People Who Inspire Me Archives

Kevin Richardson the Lion Whisperer

Kevin Richardson and Friends

Kevin Richardson and Friends

How ever many times I watch a video of Kevin with his lions, I am always in awe of this man.

He was born on the 8th October 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa and at college, started studying zoology but gave up because he thought his career would never to be working with animals and that it could only be a hobby. He then started courses in anatomy and physiology to become an exercise physiologist.

When he was 23 years old, Kevin had the chance to work with two six month old lion cubs, Napoleon and Tau. Rodney Fuhr at the Lion Park recognised something special in Kevin and asked him to come and meet the two cubs.

The work was originally part time but Kevin knew this is what he wanted to do. He had such an amazing way with these beautiful animals and was soon making documentaries that generated volunteers and income to help support the Lion Park Sanctuary.

Although Kevin’s specialty and deep love is working with lions, he has also worked with hyenas, cheetahs and leopards. It seems his magic works with many types of animals.

Now Kevin runs the ‘Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary’ in Pretoria. He truly loves his lions and they love him. He has fed, lived, and slept with his huge cats and although he has been scratched, bitten and punctured, it has never been malicious, always just in play.

Kevin will always point out that he only interacts with lions that he has known since birth and that is how such a mutual trust and respect develops.

He said,”A lion is not a possession. It’s a sentient being, so you must pay attention and develop your bond like with any relationship”.

Kevin is very concerned about the African lion population, during a fifteen year period, it has fallen from 350,000 to a scary 25,000. And unfortunately the African government still supports the paid killing of large game due to the huge income from eager foreigners.

But Kevin will carry on his work to ensure the safety of these magnificent animals and allow us to watch his amazing relationship with ‘his friends’.

Jo Tempest

The Shed That Creates Music

Songs From The Shed

Songs From The Shed

A musical shed? Yes, there is one and it’s hidden away in Somerset in the English countryside. It’s a former war army billet shed but has now found a great new use.

A guy called Jon and some of his friends started filling the shed with a collection of curiosities and they originally used it as a place to enjoy cider and cheese, both great examples of Somerset life.

A decision was made to have some musicians to play on their first meeting and from then on, it became known as “Songs from the Shed”.
It has featured in a BBC documentary as well as in many national and local newspapers. Local radio stations as well as BBC Radio 1,2,3 and 5 have played the music that comes out of the shed.

It has become so popular that bookings are now one year ahead for artists who want to perform inside and they have some really great talent squeezing inside to create their music.

One such band is ‘Bann’ who include double bagpipes in their music. They certainly left everyone with their ears ringing when they left, but what a great sound! The band has been described, “Like a Highland army advancing out of the mountain mist” and, “Like an uncompromising force”.

A while ago, it was noticed that the shed was suffering from woodworm and it could not be lost! So, many artists donated their songs for CD’s that could be sold to raise the money so that the shed could be treated for the woodworm and carry on being a meeting point for great music.

You can also purchase “Songs from a Shed” t’shirts and other goodies at this link here that help to keep Jon and his friends sharing their fun venue.
It has won ‘Shed of the Year’ and I think it is an honor it greatly deserved.

The Wounded Angel

The Wounded Angel - Simberg

The Wounded Angel – Simberg

Hugo Simberg was a Finnish painter born in 1873 and who died in 1917. His style of painting was very influenced by other ‘Symbolism’ painters of that time. Hugo actually started the sketches for this famous painting as early as 1898 but he did not complete it until the Spring, Summer of 1903.

He was very sick with meningitis and spent a lot of time in hospital, so that is why the painting took a long time to be finished.

Hugo first took photographs of his models in the studio and then later in Elaintarha Park in Helsinki, Finland. Unbelievably, the path shown in his painting still exists today along the shore of Töölönlahti Bay. He had not given a name to the painting until he entered it in to the Finnish Art Society annual Autumn Show, but some people think the painting is symbolic of him when he was so sick.

Hugo Simberg In His Garden

Hugo Simberg In His Garden

n 1904, Hugo Simberg was awarded a State Prize for his art and then he was commissioned to paint the frescoes in the Tampere Cathedral. He actually painted a larger version of his ‘Wounded Angel’ as part of the frescoes.

In 2007, a Finnish poll voted ‘The Wounded Angel’ the most loved painting in The Ateneum Art Collections, and I am sure you will see why. It is a very haunting painting and very much loved by children that view it. I am sure you will love it too.

 

Jo Tempest.

 

 

Inocente Izucar – A Gifted Artist

Inocente Homeless Artist

Inocente

Of course, there are lots of gifted artists around the world, but maybe not so many that have had the hard start that Inocente had to endure.

She was born in Mexico, along with her three brothers. Her father decided to take her and one of her brothers across the border illegally to San Diego. It took her mother, Carmela, over a year to catch up with her husband and children.

Life was hard and Inocente’s father was an abusive man. After one particularly violent attack on his wife and daughter, the police were called and he was deported back to Mexico.

After he had gone, Carmela tried to keep the family going, but it was too hard. They all found themselves homeless and moved around from shelter to shelter for years. Inocente, along with her brothers, joined the ranks of the 1.5 million homeless children in the USA.

At one point, Carmela became so desperate that she took all her children to a bridge and wanted to jump off with them all. Inocente pleaded with her mother not to do it and so they went back to living in shelters.

 

The Lost Planet 2013

The Lost Planet 2013

To try and escape her life, Inocente would visit the various art centres around her area that had been set up for homeless children. She loved to paint on canvases, as well as paint beautiful designs on her own face, and she would wear colorful and fun clothing, including a pink tutu. Inocente was a walking piece of art!

She was also attending school, but always felt different from the other children because she was homeless, and they were often unkind to her.

Then something amazing happened to Inocente when she was 15 years old. She became the subject of a documentary that would change her life. The film makers wanted to follow a homeless gifted artist to see how she lived and coped with her situation.

Inocente Academy Award

Inocente Academy Award

They did, and the film won them an Oscar at the Academy Awards this year. But it also changed the lives of Inocente and her family. Her art work started selling, and now at the age of 19 years old, Inocente lives in her own apartment and her mother and brothers live in their own apartment nearby.

She still obviously paints, but also visits other art centres for the homeless to tell them of her success, and hopefully to inspire them to the fact that good things can happen. She has had an exhibition of her work at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York, and I am sure there will be a lot more.

Inocente does not feel the need to paint her face any longer; all her painting goes on to her canvases. She once said, ”I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them”.

Well, it seems to me that nothing will be impossible for young Inocente in the years to come!

 

Jo Tempest.

 

 

 

Narayanan Krishnan – Feeding The Homeless

Helping Dignity

Helping Dignity

Narayanan was born in 1981 in Madurai, Tamilnadu, India. He thought his life was pretty well mapped out after becoming an award winning chef with the Taj Hotel Group in Bangalore, and being short listed for a fantastic job in Switzerland.

But one day, in 2002, when he was walking around the streets on the way to a temple in his hometown, he saw something that would change his life forever.

He saw an old homeless man under a bridge who was so hungry that he was eating his own excrement.

Narayanan was so shocked to see a person driven to these extremes. He quickly went and bought the man some food; the poor man devoured it in minutes and shed tears of joy for this small gesture. 

That day changed young Narayanan’s life, he immediately resigned from his job to devote his skills and time to the homeless in his hometown. Because of the extreme poverty in India, the poor mentally ill people are left totally uncared for, and have to live on the streets along with many other homeless people.

They tend to live under the many bridges or around the temples. Many of these people do not know their origins or even their names, they are not capable of begging or asking for help. They can often be hostile and paranoid but this was not going to stop Narayanan from trying to help as many of them as he could. 

CNN Hero Narayan Krishnan

CNN Hero Narayan Krishnan

With his $2000 savings and the rent from a home left to him by his grandfather, he set up a kitchen with a few volunteers and started to cook for the masses. He started by providing a healthy vegetarian breakfast, lunch, and dinner for around 400 people a day.

He would go out in his donated van along with his fellow workers and deliver the food to wherever he could find these destitute people, often covering 125 miles a day in extreme temperatures. Many of them started to depend on these food deliveries every day and it made a huge difference to their lives.

At first, Narayanan’s parents were not supportive of him, as they had invested a lot of time and money in his education. But he asked his mother to spend a day with him to see what he was doing. She soon changed her mind and was in awe of her son’s compassion. ”You feed all these people; the rest of the life time I am here, I will feed you.” 

Narayanan continued with his work for the homeless, and then started to also take a comb, scissors, and a razor on his daily excursions. He had mastered six haircut styles, so would give a shave, wash and a haircut to any that would like it. He felt that this gave some of his people a little pride in themselves.

Now he was ready to take his plans one step further in a huge way. He founded the Akshaya Trust in 2003 to feed the homeless and mentally disabled in Madurai. Akshaya means ‘undecaying or imperishable’. To feed around 400 people three meals a day cost around $327 a day. But the original donations only covered around 22 days out of every month, so it was important to raise awareness.

Akshaya Trust

Akshaya Trust

By 2010, the Akshaya Trust was ready to build a home for some of the homeless people being fed every day. It took a long time as a lot of money was needed, but the home opened in May, 2013.

It has a medical facility, along with many dormitories and of course, a large kitchen to provide all the daily meals. 

Narayanan Krishnan is a very special young man. To date, he has provided over a million meals, been voted one of CNN’s Top Ten Heroes, and had a feature film made based on his story.

But to him, the only thing that matters is feeding and housing his friends on the streets. ”Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy. I have a passion. I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.”

I am sure Narayanan will go on to build more homes and feed many more millions before he thinks he has done enough for his people. 

Jo Tempest.

 

 

 

Bethany Hamilton Rides The Waves

Bethany Hamilton Rides The Waves

Bethany Hamilton Rides The Waves

Do you know those words from a Frank Sinatra song, “Just pick yourself up and get back in the race?” Well, if anyone has managed to live up to those words, then it is Bethany Meilani Hamilton. 

Bethany was born on the 8th February 1990 in Lihue, Hawaii to a deeply religious family. From a toddler, she had a love for the sea and at an early age, was riding a surf board through the waves. Before long, she was a really competent and competitive surfer.

But, then on October 31st 2003, her life was changed forever. Very early in the morning of that day, Bethany went surfing with her best friend Alana Blanchard, along with Alana’s father and brother.

She was laying on her surfboard watching the turtles swim around her, letting her left arm dangle in the sea. Suddenly, without warning, a 14-15 foot Tiger Shark attacked her surf board, biting off her left arm at the shoulder.

The shocked Blanchard family quickly moved into action and paddled Bethany to the shore. Alana’s father managed to create a tourniquet around the injury with the strap of a surfboard and then they rushed her to the local Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

Bizarrely, Bethany’s father was already at the hospital as he was due to have an operation on his knee the same day. He was confronted with his daughter close to death as by this time, she had lost 60% of her blood.

Bethany In The Hospital

Bethany In The Hospital

His operation forgotten, he and his family waited for the outcome of Bethany’s surgery. It was a success and Bethany was soon on the road to recovery. The story became headline news and Bethany gave many interviews over her next few days in the hospital. 

In the meantime, a family of local fishermen led by Ralph Young, had caught and killed a 14-15 foot Tiger Shark, just about a mile away from where Bethany was attacked.

They found pieces of surf board still in its mouth and it was later confirmed that it was the same shark that had cost Bethany her left arm. (That same surf board was later donated to the California Surf Museum.) 

Bethany and Surfboard

Bethany and Her Surfboard

Bethany left the hospital and unbelievably, was keen to get back to surfing. Within a month, she was back to riding the waves with a custom-made board. It was slightly thicker and longer than normal, with a strap for her right hand to make paddling easier.

By kicking a lot more than usual, she was able to compensate for the loss of her left arm. Just the following year, on 10th January 2003, Bethany came in 5th in the Major NSSA Nationals Competition. Then the following year, she came 1st in the same competition.

Over the next few years Bethany continued to compete, doing really well, until she fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional surfer, which she still is today, using the normal competition standard surf board. 

She has been featured in a film, been on many chat shows as well as having her own autobiography, “Soul Surfer”. 

Bethany and Fiancé

Bethany and Fiancé

But I think maybe the best thing for Bethany to date, is that she got engaged this year. She is a beautiful looking young woman, and amazing as she has been, Bethany always wondered if she could be loved by a man after the loss of her arm.

She need not have worried; she has met the love of her life who loves Bethany for being Bethany. 

I am sure that when she eventually has her own family, she will be introducing them to the first love of her life, the ocean waves. 

Jo Tempest.

Man’s Best Friend

Eisaburo Ueno

Eisaburo Ueno

I know many of you lovely readers have dogs and love them dearly, as so do they love you . But I am going to tell you a true story about a dog that loved his owner so much that it is heartbreaking and has become a legend. 

Eisaburo Ueno was a resident of Shibuya in West Central Tokyo and worked as a Professor at the Department of Agriculture at the Imperial University ( now the University of Tokyo). His story begins on the 10th January 1924 when he was given a young puppy, as he was a great lover of dogs.

This little puppy was an Akita that he named Hachiko and he grew up to being a big dog, weighing 90lbs. He had a light yellow fur coat with a tail that curled to the left. Man and dog adored each other and hated being apart.

Every morning, Professor Ueno would set off around 9am to go to the local train station to travel to the Dept of Agriculture or the Ministry of Agriculture in Nishigahara. Hachiko would always trot beside him to the station and after seeing his master on to the train, he would return home.

Then around 6pm, off he would go again, back to Shibuya station to meet his Professor, waiting by the ticket gate to meet and greet his master. This daily routine never changed and all the locals were in awe of the closeness of man and dog.

But, just 16 months later, the most terrible thing happened. On 21st May, 1925, Professor Ueno was in a faculty meeting when he had a stroke and died immediately. His body was brought home to his village for his wake. The story goes that Hachiko went into the parlour where his body was laid out and spent the night laying by his master’s side.

After the funeral, something had to be done about Hachiko and it was decided he would go and live with relatives of the Professor in Asakusa, the Eastern part of Tokyo. But he constantly ran away and returned to his old home in Shibuya. This went on for a year until the gardener to the Professor said he would keep Hachiko with him, as he had known him since a puppy.

But still Hachiko kept running back to his old home and also visiting Shibuya Station every day, morning and night, as he used to do when his master was alive. He was seen searching the station daily for Professor Ueno until he got hungry and had to go and find food.

Hachiko - 1932

Hachiko – 1932

The local residents watched this weekly, soon becoming yearly, routine of Hachiko’s and it broke their hearts.

One of them sent this sad story, with photographs, to the Asahi Shinbun, a major newspaper, where it was published in September 1932.

Before long, Hachiko had become a national celebrity and made guest appearances at Nippo Dog Shows. Then picture postcards and figurines of Hachiko were produced for sale.

But all this attention never wavered Hachiko and his visiting the train station every day, although he was not in good health.

In 1929, Hachiko contracted a severe case of mange, from which he nearly died. He had become thin and battle scarred from fights with other local dogs. He recovered and returned to keeping up his twice daily vigil at the station, but then he was found to be suffering from heart-worms that took their toll on him.

On 8th March 1935, Hachiko died in a side street to the station. He had daily waited, and pined, for his loving Professor for over nine years. The national newspapers showed articles about his death and too many people around the country shed a tear for this wonderful dog.

He was eventually reunited with Professor Ueno because his bones were buried in the corner of the grave of his master. His coat was preserved and a stuffed replica of Hachiko can be seen in the National Science Museum at Veno. 

A year before Hachiko had died, in April 1934, a beautiful bronze statue of him was erected in front of the ticket office of Shibuya Station. It had been created by the famous sculptor, Tern Ando, and had a poem engraved on a placard that was titled “Lines to a Loyal Dog”. Too many people, including the family of the professor, attended the grand unveiling of the statue and found it a fitting tribute to Man and his Dog.

Hachiko By Takeshi Ando

Hachiko By Takeshi Ando

Unfortunately, when the second world war was in force, the statue was melted down in April 1944, as the bronze was a valuable commodity.

But happily, in 1948, the son of the original sculptor, Takeshi Ando, created a replica of his father’s famous statue of Hachiko. It still can be seen today, standing outside the ticket office of Shibuya Station as a tribute to the most wonderful, loyal and loving dog, Hachiko. 

I am sure you will agree that this is truly the most amazing and sad story of Man and his Dog, but at least Hachiko joined his Master at the end of his days.

 

Jo Tempest.

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Floating School In Makoko

Floating School

Floating School

Makoko village (the name means fishing village) is in Nigeria and always flooded. People generally just drive past the area and rarely bother to stop, as it is a very poor area.

With the water pollution and other environmental problems, the death rate is high in this area.

Most families comprise of at least 4 children and many of these barely go to school. But Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi, who also usually just drove by, did stop one day.

He stood and looked at all the homes built on stilts and the many children who traveled around in canoes.

Kunle had a vision of a school for the children, but not on stilts as all the homes; he was thinking of a floating school. 

The floating school has become a reality due to his design of a floating platform of over 250 floating plastic drums.

The school is three story with solar panels on the roof to supply power, a recreational area on the ground floor and two levels of classrooms. It even has toilets which is exceptionally unusual in this area. It is able to offer education to around 100 students at a time. 

Kunle Adeyemi, Architect

Kunle Adeyemi, Architect

Kunle is not stopping just with the school. He has dreams that may well become a reality of floating homes built as real communities.

He does not want the residents of this area to lose their homes as is the plan of some local officials. They want to destroy all the homes on stilts as they feel they are not fit for human habitation.

But what would happen to the people of Makoko then? And other places like them in Nigeria? 

Al least Kunle is first giving a chance to the children of Kunle Adeyem to receive an education, rather than to be some of the 7 million children in Nigeria who do not.

And from this ambitious project, maybe people will no longer drive past Makoko, but take the time to stop and look at the new floating community.

 

Jo Tempest.

 

 

 

The Wonderful Dr Devi Shetty

 

Dr. Devi Shetty | Jo Tempest

Dr. Devi Shetty

Yet again I have come across another compassionate and amazing man known as ‘The King of Hearts’. I watched a documentary on his hospital that runs at a profit, and had to learn more about him, so here is his story. 

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty was born May 1953 in Karnataka, India. He was the eighth of nine children and wanted to be a doctor, or more precisely, a cardiac surgeon.

On completing his graduate degree in Medicine, Dr Shetty went to work in General Surgery in Mangalore. Later, he left for England and trained in the excellent Guy’s Hospital, specializing in cardiac surgery.

When he was 36 years old, he returned to India where he initially worked at the B.M. Birla Hospital in Kolkata.

It was at this hospital he probably became one of the most famous cardiac surgeons in the world when he operated on Mother Theresa after her heart attack, and later to become her personal physician.

Dr Shetty then moved to Bangalore to create the Manipal Heart Foundation Hospital. With the help of his father-in-law, a wonderful new hospital was built. The hospital is large, extremely well staffed and efficiently run. He needed to build his own hospital as he could find no employers that agreed with this theory of health care.

Then in 2000, he opened Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital in Bangalore, under the umbrella of the Asian Heart Foundation. 

Rich and poor come for a range of treatments; the rich pay and this allows the poor to be freely treated who would have no chance under normal circumstances. Dr Shetty is also the first heart surgeon in India to perform heart surgery on new-born babies.

When I watched the documentary, I saw just a few of the range of his cases. There was a 13 year old village girl with a deformed jaw. She had never been able to smile or eat solid foods, but after the operation, her life was transformed. She couldn’t stop smiling and a few months later, she had put on weight and looked lovely.

 

Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital | Jo Tempest

Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital

A young boy of about the same age had a terribly deformed spine; he could barely shuffle around. There are many like him in India. They cannot all be operated on, but this child had that chance. He will be able to walk and more importantly work for his living later.

A little village baby was saved, who would have definitely died within a few months if he had not received the crucial heart surgery he needed.

People traveled from as far as America to get the heart surgery they needed at a fraction of the cost it would be in their own country.

All patients, rich or poor, have to have a close family member or friend as a care giver for the first week they are in hospital, to help keep down the costs. 

In August 2012, Dr Shetty announced the agreement he had reached with Trimedx, a subsidiary of ‘Ascension Health’, a project to create a joint venture aimed at taking health care everywhere in India. There will be 5000 bed hospitals in every state in India, all run on the amazingly efficient way of his first hospital. 

Dr Shetty believes that the cost of healthcare can be reduced by 50% in the next 5-10 years if hospitals adopt the idea of economies of scale. “Charity is not scaleable. If you give something free, you will run out of money”.

Dr Shetty has somehow achieved the balance of providing for the poor as well as the wealthy. Every patient receives the same amazing care, whether they have paid or not. The only difference is that the patients who pay, do not have to wait for their surgery, whereas the poorer may have to for a while.

The training future surgeons receive at the hospital is second to none, so that they can work in the new hospitals with a fantastic range of skills.

I think what really struck me from watching the series of documentaries on Dr Shetty and his work, was the wonderful calm atmosphere in the hospital, the compassion of all the doctors with their patients, and the feeling that they are all working to a greater good for their country.

It’s just my thinking, but having operated on Mother Theresa, maybe that wonderful woman gave something special to Dr Shetty as a thank you. He certainly seems blessed in all that he is trying to achieve.

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Jo Tempest.

 

 

Music Made By Children From Recycled Instruments

 

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Something truly wonderful has happened to twenty lucky children in the extremely poverty stricken area of Cateura in Paraguay, thanks to Favio Chavez. He is a social worker and music teacher who learned how to play guitar and clarinet when he was a child.

Originally, his job was to teach the trash-pickers how to protect themselves, but then he had the idea to open up a music school to try and keep the young children out of trouble.

The school is situated right near the huge landfill sites where around 25,000 families live and work in the huge mountains of rubbish. Life is horrendous and the families are living in extreme poverty. When the school was started, there were only five instruments so the children got bored waiting to get their chance to try playing, but Favio had a great idea.

 

Nicolas Gomez Instrument Maker

Nicolas Gomez

He asked Nicolas Gomez, (a trash-picker) to try making some musical instruments from recycled materials found on the trash mountains, so that the waiting children would have something to practice on while they were waiting their turn. Nicolas had previously been a carpenter so he had great training for his future work.

Before long, two big jelly cans became a classical guitar and used Xray plates were transformed into a thumping drum set.

Favio also approached Tito Romero, who repaired damaged trumpets in his shop outside Asuncion. He asked him to try and turn supplied, scavenged galvanized pipes and other metals into saxophones, flutes and clarinets. Tito was very successful with his task and was soon supplying instruments for the children.

As for the lucky twenty children in the chamber “Orchestra of Instruments Recycled from Cateura”, they are having a great time. They have performed in Panama, Colombia and Brazil and hope to play at an exhibit opening next year in their honor at the ‘Musical Instrument Museum’ in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

Recycled Violins Landfill Orchestra

Recycled Violins

Their instruments will be on display next to Eric Clapton’s guitars, as well as one of John Lennon’s pianos. But more importantly, the orchestra has given the children some hope that their lives can be better than their parents’, and maybe escape the poverty and terrible conditions they live in.

Fifteen year old Rocio Riveros took a year to learn to play her flute made from tin cans and is now enjoying being in the orchestra.

Fifteen year old Tania Vera plays a recycled violin and has to live in a wooden shack right next to a contaminated stream; her mother has health problems and her father abandoned his family, but the orchestra gave her the chance to travel and swim in the seas of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Fourteen year old Ada Rios and her cousin, 16 year old Maria Rios, both play recycled violins.

 

Victor Caceres plays his cello

Victor Caceres plays his cello

Fifteen year old Victor Caceres plays his cello made from a red and white drum.

Fifteen year old Brandon Cobone plays his double bass violin made from a tall yellow barrel.

These and the other children in the orchestra will be playing on the upcoming seasonal holiday at the Asuncion shopping centers and the little money they will earn will go a long way toward providing their families with a Christmas dinner.

The crowds will be treated to a range of music from these inspirational children, including Mozart, Beethoven, Henry Mancini, The Beatles, ‘My Way,’ by Frank Sinatra, and Paraguayan Polkas.

I am sure this scheme will not stop here, but at the moment, at least the music school has provided a way for children to escape the rubbish dumps of Paraguay and find some joy in their young lives.

 

Jo Tempest.

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