the poultry project

Well done

August 22nd, 2006

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Wickliff’s great auntie holding him as he waves goodbye/hello.
21 August 2006 I suppose taking Wickliff to the hospital was a good idea after all. Yesterday, we found Wickliff laughing, talking, walking, and eating at his great aunt and uncle’s home in Mbale. Grandma (Alice)’s brother is a retired electrical engineer and his wife works in a bank. They’ve been caring for Wickliff and Alice for about a week. Alice wants to return the village, but she agreed to stay in Mbale for a couple weeks while the great aunt and uncle look for a nanny to help them care for Wickliff. And whatever happens, they’ve committed themselves to being a part of Wickliff’s life. He is so happy! He doesn’t fear me anymore. He told his auntie he likes me. He talked lots. We colored together. He walked and waved. He laughed and smiled. When I met Wickliff on August 6th, he could barely keep his eyes open. It’s amazing to witness his recovery. Even more amazing to know his family is now involved, and dedicated to keeping him healthy and safe. And loved.
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Peter’s leg is healing; he’s back in school.
We returned to the village to pay Peter a visit, and to deliver a soccer ball. Ironically, I burnt my inner calf on the exhaust pipe of the motorbike we took to Peter’s home. I asked Peter if he’d help save my leg and he laughed. We went over his school reports. He missed a lot of school because of the wound. He was 4th in his class prior to the injury; he dropped to 15th on his latest report. The good thing is that he was able to take his exams last week. The wound is healing and his limp gone. We also gave him a mosquito net and enough school supplies for a year. I said goodbye to Peter, and hobbled away on my burnt leg (just a tiny exaggeration:)
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Faith and Charity drying my tears on my last day at TASO Mbale.
Today was my last day at TASO Mbale. They insisted I give a speech, say something. I wrote something simple and short, but when I began reading, I wept immediately. I got what my sister Emily would call the ‘ugly cry’. I couldn’t proceed. Charity, one of the counselors, took the book from my hand, sat by my side, and read the speech for me. I just sat there and cried…tears of joy and gratitude.
And hope.
p.s. In Uganda, it’s customary to say “Well done” when greeting someone. “Well done” is said in place of other more familiar greetings like “Hello”, “Muzungu How are YOU”, and “Hi”.

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Rainbows

August 19th, 2006

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James stands outside his new home, at the end of a rainbow.

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19 August 2006 Sweet Shamim danced all day, charming people with her delicate, unforgettable smile. Instead of giving her testimony and singing a song, Shamim danced with the TASO Mbale Drama Group. The sun beat down on us during the neverending TASO Mbale Annual General Meeting, a meeting which lasted 9 hours:) The Drama Group performed three times with their new member, Shamim.
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Shamim dances at the TASO Mbale Annual General Meeting.
And then, of course, came the speeches and reading of reports and minutes. I was too hot to be impatient. Shamim made the time seem irrelevant. She wore her new purple dress, pink sneakers and a shear black headscarf. I loved watching her dance, so happy and free. Shamim makes everyone around her feel good. Her smile is haunting – stays with you always, even visits you in your dreams. And her little voice. And her sweet little hands. She always holds my hand. I had to say goodbye to Shamim, but I’ll see her again.
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Shamim’s remarkable smile.
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James laughing with friends outside his new home.

I left TASO early to say goodbye to Charles and James, and to see their improved home. The sun was about to set – my favorite time of day, when the sun light shines differently, illuminating everything, making dull things bright. And the colors! It’s my favorite.
As we drove into the village, kids started running towards the house from all directions. We found James sitting on the veranda underneath the bright blue shudders wearing one of his brother’s uniform shirts.
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Charles, James, Reuben, and Joseph stand with Juma outside their new home.
Charles rode in on his new bike. Robert arrived later after a long day of caring for a neighbor’s cattle. About twenty neighbor children lingered around, laughing and joking and saying, “muzungu how are you.”
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Havin’ fun in the doorway.
Clearly, Charles and James now have the coolest house in the village! Wonderful, airy sky blue paint brightens the interior walls of the home. A deeper, sea blue colors the doors and shudders. The veranda, the floor, the new latrine – it’s beautiful!
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*
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Charles and James inside their freshly painted home.

I saw a sense of relief in Charles’ eyes. This home, the bike, and the poultry make him feel more secure, less overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being the breadwinner, the cook, the caregiver, the “everything” to his five brothers.
A rainbow appeared in the sky, first one I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The rainbow seemed to end at the house.
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Magic colors everywhere!

That rainbow, however superstitious this may sound, assured me that Charles and James are gonna be all right. A good luck rainbow for Charles and James. We said our goodbyes before the sun left the sky.
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…at the end of the rainbow.
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View of the house as we drove away.

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August 18th, 2006

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Pictures for TASO client IDs scattered on a table.

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Happy ending (sort of)…

August 17th, 2006

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Children enjoying the view on top of Wanali Ridge – Sunday, 14 August 2006.
17 August 2006 I posted the last entry in a rush. Some of the counselors (Margaret and Sylvia) from TASO invited me for dinner at the Sunrise Inn, determined to help me forget about the stresses of the day. We planned to meet at 6pm. At 6:05pm, I posted the blog and took a boda boda to the restaurant. I was thirty-five minutes late. Aha.
Margaret is one of the founding members of TASO Mbale – an amazing woman! And Sylvia is a sweetheart – she counsels children at TASO. We talked about the project and how stressful its been. We also discussed the importance of projects that empower clients. We talked about the high cost of education in Uganda, and the persistent poverty. I asked Margaret if the poverty is getting worse. She said, “When families have to share salt to cook with, salt that costs 200 Ush (1800 Ush = 1 USD), you know something is wrong.”
Around 7:30pm, Enos joined us. He came straight from TASO to the Sunrise after a long evening of delivering birds and bicycles to five families. I was overcome with joy and relief and gratitude when I heard this. I had no idea the other team of counselors set out to make deliveries. Three deliveries left. Tomorrow night, all 21 families will have their 4 hens, 1 cock and a bicycle. Hooray.
And someone asked how we can ensure that these families will not eat the chickens. Well, it’s possible that some of these birds will be eaten for dinner, but it’s our hope that most of these birds will be used to lay eggs for eating and sale. The families participated in a training workshop on smallholder poultry farming last Saturday. They learned about housing, feeding, disease management, and basic business skills. They also received bicycles, which are a major source of income, as they are the predominant mode of transportation here, especially in the rural areas. Each family has been encouraged to use the bicycle as a boda boda and, once the hens start laying eggs, as transport to the market. Many families plan to use the bicycles for transport to school, too. TASO counselors will keep close watch of each family’s progress with assistance from TASO community nurses and chairpersons. With close monitoring and supervision, we expect most of the families to adhere to the project framework and guidelines.
The testimonies at the training were telling of the general enthusiasm and motivation among these families to make this project successful and to become self-supporting. Peter, the mother & father to his 4 brothers, stood up during the training workshop to speak. He pleaded with the other participants to take this project seriously, to care for the birds, and to utilize fully the opportunities and resources that the poultry project offers. After Peter spoke, others stood to express their gratitude and excitement.
They know that these chickens aren’t for dinner; hopefully, they’ll feast on the other white meat.
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Update on Peter and Wickliff:
While John was in the village yesterday, he saw Peter. After spotting John, Peter ran to greet him. Peter’s leg is healing. He’s running! He finished his exams at school. Peter told John he is very happy.
Yesterday, Wickliff’s grandma, Alice, fell sick. The doctors admitted her to the hospital, but Wickliff was ready to go home. Grandma couldn’t care for Wickliff, so John went back to their village to bring a relative to Mbale to help. Wickliff has left the hospital with the relative, and is staying with her in Mbale. Grandma is still in the hospital. She’s 74 and in bad shape. This whole situation confuses me…did we do the right thing by bringing her and Wickliff to the hospital; did our assistance harm more than help; will Wickliff get the nutrition he needs when he returns to the village; what happens when grandma passes – who will care for Wickliff and his two brothers…

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Delivering the Birds & Bicycles

August 17th, 2006

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Violet holding her hens.
17 August 2006
For the past two days, we’ve been delivering the chickens and bicycles to the families participating in the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth. It has been VERY stressful…
Time. In the US, time is everything. If you’re late to work, you lose your job. If you’re late for a party, you offend your host. If you’re late, you’re in trouble (most of the time). Time isn’t so important here. Like yesterday, I asked a man at TASO for the time. He looked at his watch, which read 11:30am, and said, “It’s half past eleven.” “It can’t be,” I said. I checked the time on my cell phone. It was 1:05pm. I wonder how long his watch has been off by over an hour. Regardless, the deliveries were set to begin at 8:30am. We didn’t get on the road until after 1pm. Today and yesterday.
Patience. That’s what they say I need. I’ve spent so many restless hours waiting for someone or something since I’ve been here. I find myself becoming less patient and more frustrated. No, angry. One of my roommates at the CURE guesthouse, Ihlo, told me I’d notice a difference back home. We’ll see. I’ll probably just be late for everything.
We reached 6 families yesterday, 7 today. Two hens died along the way, but not because of poor care; we suspect sickness. We purchased the cocks from NARO, and the hens were collected from local farmers that are participating in a smallholder poultry project administered by TEDDO. The farmer vaccinated the hens one week ago, so who knows.
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Children help load over 80 hens onto the truck.
Several of the families have been working hard this week to construct houses for the birds using local materials; others already had chicken coops. TASO counselors will monitor the project by visiting the homes monthly. In addition, TASO community chairpersons and nurses will aid the TASO counselors with monitoring and evaluation of the project.
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James embraces his new chicken.
Eight families remain. I hope we get a vehicle tomorrow. I hope we set out before noon. But, I need to remember that it’s not good to have expectations. I wanted to see each family receive their birds and bike, but if I don’t witness each delivery, that’s ok.
And although it has been VERY stressful, the smiles on the childrens’ and guardians’ faces when we hand over the hens and bikes melt the worries and anxieties away.
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Robert explains the intended uses of Peter’s new bike.

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Update

August 15th, 2006

New House:
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James takes a look at the progress inside.
James is so happy. He loves the construction going on at his house. When we arrived, he was drinking tea and standing by the doorway, watching the construction crew pour the cement floor. He loves being photographed, too; he kept posing for me.
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James playing near the water barrel.

The crew has been sleeping and eating at the house to maximize time, and to protect the supplies from theives. They care for James while the others go to school. Charles and his brothers all rushed home at lunchtime to help with the restoration.
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James places his foot on the cement bag, just like his brother’s friend.

Charles went with Juma to purchase bricks for the veranda, and everyone helped unload the bricks. The interior and exterior are plastered, floors poured, and the veranda in progress. They’re also building a latrine. The house should be finished tomorrow. Then we paint the windows and doors bright aqua blue!
Many thanks to all the compassionate, wonderful, generous people who supported this project, especially Meghan McEwen and Emily Flamos, who mobilized the funds! Your support has meant more to Charles and James than you’ll ever know…they are forever grateful! Thank you!
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James is lovin’ the camera, and his new house.
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Wickliff:
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Wickliff smiles.
The doctors want to release Wickliff soon. He has graduated from the all-yogurt diet that he hated to millet porridge, milk, eggs, and other solid foods. He looks great. I saw him smile for the first time in a week. He looked so different. I like the smiling Wickliff best. We have people in the village to monitor Wickliff’s progress after he returns. Boaz, one of the founders of PRID, lives next to Wickliff. He will keep close watch of Wickliff, and ensure that Grandma is using the money we’ll give her to follow the doctor’s nutrition plan for Wickliff.
I was waiting for that smile…
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Poultry Project:
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Robert (TASO Mbale) and James (TEDDO) carry the birds to the truck.
Today, we retrieved twenty-one vaccinated, exotic, improved breed cocks from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). They’re beautiful. We tied their legs with remnants of a sisal bag and piled them into the back of the TASO Mbale truck. At first, they flew around the truck and acted crazy, but they settled once the vehicle began moving (and maybe they knew they were getting 4 hens each). They never stopped stinking, though.
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James and Enos (TASO Mbale) tie the birds’ legs.
NARO is located outside of Soroti, about 2hours drive north of Mbale. It was a long ride. All twenty-one birds arrived safe at TASO where they’ll spend the night. Tomorrow morning, we’ll pick up 84 local breed hens from Kumi. That is, if we have a vehicle. The bikes were purchased. All we need are the hens and a ride, then we can deliver. Ideally, we pick up the hens by 9am and start delivering to the families afterwards, but considering the time it took to gather the cocks today (7 hours), I don’t know if we’ll get all the birds and bikes delivered before I leave.
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Birds enjoying the ride to TASO Mbale.

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Lwe Liswa Ni Bulamu Bwe, Masaba Region

August 13th, 2006

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Young man participating in the inauguaration day celebration for the Bagisu male circumcision ritual.

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On one of the most important days of his life…
12 August 2006
Mt. Elgon is the colonial name given to the Masaba Mountain. The Bagisu people inhabit the southern and western areas of Masaba. Male circumcision is an important part of Bagisu culture. Every even year, a five month ritual for male circumcision commences.
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Dancing under the hot sun.
The singing, dancing, and cutting began on Friday, 11 August 2006, the inauguration day for Bagisu male circumcision. Friday was the kick-off event.
Thousands of people gather to dance, sing and prepare the young men for their initiation into manhood.
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The Uganda Minister of Culture and other government officials sat under white tents as boys from the various Masaba clans performed elaborate dances, clad in beads, animal skins, and musical accessories. Journalists and ethnomusicologists documented the event with video cameras, steno pads, and huge high-tech microphones.
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Uganda’s Minister of Culture watches the performance.
The circumcision candidates will continue to sing and dance in their villages for their family and friends to prepare for their respective circumcisions, which will happen sometime between now and December 2006. (The actual circumcisions did not occur at the inauguration ceremony.)
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Armed guard at ceremony.

I had goosebumps the whole time…it was incredible. I’m so grateful that I got to experience such a rich piece of Ugandan culture.
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Charles & James’ House: Construction began on Friday. Plastering inside and outside is complete. The floor and veranda will be completed by Tuesday, 15 August 2006. I’m going to visit the house on Monday. Charles and his brothers are so grateful and happy. Special thanks to all those who helped make their new, improved home a reality!
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Wickliff: Young, sweet Wickliff is improving. His treatment plan consists of some medications and eating – yogurt, especially. Wickliff doesn’t like yogurt, but the doctor insists. His malnutrition wasn’t severe enough to warrant a feeding tube, but his recovery will still take time and patience. He’ll be in the hospital for another week, maybe two. Grandma somehow found her longlost brother, and he came to visit her. She is content.
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Peter: A messenger from Sibanga delivered good news about Peter’s leg – the wound is healing and he is walking better. Tabitha, the community health worker, continues to care for his leg and ensure a quick recovery.
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Demonstration hen at poultry project training workshop.
Poultry Project: Training workshop on Saturday, 12 August 2006, went well. Everyone showed up, plus one. Don’t know how that happened, but we’ll be supporting 21 families now, which is a good thing.
Although we had a late start (scheduled time:8am, actual starting time: 10:45am), the basic topics were covered and the families left enthusiastic and ready to rear some chickens.
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Poultry project training workshop.
The man suppling the hens & cocks facilitated the workshop. He was amazing. The demonstration hen he carried along laid an egg during the “housing” discussion. He engaged the participants, too. Many of the children and their guardians took notes, if they could write. Many of the participants speak different languages and only a few understand English; therefore, two of the TASO counselors translated for the trainer. Some of them traveled so far (two day trips for some) to be there. It’s all starting to come together.
Now, comes the hard part – getting all the chickens and bicycles delivered next week. I hope we make it happen!
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Robert, TASO Counselor, & Sarah, TASO Project Officer, watch the trainer demonstrate poultry vaccination.

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Namesake

August 12th, 2006

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Bananas on the dashboard.

11 August 2006 My family feared my safety in Uganda, haunted by the realities of the rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), and the war they continue to fuel in Northern Uganda. LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, wants to rule Uganda with the 10 commandments, kind of like our president, George W. Bush. What’s really ironic is Kony’s blatant admiration of the President of the United States – he named his son after him.
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An LRA rebel holding Kony’s son, George Bush.

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Construction begins!

August 10th, 2006

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Juma unloading bags of cement.
9 August 2006 Finally began restoring Charles and James’ house today. Actually, no plastering done yet, but the materials were delivered. We delivered several tons of sand and 500 lbs. of cement. One of the maintenance men at the CURE Children’s Hospital, Juma, volunteered his services. He runs a construction business on the side. He’ll send his crew today to begin plastering, then do the floor and, if there’s enough money, put a cement veranda around the house. He estimates finishing the job in four working days, so by Tuesday, August 15th.
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Loading sand onto the truck.
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Dumping the second load of sand.
TASO Mbale is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, August 19th. Shamim will give her testimony and sing a song. She told her counselor, “make sure the muzungu comes to see me perform.” We all pitched in to buy her a new dress and shoes for her special day.
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Sweet Shamim.
Wickliff is doing well. He is still in the hospital and his condition is improving gradually. Wickliff gains more energy each day. His grandmother said he is sitting longer, not lying down as much. The doctors haven’t said when he’ll be discharged. The village elders reported that Wickliff’s brothers are doing well and they eagerly await the return of their brother. John (founder of PRID & gate guard at CURE) has been by his side most of the time; I’m truly grateful for his enormous heart and willingness to help young Wickliff recover.
No word on Peter, but we sent for the village elders to check on his recovery…hope he’s back at school!

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Poultry project home visits

August 9th, 2006

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Young girl carrying wood.
8 August 2006 For the past two days, I’ve been visiting the homes of families participating in the poultry project. What an adventure! On Monday, I travelled with TASO Counselor, Charity. Today, I travelled with TASO Counselor and Community Organizer, Margaret. Margaret is a founding member of TASO Mbale. Back in 1990, she and several others began volunteering their time to counsel people living with HIV/AIDS. She’s been with TASO ever since.
Many of the families we visited live deep in the mountains, where the rains are heavy and the roads are terrible. There were times when I just closed my eyes and held on. Margaret and Charity called it ‘dancing’ when the car bounced and shook us as it passed over the bumpy, muddy, dangerous, unpaved, terrible roads. We saw cars stuck in the mud and men fixing bridges and roadways.
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Fixing the road.
Some homes were impossible to reach because of the rains and other people were not home, so we sent messengers. The purpose of the visits was to assess the homes, select the individual to be trained, distribute the training manual, and inform the individual about the training workshop on 12 August. Each family, along with participating TASO Mbale staff, will undergo training in smallholder poultry farming; the following topics will be covered: understanding common chicken diseases, administering vaccines, supplementing scavenge-fed chickens with supplemental feed, building a “house” for the chickens, getting the product (eggs) to market, marketing strategies, basic business skills, reporting parameters of the project, expectations of project, project prospects and possibilities.
The chickens are to be reared as egg layers, not broilers. Considering the consistent local market demand for eggs, with the proper maintenance and care of the chickens and responsible, informed marketing and sales, each participating family should make enough money to attain an acceptable level of food security and purchase other basic necessities.
Here are some of the children benefiting from the project:
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Rashid is 11 yr. old, HIV+, and an orphan. His grandmother takes care of him and his four siblings. He will go to the training with his grandmother, who will be the primary participant in the project.
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Yekosophat and Lona.
Yekosophat is 7 yr. old and HIV+. His mother, Lona, will be the primary participant in the project. She is very excited and has experience rearing chickens.
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Eric and Sophie.
Eric is 2 yr. old and HIV+. Eric’s mother, Sophie, will be the primary participant in the project.
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Jacqueline is 14 yr. old, HIV+, and an orphan. She lives with her grandmother, who will be the primary participant in the project. Jacqueline will also go to the training, but her grandmother will handle the chickens, so she can stay in school.
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Violet is 14 yr. old and an orphan. Violet and her 3 siblings live with their grandmother. Violet and the grandmother will both participate in the training, but the grandmother will care for the chickens while Violet is in school.
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Margaret, TASO counselor, & Jude
Jude is 15 yr. old and an orphan. He and his 4 siblings live with their grandmother. Jude will be the primary participant in the project. Jude is currently in school, and plans to help train his older brother and grandmother so they can assist him with the project while he’s in school.
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Vaska and her 1 month old daughter.

Vaska is 14 yr. old, a new mother, and an orphan. She lives with her grandfather. She will be the primary participant in the project.
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Twenty families will participate in the project. The goal of the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project is to ameliorate the dire situation these children find themselves in, a situation of hunger, sickness, despair, and hopelessness by empowering them and their guardians to become self-sufficient through active participation in an income generating activity.

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Wickliff

August 8th, 2006

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Wickliff and his Grandma at the Mbale government hospital.

8 August 2006 After meeting Peter in Sibanga on Sunday, we met Wickliff. His grandmother sat outside her mud hut holding him close. Other children stood around her. She alone cares for her three grandchildren. Their father died and their mother abandoned them. Wickliff is three years old; light brown hair, lethargy, jaundice, and blatant weakness – all signs of his deteriorating physical condition. The grandmother told us she didn’t know what to do for him. “I’m just waiting,” she said. Waiting.
The elders said that the nearby clinic could not offer the care Wickliff needs. So, we arranged for grandma and Wickliff to travel to Mbale…
They arrived on Monday morning, and John (founder of PRID and gate guard at the CURE Children’s hospital) met them at the taxi park. John spent the day going from a private clinic to the Joint Clinical Research center and finally, to the Mbale government hospital. He helped grandma navigate the complicated process of getting primary health care in Mbale(or anywhere in this country).
Wickliff was diagnosed with severe malnourishment and anemia. He received a blood transfusion that day. Today, they put him on a dextrose drip and began feeding him. I met with the doctor briefly this morning. He said Wickliff’s condition is improving, but they need to keep him for a few more days. Grandma is becoming restless. She misses the village, and she wants to go home. She’ll stay though. John and I have been visiting them, taking meals and buying them whatever they need. The hospital is scary – crowded, dirty, ill-equipped, dark, windows wide open, noisy, damp, bug infested, crowded, dirty. You walk through the corridors and wards hearing babies crying, stepping over rubbish, bumping into patients and visitors, wondering where the doctors and nurses are. And when you come to this Ugandan government hospital for treatment, you must buy EVERYTHING, from the pad of paper the doctor scribbles on to the gloves he wears. When I went to the hospital Monday night, the nurse said, “Wickliff is fine. He needs a dextrose drip. You can buy it for 1500Ush at the pharmacy.” Earlier that day, John had to buy the mat for the hospital bed, gloves, pen, paper, needles, blood, medicines, cotton swabs…everything used to treat Wickliff.
Wickliff is getting better, but a lot of damage has already been done. He is only three and his brain and body are trying to develop, but without food, his physical and mental capacities are compromised. Some of the effects of malnutrition can be reversed. At this point, it is crucial to ensure that a consistent level of nutrition is maintained for Wickliff. Unfortunately, given the physical condition of Grandma, it is likely that food will continue to be scarce for this family unless someone intervenes. John’s community-based organization, PRID, is trying to find solutions and answers to the problems of orphans and vulnerable children like Wickliff in Sibanga sub-county. John and the members of PRID are determined to help Wickliff. They’ll find a way to make sure Wickliff has food to eat.
I’ll go visit Wickliff tomorrow morning…I hope he smiles this time.

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Saving Peter’s Leg

August 7th, 2006

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Peter is an AIDS orphan living in Sibanga sub-county with his grandfather.
6 August 2006 Two weeks ago, one of the gatekeepers, John, at the CURE hospital asked me, “What are you doing here in Mbale?” I told him I was training/working at TASO Mbale, and we began discussing HIV/AIDS and how he’s been affected. John lost his sister to AIDS, and she left three children behind. That was three years ago. After losing his sister and learning about other orphaned children in his village, John decided to do something. John grew up in the Sibanga sub-county near Mbale. In 2002, with two village elders, John formed the Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (PRID) with the goal of empowering child-headed and single mother households through sustainable agriculture projects – coffee, poultry, and fish farming. Coffee trees were planted and are beginning to fruit.
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John and the village elders, Boaz and Nathan – founders of PRID.
The first attempt at rearing chickens failed, as all the chicks died, supplemental feed was insufficient, and the new hatchlings were not vaccinated. The fish farming project has not been implemented. With limited resources, PRID has not reached its full potential.
John invited me to visit his village today. We travelled by bus, boda boda, and foot. We waited for PRID’s co-founders and senior members to join us. Boaz is the vice-chairperson. Dathan is the secretary. Boaz cares for 5 of his late son’s 10 children. Boaz and Dathan led us to the homes of some of the neediest families in the village. We trekked through gardens of beans, yams, groundnuts, bananas, and peas. It rained most of the time.
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Peter and his grandfather.
We arrived at Peter’s home; his grandfather cares for him and his three younger siblings. Peter is 15 years old, but looks 12. He hasn’t been to school in a while. He walked with a limp. A huge, pussy, severly infected abscess on his inner left calf caused the limp.
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The abscess on Peter’s leg.
Money kept Peter from visiting the nearby clinic for treatment. He did, however, manage to buy some kind of treatment that is supposed to be injected; he applied it directly to the sore, which was making it worse. The sore had been exposed for three months. We told Peter to go to the clinic…we’d meet him there after we finished our village tour.
Tabitha, a midwife, runs the village clinic. She’s a dynamic woman! She dressed Peter’s wound, gave him antibiotics, and gave him strict instructions to return to the clinic everyday until the abscess heals. For the next 7 days, Peter will receive antibiotics. Tabitha also noticed that Peter’s diet rarely included proteins, but that protein was essential for the proper healing of the sore. We went to the shop adjacent to the clinic to buy 30 eggs for Peter. Now, after visiting the clinic each day, he will go to the shop for an egg. We also bought him a pound of groundnuts to take home. Peter plans to return to school, now that he has proper treatment for his leg. The school is near the clinic, too! Peter was so happy.
He’s in good hands…
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Peter and Tabitha, the community health worker.

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Dinosaur birds

August 5th, 2006

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5 August 2006
“What is that thing?” I screamed when I saw the dinosaur birds in the dumpster.
“Those are wicked birds,” shouted Angela from Nigeria (hilarious).
Mary from Uganda corrected her, “No, they’re vultures. They eat trash. They’re disgusting.”
Disgusting is harsh; I like these huge, weird, pterodactyl-like creatures. They’re actually storks, not vultures; vultures are smaller. Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is the name and rubbish is the staple food. I’m sure that’s not always been the case, but most of these birds are now found near dumpsters (that is, if there is a dumpster). The Marabou stork is one of the largest flying birds in the world. We saw these majestic, monster-bird trash collectors last weekend in Kampala. I think Marabou storks are beautiful!
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I was supposed to go up that mountain (see 8 July entry)today to deliver a soccer ball, courtesy of Colin. It rained all morning, so Moses, my friend and guide, cancelled. I hope to go next Sunday.

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I want to be a farmer

August 4th, 2006

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Sisal plants.
Camp Sunrise still needs donations to make the camp happen. There are so many children living in Northeast Ohio that have been affected in different ways by HIV/AIDS. This camp is their time to have fun, to be children, and to leave the stresses of their lives behind, if only for one week. If you can, please help make this camp possible for these children. And if you’re thinking, “they probably got everything they need already,” remember, that they can use the extra supplies for next year’s camp.
Here is a list of items that Camp Sunrise still needs:
Giant Eagle and Michael’s Gift Cards
Board games for the cabins – as many as we can get (jenga, catch
phrase,monopoly, uno, etc.) – these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities – friendship bracelet floss,
lanyard,beads, stationary)
Supplies for cookie decorating – for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking – for 25 kids
Dixie cups – 500
Kleenex – 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads – 2 large packages
Tampons – 2 large boxes
Pull ups – 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks – boys and girls
Boys’ bathing suits – 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls’ bathing suits – small sizes
Contact Katie McKee to find out how to get your donations to Camp Sunrise:
Katie McKee
Camp Sunrise Program Manager
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
kmckee@atfgc.org
Office: 216-432-9544
Fax: 216-622-7788
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4 August 2006 Minimal progress made on the project today – finalized proposal and put in tentative bicycle order. The home visits planned for today were canceled due to lack of transportation. Transportation is a problem – roads are bad and gas is pricey. I don’t know if I’ve told you, but gas is like 2,350 Ush. per litre. 1 gallon = 3.78 litres. At 1 USD = 1,840 Ush., gas is close to $5 per gallon.
Charles’ house: not moving forward as fast as I would like, but we hope to start construction this week. I will be patient:)
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And the best news of all…
Hanania will be participating in the poultry project! I will visit him next week with his counselor, Charity. We agreed that it would be unfair to keep him from participating because of our fears about what COULD happen with his guardians. With the impending end of food aid, this project is just what they need.
About the end of the food aid program: an exit strategy is being implemented. About 40% of the 8,500 people getting food aid will receive training in sustainable agriculture to promote successful subsistence farming and generate income through smallscale produce sale.
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My mom has a fantastic garden. Her garden is full of flowers – every color, many scents, different shapes, and so many sizes. The gardens here don’t sprout tulips and poppies; they’re sprinkled with earth’s fruits – cabbage and groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes and yams, carrots and peas, curry and ginger roots. Paw-paw, avocado, and mango trees shade village homes and supply the farmers with afternoon snacks after long hours of back-breaking work in the garden. Guavas and passionfruits, tomatoes and peppers, pumpkins and cucumbers. I want to be a farmer…

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I love Uganda

August 3rd, 2006

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Rebecca and Pemina, sisters and orphans, playing football.
3 August 2006 I went through a range of emotions today, as usual. Joy, helplessness, sorrow, excitement, gratitude, anger, satisfaction, emptiness, fulfillment, and Happiness.
I’ll just tell you the happy stories…
Robert (TASO counselor), Enos (TASO driver), Betty (TASO Day Center staff), and I went to Kumi district to visit 4 of the child-headed families participating in the smallholder poultry project. But, before we went to their homes, we stopped to order the hens. We’re purchasing them from TEDDO (Teso Diocesan Development Organization). TEDDO organizes and trains communities in all kinds of sustainable, income generating agricultural projects. James, our contact at TEDDO, agreed to facilitate our training workshop as well. We may buy the exotic cocks from TEDDO depending on the price he gives us…we found another farmer today offering vaccinated cocks for 12,000 Ush. and TEDDO wanted 15,000 Ush. – we’ll negotiate:)
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On the way to TEDDO, we stopped to buy sweet potatoes.
Other Smallholder Poultry Project Updates: “Keeping Poultry” manuals are printed and bound! The caterer, date, location, and facilitator of the training workshop are set! And all the families we visited today glowed with gratitude and excitement. I think we’ll get the bicycles and birds delivered before I leave!
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The Crested Crane (B. r. gibbericeps) – Uganda’s national bird; this one is somebody’s pet.
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Peter takes care of his four brothers. He’s 15, and he left school in 2004 after his parents died. Some NGO built a beautiful house for Peter and his family and they gave him groundnut (peanut) seeds to harvest. Peter is excited about the project, and has experience rearing chickens. None of these children are HIV+, and so Peter didn’t know how to get to TASO Mbale for the training, so the TASO community nurse for Peter’s region volunteered to escort Peter to the training next Saturday. I’m amazed at the profound impact TASO has had at the community level.
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Peter and Robert.
Enos suddenly stopped the car on the dusty, red-dirt road when he spotted a man riding a bike. Enos and Robert smiled widely and got out of the truck to greet and hug the man. His name is Charles, and one year ago, he was on his deathbed, severely anemic and unable to walk. On a home visit, Robert and Enos saw the way Charles’ brothers were neglecting him. They went to the nearest hospital to organize an immediate blood transfusion for Charles. With lots of work and patience, Robert and Enos managed to get Charles to the hospital for the procedure (in Uganda, and other developing countries, medical procedures like this don’t just “happen”; the hospital in Mbale doesn’t even have oxygen). At that time, Charles was 27 years old and weighed 37 kg. After the blood transfusion, Charles started taking ARVs. Today, a year later, he weighs 62kg, is married, and works hard harvesting maize and selling charcoal. Enos and Robert saved his life. Seeing Charles happy, healthy, and full of life inspires hope in Robert and Enos – and me.
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Robert, Charles, and Enos.
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The family of late Moses Imolot, Helen Orin, and Eunice Malinga.
Grandma takes care of her eleven grandchildren. Her son died on 28 June 2006, after the deaths of his two wives and youngest child. Auntie, also a TASO client, helps Grandma with the children. Auntie, along with Agnes, the eldest daughter, will work together on the smallholder poultry project. Grandma showed me the graves for her son, his wives, and her grandchild. I just held Grandma’s hand, and we both bowed our heads. There really wasn’t anything to say. The silence felt right.
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Grandma.
As I opened the TASO truck door to climb in, I noticed one of the boys tying sisal rope around a huge wad of black plastic bags. He was making a soccer ball. I tossed him one of the soccer balls Colin sent. Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah ran for the ball after Ben kicked it with his knee. Neighbor children joined in. Grandma smiled.
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Colin -
Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah told me to tell you, “THANK YOU!”

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More ARVs at TASO Mbale

August 2nd, 2006

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Sunset Mbale.
2 August 2006 Today, TASO Mbale began the process of offering ARVs to clients again. It’s been nearly a year since TASO Mbale filled the 1000 ARV slots, but they’ve been given 500 more to fill between 1 August 2006 and 1 March 2007 (this includes both adult and pediatric clients). After TASO Mbale reaches the ceiling number, clients are referred to other NGOs or government hospitals for ARVs, but TASO Mbale has the most slots (some regional hospitals have ARVs for 50 people). It’s not enough. It took too long to bring ARVs to Uganda and other African countries, way too long. There were issues of intellectual property (pharmaceutical companies slow to relinquish patents for generic manufacture of ARVs) and reservations about the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of distributing ARVs in resource-poor regions. Twenty-five years into the epidemic and the worst hit region in the world is still struggling to provide treatment to millions of people infected with HIV, and prevent mother-to-child transmission. Here’s a good article by Paul Farmer about ARVs in resource-poor countries: Download file
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In the Children’s Clinic…
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Dr. Sylvia and Hanania waiting at the TASO Mbale pharmacy for his ARVs.
“I thought I was here to give drugs, not handle all this…I thought it was gonna be a good day,” sighed one of the doctors, Dr. Sylvia, as she tried to grasp the horrible things Hanania just told her. Hanania missed his last appointment for ARV refills and hasn’t taken his meds in three weeks. He said that he gets headaches when he’s hungry. His guardians, grandparents and other relatives, usually prepare CSB (corn-soya blend food aid) for meals. He is severly malnourished. He weighs only 29 kg, and he is 17 years old. He looks like he’s 10. His lives up on the mountain near Kapchorwa and getting money for transport is a problem. I suggested to the doctor and the counselor, Charity, that we involve Hanania in the poultry project. Hanania smiled at the idea, but then told us about the time he was rearing rabbits and his grandparents slaughtered and ate them, without asking or paying. It’s likely that they’d kill and eat the birds, too. The land is fertile near the mountain; Dr. Sylvia says his guardians are lazy. They depend on Hanania’s food aid (USAID Title II program – administered by ACDI/VOCA), which officially ends in September. Dr. Sylvia and Charity were visibly overwhelmed – how can they help these children when the guardians are perpetuating the problems. Another child, John, also deals with stigma, discrimination, and neglect at home. He lives with his uncle’s family. All of his cousins go to school and he stays home to clean and work, despite his physical condition. Charity is working on getting him back in school; her biggest barrier…the uncle.
Hanania got his ARVs, money for transport, and some extra money that we told him to hide from his guardians. Hopefully, he’ll make it back to TASO Mbale for his refill and checkup. I’ll try to visit him before I leave.
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Hanania and me.
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GOOD NEWS!
I’m happy to report that Meghan McEwen, Loretta Bowlby, and my sister, Emily Pavlick, have motivated people they know to support the reconstruction of Charles and James’ home and the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Children…Thank You! I also want to extend my gratitude to all the people that supported me and made this experience in Uganda possible…Thank You!
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It’s not too late to make donations to Camp Sunrise (ATGC) – Cleveland, Ohio. Review the previous blog entries (27 July and 31 July) for an updated list of what they need and Camp Sunrise contact info.

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Building a stronger home for Charles and James

August 1st, 2006

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1 August 2006 I went to visit Charles and James! We are moving forward with plans to plaster his home with cement, install a cement floor and veranda, and possibly paint the exterior. I went with one of the TASO Mbale counselors, Robert, and the driver, Enos. First, we stopped at the primary school to pick up Charles. He was not at school today, so his younger brother, Joseph, escorted us to their home. One of the teachers, Issa, came along to help assess costs of construction.
I was happy to see that they live on a decent piece of land, have three pigs, one dog, and a 4-room house. The house does not need to be rebuilt…this is good.
We began touring the home and estimating costs. Neighbor women with their babies in their arms, children, and some of Charles’ brothers gathered around to listen and watch as Robert and Issa calculated the amount of cement and sand needed. James smiled when he saw me; he looked better than he did when I met him a couple weeks ago. James will start ARVs as soon as his TB subsides.
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He is taking medicine for his TB now – I saw it in one of the rooms, neatly placed on a chair next to the jerry can of water and a bottle of Waterguard (water purifier). I saw other things in the house that exhibited the tremendous love Charles has for his brothers – six toothbrushes sticking out of the mud-brick walls, mosquito nets hanging above the two mattresses, neatly kept kitchen, clean dirt floors, and an Addungu (traditional Ugandan harp) lying next to the chair slash table. He is so responsible! Issa said Charles misses school often…he has too much work to do at home.
Charles finally arrived from the market and smiled wide when he saw us. We told him about the plans to cement his home and the poultry project. He reverted to dad mode and concentrated on the discussion of his home’s repairs. James went straight to Charles’ side, and he was welcomed with loving arms.
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I gave Charles and his brothers one of the soccer balls…thanks Colin!
The estimates for the project were much higher than I expected. Cement is 18,000 Ush per bag, and we may need 30 bags, plus labor, plus sand to mix w/ cement for floor, plus transport of supplies, and maybe some paint. It will cost around $700 (the teacher’s estimate was $1000). James needs to sleep on a cement floor – he is so vulnerable to bacteria and disease and living in a clean house is one way he can avoid contracting deadly opportunistic infections. Tomorrow, we will meet with the building engineer that is working on a project at TASO. We’ll take him to the house so he can give us a more reasonable estimate. We will try to find ways to reduce the cost. The goal is to start construction before the weekend – it’ll take about 3 or 4 days to complete.
On Thursday, we’ll visit all of the families participating in the poultry project.
If you have time, send a Giant Eagle or Michael’s gift card to Camp Sunrise :)
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