalem Foundation, attended the Cities of Migration Conference in Toronto. Cities of Migration is an international initiative launched in 2008 to identify and disseminate local integration practice in major immigrant receiving cities worldwide.  The project was the first to link global cities around issues of immigrant integration and has been surprisingly successful. Today, Cities of Migration has an international following of over 7000 international experts, practitioners and policy-makers, and its mailing list reaches 16,000 people worldwide.

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker at the Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

After the conference we remained in contact with the Cities of Migration Network.  And this week, they published MiniActive in their May newsletter and as part of their “Good Ideas for Integration”  section on their web site.

Click here for a link to the online article.

And here’s the full text:

MiniActive: Local Women, Local Action

Jerusalem Intercultural Center

May 4, 2017

Empowering local women and minority populations to become agents of community change

Can a functioning street lamp be the key to peace?   Sometimes, it’s almost that simple.

In 2011 a group of Palestinian women in East Jerusalem decided they’d had enough of broken street lamps, unrepaired roads and other nuisances that caused daily tensions and disrupted the peace of the neighbourhood.   Local volunteers started using the municipal hotline to demand the repair and replacement of faulty street lamps and were soon meeting with relevant municipal authorities. No, the women explained, contrary to what municipal workers too often said, the street lamps would not be broken by local youth.

Five years later, the street lamps are still working, bus stops have been repaired and thousands of other small and large improvements have been made.

Empowered by a unique program called MiniActive that focuses on community-led action and helping local residents become change agents in their own neighborhoods, MiniActive volunteers are leading the way for civic action in East Jerusalem, and across the city.

From Activism to Action

Conditions for the more than 300,000 Palestinians living in poverty in East Jerusalem often put the health and welfare of local residents at risk. The quarter’s winding streets are poorly maintained, filled with potholes and often littered due to inefficient garbage removal by local authorities. Public stairs and walkways are uneven and unsafe, and few public buildings – schools, welfare offices, community organizations – are handicapped accessible.

Compounding these challenges, residents often lack the tools to self-organize and build the organizational capacity needed to effect changes on their own, leaving them feeling dis-empowered and disengaged from civic processes. Such frustrations can be exacerbated by cultural and language barriers, or unfamiliarity with municipal services.

For these reasons, the success of the intervention by Palestinian women in East Jerusalem around municipal repairs to their neighborhood caught the eye of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC).

Since 2004, the JICC had been engaged in a series of internal discussions about activism as a tool for community change. Since their mission was to help residents of all identities create positive impact within their communities and in the city as a whole, activism seemed an important approach. However, over the years they had noticed that much of the activist energy was non-effective, more cause and complaint than positive impact.

By contrast, the activism of East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood women was practical, positive and place-based.  Its example galvanized the JICC to pilot a new model for community engagement called “MiniActive.”  The central idea? To let people train themselves to change the world, by choosing a very small part of the world to change.

Agents of community change

MiniActive was launched in 2012, with the support and partnership of the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation and the dual objective of effecting real change and empowering community action. Its goals are to advance human rights in East Jerusalem by creating sustainable grassroots advocacy and empowerment mechanisms; to empower women as agents of change; and to help all residents, but mainly women, take practical steps to improve the everyday lives of East Jerusalem residents.

MiniActive workshops consist of small group meetings in which each of the participants is invited to choose an issue to work on that is both ‘do-able’ and requires working with or convincing others to do something, whether it be neighbours, local agencies or the municipality, because learning to work with others is critical to developing organizational capacity. Examples can be repairing a street light, improving garbage collection in a specific location, fixing a pothole, replacing a safety fence, initiating an event in school, or simply connecting neighbours to meet together over an issue.   The criteria for choosing projects are:

  • Results can be achieved in 1-2 months. The relatively quick results seen on the ground in this model boosts participants’ self-confidence and empowers them to ‘graduate’ on to larger and more complex issues.
  • The solution cannot be achieved alone – some other body or organization must be activated to achieve success. This often includes the Municipality or other service provider
  • A passion for community. The participant has passion to achieve this target issue.

Whether it’s a problem on the street, an issue to be tackled at the local school, or a service improvement at the health clinic, the program empowers participants to identify problems in their immediate community, and helps them to develop effective methods of solving those problems, which can be applied to larger-scale problems in the future as well.

Language classes, recycling, horticulture: a community hub

In 2014 MiniActive upgraded its monthly professional development seminars for their volunteer coordinators from East Jerusalem’s various neighbourhoods. Previously, monthly meetings largely consisted of peer learning and assistance on a case-by-case basis. The new format included workshops on how to map local needs and set priorities; how to navigate the Municipality and its different departments; how to navigate other service providers (phone, electric, water, etc.); how to write letters to these agencies; how to deal with the Municipality’s contractors in the field; who might (or might not) be willing to work with them should a woman be supervising– and more.

In addition to in-service seminars about accessing local services more effectively, Hebrew classes have been organized for more than 200 women to facilitate communication with municipal service providers.  An important project outcome was the addition of Arabic-speakers to the municipal hotline, both to encourage participation and to handle the volume of calls MiniActive outreach was generating.

Since its overall goal is to improve residents’ immediate environment, in 2014 MiniActive began to offer courses and workshops that focused on a broader definition of improving one’s environment, such as composting, recycling, etc.  A photography workshop increased the women’s ability and propensity to look around them and see new ways to improve their neighbourhood.  In 2016, the first ever Arabic-language horticultural therapy course was added.

MiniActive has become a community hub, offering a wide range of activities – from exercise to crocheting to baking to trips – where local women can gather to enjoy their leisure,  each other’s company, and the rewards of hard work.

Today MiniActive’s network of volunteers spills across 15 districts, with 50 – 100 women in each district, and covers nearly every neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Working in small groups of 4 to 6, the women of MiniActive are working on 500 issues each month, solving approximately half and continuing to work on the remainder, and improving the everyday lives of residents through continual communication and interaction with service providers (telephone, electricity, water, municipality, etc.) and community members.

What’s more, municipal service providers recognize the effectiveness of MiniActive’s work and are less inclined to see the complaints as antagonizing ‘nuisances.’ Rather, MiniActive participants are viewed as partners in the change process.

Success

MiniActive has galvanized civic action in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods. In 2016 alone more than 6,000 formal complaints were filed, and over 2,300 problems resolved. Among the improvements, all bus stops in three neighbourhoods were repaired or replaced.  On a larger scale, MiniActive’s response to an acute problem around garbage removal resulted in the launch of the “We Won’t Live in Filth” Facebook campaign. The result? Millions of shekels were added to the East Jerusalem sanitation budget, and garbage collection became a central issue in local activism throughout Jerusalem.

From its modest beginnings, MiniActive quickly grew to a network of 1,000 Palestinian women in every corner of East Jerusalem, arguably the largest network of volunteers in East Jerusalem.  In 2015, MiniActive’s success was internationally recognized when the project’s director was invited to present at the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Partners Forum in Washington, DC.  In November 2016 a group from the Czech Republic visited Jerusalem to learn about MiniActive. Interest in the project remains lively. Today, the MiniActive Facebook page has over 20,300 ‘likes.’

Over the past 5 years a growing MiniActive volunteer network has solved thousands of neighbourhood problems and is training hundreds of women on how to engage local service providers and municipal services to bring about community change by working with the system, and despite the system.

For the first time, MiniActive empowers participants to be stakeholders in their own future.

Making it Work for You:

  • Define realistic objectives in advance to make sure you can actually advance towards desired outcomes.
  • Prioritize actions according to importance, even when “urgency” threatens to re-order actions.
  • Building consensus takes time. Make sure urgent items don’t disrupt important consensus building processes.
  • Take an approach that brings the “other side” (the government, the neighbours, etc.) on board for a win-win outcome.
  • Break up a large issue into many smaller problems and tasks. This makes results more achievable and more feasible.
  • Groups dynamics and peer learning are the key. Consult with each other on how to proceed while ensuring each member of the team can work independently to advance her project.
  • Use the synergy of community forces as a tool to create power and move your project forward.

The newsletter also featured the remarks made by Uzma Shakir at the conference as a featured story:

The Culturally Competent City

 

Here’s the full text of that article:

Keynote speech by Uzma Shakir, Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights, City of Toronto, on the occasion of the Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th anniversary event, the “Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City” Conference, hosted by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on May 17, 2016 in Jerusalem.

In a brilliant, wide-ranging presentation Shakir describes processes taking place in Toronto and throughout Canada regarding multiculturalism and cultural competency, and responses to the country’s vastly different population groups, from the native populations to the Francophone community of Quebec to recent immigrants from south Asia and elsewhere. She first defined the role of cultural competency:

“Cultural competency can be viewed in two ways: it can either be seen as paternalistic and prescriptive – something you do for others who have either limited or unequal power to claim their rights; or transformative and critical – consciously producing spaces that address those power differentials in a meaningful manner and eventually lead to an equitable and just society.

In other words, cultural competency can mean being nice to people while maintaining the status quo of inequality or it can mean empowering marginalized people to take control over their own destiny and to change the conditions in society to produce equitable and just outcomes for all.

However, this requires an honest recognition of who is marginalized and then consciously co-creating the conditions for inclusion. In this sense, Toronto has its challenges just like Jerusalem and provides some compelling lessons.”

Uzma’s description of the role of cultural competency was really a defining moment for us. We realized that our work, experience and know-how was already working on both sides of the cultural competency equation, but we had never defined it as such. We were both training service providers to make services accessible to a wide variety of populations, and we were also empowering marginalized populations – of all kinds and ethnicities – to demand access to services, adapted to their particular needs. This is best represented by Uzma’s illustration:

Three views of Equity

Three views of Equity

In the first approach, existing infrastructures render services equally for different people. However, since people’s needs are different, equal provision of services does not create proper equality. In the second approach, adjustments are made, often ad hoc, to be able to work within the existing infrastructure to provide services in a way that responds differently to the different needs. In the third approach, infrastructure is built from the start with the different needs of different people in mind, to enable each to meet his or her particular needs in the best way possible.

Ours is the third approach, and in that way MiniActive is helping Jerusalem become more culturally competent. We’re so proud of their accomplishments and dedication, especially in the complex situation in Jerusalem. We’re so happy that tens of thousands of people around the world will be able to learn about MiniActive as well.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their full partnership in developing all aspects of Cultural Competency, as well as in developing the MiniActive project.

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MiniActive Youth – Improving the Environment in Sur Baher

MiniActive youth continue to do fantastic work throughout Jerusalem, painting murals and improving the environment.

Beginning to paint

Beginning to paint

This time, their project was in Sur Baher.

Improving an entire street in Sur Baher

Improving an entire street in Sur Baher

At the request of residents, the youth decorated the walls on either side of this residential street. The residents themselves prepared the ‘canvas,’  first painting it white. All the girls needed to do was come and paint the pictures. Looking great!

Painting flowers and butterflies

Painting flowers and butterflies

Read more about previous MiniActive Youth projects here and here.

And our favorite cartoon characters

And our favorite cartoon characters

And here’s the post from the MiniActive Facebook page (Arabic):

Here’s another post, mid-project:

And here’s the final project – this time all six paintings!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continuous support of the MiniActive project.

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MiniActive Celebrating its Volunteers

On Thursday, March 23, MiniActive again celebrated its volunteers. This time, they took them on a special picnic to the Canada Park, about 45 minutes outside of Jerusalem.  A year ago they celebrated the Family/Mother/Women day with their families in Jerusalem)

How do you get 120 people to smile all at once?

How do you get 120 people to smile all at once?

The 120 women were honored by the presence of writer Nuzha Abu Ghosh who told then some of the historical events in the history of the village of Emmaus. Then they toured the area, its ancient and more modern ruins,

What was this oh so long ago?

What was this oh so long ago?

And held a scrumptious picnic lunch.

Looks yummy

Looks yummy

Many thanks to the MiniActive volunteers for their hard work and persistence throughout the year.

Continuous work

Continuous work

Here’s the post from the MiniActive Facebook page (in Arabic):

And here is the post in English (thanks to 0202):

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the program.

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MiniActive Youth – Now Operating in Beit Safafa

MiniActive Youth continues to make the streets of East Jerusalem brighter! This time, in Beit Safafa.

Making significant changes

Making significant changes

The painting project was carried out in cooperation with the local community center.

It was a real group effort

It was a real group effort

The activity took place on a sunny Sunday, February 26.

Looks amazing!

Looks amazing!

Neighborhood by neighborhood, improving the environment in East Jerusalem.

An accomplishment to be proud of

An accomplishment to be proud of

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of the MiniActive project.

Here’s the Facebook post, in Arabic:

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MiniActive Youth – Getting to Know My City

MiniActive – and MiniActive Youth – never cease to amaze us. You can read here and here and here about their most recent accomplishments.

Group picture on the walls

Group picture on the walls

Now, it’s time for us to show them how much we appreciate them.

Beautiful day for a beautiful walk

Beautiful day for a beautiful walk

Last week, on Sunday, February 19, they had a tour of the Old City by walking the walls.

What interesting things you can see from up here!

What interesting things you can see from up here!

Great views!

Like a picture postcard

Like a picture postcard

And lots of fun!

Resting on the grass

Resting on the grass

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of MiniActive.

Here’s the Facebook post in Arabic:

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MiniActive – Reaching for the Clouds

We’ve no doubt how far and how high our MiniActive women can go. And now they’ve reached Mount Hermon!

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

We’ve described here and here some of the trips that we’ve organized for the MiniActive women as a way to say thanks to our network of 1,000 Palestinian women throughout East Jerusalem who work continuously on a volunteer basis to improve their environment, and have succeeded fantastically. You can see some of their 2016 successes and adventures in the vido they made:

 

This time, they went on a trip to Mount Hermon, in the north of the country. 55 MiniActive volunteers made the long trip, the first time they’ve ever gone there.

Starting at the bottom

Starting at the bottom

When they started out, it looked like any other winter day, with palm trees and grass.

Climbing higher

Climbing higher

And then they climbed higher.

As if in a winter wonderland

As if in a winter wonderland

Not what we’re used to seeing, even in Jerusalem!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of this program.

Here’s the Facebook post from the MiniActive Facebook page:

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