Sep 13, 2018

Grounding Recovery in Community

Our Youngest Voices are Heard!
Our Youngest Voices are Heard!

Hurricane Rebuilding by Empowering & Strengthening Nonprofits
As the nation once again prepares for yet another Superstorm as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast of the Carolinas, one year after the two Category 5 Storms hit the U.S Virgin Islands, we are reminded of the critical importance of long-term philanthropic support for American citizens living on a remote island trying to recover from a catastrophic disaster. For St. Croix, which is 10 miles wide and 25 miles across in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the stakes are very high.

What if government systems collapse and private sector operations shut down? That’s what happened on St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands in September of 2017. In fact, it’s what happens in most small, remote communities. Who fills major service gaps such as a nonworking 9-1-1 phone call? Who ensures that our elderly are safe in their homes when our health and human service agencies have collapsed. Who serves thousands of displaced children when the public schools are condemned, and the system is in chaos? It’s St. Croix’s nonprofits that fill those critical gaps.

But what happens if St. Croix isn’t on the national philanthropic map? What happens if issues of inequity, often exacerbated after natural disasters, affect local funding and there are no advocates for vital nonprofit organizations that are filling increasing needs with fewer resources?

This is why St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is aggressively supporting our St. Croix Nonprofits through a myriad of philanthropic strategies from grantmaking and advocacy to direct services through our Nonprofit Consortium and today, one year after the storms, we can say that our nonprofits are getting stronger, serving more of our most vulnerable residents, and creating strong collaborations.

GETTING THE VIRGIN ISLANDS ON THE PHILANTHROPIC MAP
The St. Croix Foundation hosted a small delegation of Board members from the Southern Partners Fund (SPF) from July 11th -15th. Southern Partners Fund is a 501(c)(3) public foundation serving grassroots organizations in rural communities across 12 states; Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Their visit to St. Croix served to help the Foundation make a case for expanding SPF’s funding map to include the Territory.

With a commitment to “giving voice and opportunity to marginalized and underserved communities and families in the rural south, SPF’s mission is to support rural Southern communities and organizations seeking social, economic, and environmental justice by providing them with financial resources, technical assistance and training, and access to systems of information and power to shift the balance of power in their communities.

One of the primary goals of SPF’s visit was to expand opportunities to get the Territory ‘on the map’ and recognized as a relevant and legitimate funding priority for national funders. The Foundation fundamentally believes that one of the critical components of a holistic recovery is a healthy civil society.

With far too many of our nonprofit organizations too dependent on government subsidies the Foundation hosted 20 of our local nonprofits in an intimate gathering with SPF with the overarching goal to support our nonprofits so that they can ultimately exert the level of political power necessary to advocate for an equitable recovery and for social justice for the constituents they serve.

Organizations that connected with Southern Partners Fund include St. Croix Women’s Coalition, who serves as an advocate and direct service provider for victims of abuse and violence; the Caribbean Centers for Boys and Girls, who serves nearly 200 young people every single day; the St. Croix Landmark’s Society, who houses one of the most comprehensive culture and heritage archives on the African Diaspora in the region; and the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, whose wide range of economic, educational, artistic, cultural and civic events and services are bringing together community in an innovative and culturally relevant way!

The Foundation, through their Nonprofit Consortium, is working to elevate the efficacy and force of the nonprofit sector and in turn build a model for other communities’ recovery and sustainability efforts. Toward that end, SPF has already made a commitment to supporting the work of St. Croix non-profits through several direct grant awards to local nonprofit organizations.

ST. CROIX FOUNDATION HOSTS WEEKLONG COMMUNITY-BUILDING ACTIVITIES WITH WORLD RENOWNED SYSTEMS CHANGE & SOCIAL EQUITY AGENTS
In the aftermath of any disaster, rebuilding efforts must be grounded in each community’s unique culture and DNA. It is common, however, for redevelopment to happen with marginalized groups very much on the sidelines and for the fabric of a community’s culture and core values to be torn apart by disaster capitalism which can oftentimes exploit community’s in the areas of employment, housing, health, and education. To mitigate this and ensure that our nonprofits have the ability to advocate for the vulnerable residents they serve, the Foundation has undertaken to provide real technical skills and introduce nonprofits to advocacy-based organizations. Here’s just a snapshot of our recent convenings:

  • In early August the Foundation hosted a week of activities geared at empowering organizations and our community at-large to become change agents. Led by Tuesday Ryan-Hart, an internationally renowned systems change strategist who has worked with organizations and stakeholders engaged in community building, we introduced over 55 organizations in 3 days to a new concept of community engagement entitled, “The Art of Hosting” to help build organizing capacity in our community through conversations and training around high impact collaborations.
  • The Foundation also hosted a two-day session with the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) which has committed itself to increasing national philanthropic engagement in the U.S. Caribbean (USVI & Puerto Rico). In the aftermath of the Hurricanes, ABFE is nurturing a shift toward greater social equity and philanthropic investments in communities of color which have historically been ignored by the field. 25 of St. Croix’s nonprofits joined, representing organizations that are directly advocating for a food security, workforce development, historic and community revitalization and the preservation of our environment and culture and heritage.

Nonprofit Consortium – Building Infrastructure!
As stated in the St. Croix Foundation’s Third Quarterly Report for the Nonprofit Consortium, a 30-60-90 day plan for building infrastructure around the Consortium was built and is today officially being implemented. While much of the work will be ongoing, the Foundation is currently pleased to report on the following components of the plan:

  • Practice inclusion – Recent events such as the Art of Hosting and the convening hosted by ABFE as well as our workshops with the Southern Partners Fund listed above were opportunities for nonprofits and interested partners and agencies to witness and practice internal development work as well as an opportunity to connect with agencies they may not have been able to reach in the past. These convenings also built technical skills around collaboration, building awareness for public advocacy, hosting effective meetings, and analyzing issues through an equity and data based lens.
  • Develop a logo and an overall brand for the Nonprofit Consortium – St. Croix Foundation recently offered the Nonprofit Consortium a logo and tagline of “Holding the Vision”. The Foundation is now working to have Consortium members provide input and vote on the formal adoption of this logo.
  • Refine and distribute Nonprofit Consoritum Contact Listing – An ongoing activity and critical to communications and gaining traction, the NPC Listing is regularly updated and distributed to members.
  • Create a Facebook page – To share our calendar of activities and events and provide announcements pertinent to the community that will enhance connectivity a group has been created within the St. Croix Foundation’s Facebook page to begin sharing announcements and updating our NPC. Once the official logo has been decided, the page will be made active but exclusively for NPC member.

Building structure around the Foundation's NPC will provide greater communication and leveraging of resources for nonprofits who are actively working to help St. Croix recover from the hurricanes. Because of the support of GlobalGiving and some generous support of local corporate citizens, we’ve been able to build the cornerstones of what we know is already becoming a strong consoritum of nonprofits who have the capacity to affect social change that connects with St. Croix’s economy, environment, culture and heritage, and the education of our young people.

We wish to thank our generous partners who have made all of the Foundation’s work possible and hope you’ll stay the course with us. Making the Nonprofit Consortium possible makes anything possible!

Addressing Unemployment through an Equity Lens
Addressing Unemployment through an Equity Lens
Our Nonprofits Connect with National Partners
Our Nonprofits Connect with National Partners
Collaboration & Hosting Skill-building
Collaboration & Hosting Skill-building
55 Nonprofits Collaborating for Recovery
55 Nonprofits Collaborating for Recovery
Our NPC Holds the Vision, Considers a New Logo
Our NPC Holds the Vision, Considers a New Logo
Sep 11, 2018

One Year After The Hurricanes

First week for a new student - learning to tie!
First week for a new student - learning to tie!

A year after two Cat-5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, rampaged across the Caribbean, St. Croix Montessori opened its doors to embrace 37 children and their families and welcome the start of a new school year. The new gutters gleamed in the sunlight, and the campus burst with the sounds of rejoice – our children ran across freshly grown grass to leap on the playground they hadn't seen in two months, families shared stories of summer vacation and hugged as they reunited.

“It feels like a family reunion!” one father shouted.

“You’ve moved back to the island! Thank you!” a grandmother said to a young mother of two.

“We are just so thankful to have been able to join Montessori this year," exclaimed a grinning parent of one of the four public school students able to enroll in our Elementary program.

Thanks to the GlobalGiving community and St. Croix Community Foundation, our school was able to navigate our initial year of hurricane recovery. We struggled. We survived. Your support ensured we provided a year of education following the storms, six weeks of summer enrichment to the children of St. Croix, and enabled St. Croix Montessori to re-open our doors for the next year of recovery.

 

The Foundation for Learning

In St. Croix, there is a severe gap in options for early childhood education. Roughly a dozen private options exist for pre-school, and the public system introduced a pilot pre-school program for 30 children ages 4 and up this September.

Our school exists in a unique position, having the only accredited option for developmentally-based education preK-grade 6. St. Croix Montessori understands that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs during the first five years of life and forms the neural foundation for all learning, behavior, and health (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University). Programs engage all aspects of a child’s development – i.e. emotional, social, practical life (movement), and academic - beginning at age 2 ½ and continuing to age 12.

We practice equitable collaboration – parents and community partners are part of the learning process. We teach social justice and peaceful conflict resolution. Our team of 5 instructors integrate cultural education as well as academics and gardening into the daily routines. For St. Croix Montessori, systems-thinking is just good Montessori.

The Importance of The GlobalGiving Community’s Support

It is only through the support of St. Croix Community Foundation and GlobalGiving that our school has survived through to September 2018.

As of this report, our school has not yet received disbursements from insurance, FEMA Private Non Profit Assistance, or SBA Disaster Loans, despite having begun these processes in September 2017. The impacts of having been stretched to capacity for over twelve months are seen across our organization, however, in the face of islandwide, chronic shortages for teachers, contractors, supplies, and in response to the demand for safe learning spaces, we have remained open, provided quality education, repaired a collapsed sewer line and damaged roof, expanded our Elementary program, and became one of the only summer enrichment programs to remain open.

We have a saying: the child is the promise of humanity.

St. Croix Montessori believes that access to education should never be determined by socioeconomic status.

Thus, we fundraise to provide scholarships to over 50% of our families. On average, St. Croix Montessori’s fundraising results in 25-50% of the total amount waived for scholarships for low-income families, which are 35% of our population.

Our commitment is to practice our core beliefs. For example, the Head of School refused to take a salary for over a year so that teachers could receive a living income. In the face of rent increases and housing shortages, the Head of School continues to receive less than half of her salary so that all available funds can be directed towards teaching, learning, and ensuring the integrity of our school’s operations. Our team, at their personal expense, is in the process of becoming cross-trained in order to address the realities of life (e.g. we get sick; our relatives pass; our children are ill) and still provide support to our students.

 

The Global Giving community is saving children in St. Croix.

In 2015, 40% of all VI children entering public kindergarten lacked age expected cognition skills and over half (55%) lacked age-expected word recognition and comprehension skills for kindergarten readiness (USVI KidsCount 2015). In comparison, 85% of St. Croix Montessori’s students who are eligible for promotion (i.e. 1st grade, 3rd grade, or 6th grade) perform at or above grade level, and transition successfully into public, parochial, and other independent schools.

And our classrooms are filled!

In September 2018, public school students were promoted to the next grade despite having had a year of half-day sessions. Many were sent back to schools with hurricane damage. In comparison to St. Croix Montessori, the only other choice for non-parochial education on St. Croix charges over $12,000 a year for Elementary education and increases to $16,000 per year for middle school.

On an island whose median family income is $42,000 (pre-hurricane), we ask: how can we ensure equitable access to education exists for all families?

The Challenges & Joys of Being Different

St. Croix Montessori is unlike most independent schools. We operate more closely to a public Montessori program, yet don’t receive the support of our public counterparts; nor do we have an endowment or affluent, enrolled families.

The reality of continuing to provide access to wholistic, child-centered education is challenged by an island in crisis and our school having:

  • Full responsibility for all damages to the leased campus and property, including ongoing maintenance (over $10,000 per year), routine repairs (approximately $5,000 per year), and property insurance, which doubled in annual costs.
  • Hurricane Repairs total over $200,000; we have not received disbursements from FEMA, SBA, or Insurance.
  • Rent was increased three times since the two hurricanes, even as critical plumbing infrastructure collapsed and the school requested an agreement that would not compromise our ability to remain open
  • Our Elementary programs are at capacity with a waiting list; space on STX is in demand.

Enabling access to schools is a critical cornerstone in securing an economic future; it is also a fundamental requirement for humanity.

The Joy of Being Different: Together with the GlobalGiving community, we build a network of relationships whose purpose is to support families on STX and create a scalable, model system of education that always places the child first.

The magnitude of change needed in the USVI makes it clear that closing the education gap and ensuring St. Croix’s children have the skills for a 21st century world, requires investment in partnerships that are built upon an equitable collaboration philosophy and community of practice.

St. Croix Montessori, with a team of 6, has been steadily growing its relationships to meet this call. With you and our global Montessori partners commited to ensuring our school survives through the next year of hurricane recovery, we will transition from survival to a model for thriving. Parents, who have donated their talents and time to building, repairing, and cleaning, join this commitment. 

You, our GlobalGiving community, have ensured that 37 children, and their families, can discover the joys of learning and feel the security of knowing they have a school for another year.

Learning takes place for everyone in the family!
Learning takes place for everyone in the family!
Montessori Dads oversee the joyful return of kids
Montessori Dads oversee the joyful return of kids
Teaching the colors of the rainbow
Teaching the colors of the rainbow
A joyful return back to her island home!
A joyful return back to her island home!

Links:

Sep 11, 2018

Rebuilding One Home at A Time

Members of the LTRG working to restore a roof.
Members of the LTRG working to restore a roof.

Introduction

The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group (STX LTRG) is a collaborative partnership of nonprofit and volunteer organizations, faith-based organizations, as well as federal and local government agencies, private sector businesses and concerned citizens, working together to address the recovery needs of individuals of the St. Croix community in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  According to current estimates, some 3000 territory residents will need Disaster Case Management (DCM) assistance, followed by Unmet Needs support of the territorial LTRGs.  One of the greatest issues confronting the St. Croix community is the extensive number of damaged houses throughout the island still in need of repair. Today, one year after the hurricanes, when flying over St. Croix, the number of blue tarps on roofs is staggering. But because of the support of so many friends of St. Croix and Global Giving the St. Croix LTRG has completed nine (9) homes that house elderly who live alone, who would otherwise not have a roof and were living in hazardous conditions.  

The first volunteers for the volunteer rebuilding initiative arrived on June 2, 2018.  This followed a several month period of planning which included: hiring staff, recruiting volunteers, developing policies and procedures, securing volunteer housing, identifying initial homes to repair and purchasing vehicles (vans, trucks, trailer), tools, and an initial supply of building materials.

From June 2 to August 17th, we have hosted 9 volunteer groups, consisting of 155 volunteers.  They have provided 7,444 hours of free labor.  Most of our volunteers have come for two weeks, with some staying 3 weeks, a month and longer.  Six of the initial 9 groups have been from United Methodists Volunteers in Mission.  We have been fortunate to have had skilled groups, with one or more construction contractor leverage volunteers in almost every group along with carpenters and other people with building experience in addition to lesser skilled volunteers who come with a desire to work hard and help.

We are booked with volunteers constantly until Thanksgiving week, 2018.  We are presently accepting reservations for groups who want to come after that date. 

We are primarily repairing the homes of low and fixed income senior citizens who cannot afford a contractor.  Our labor is free. The homeowners contribute towards the building material cost with funds received from FEMA for that purpose.  We make up the remainder in material costs from donations for that purpose.  We are primarily rebuilding roofs.  We construct to a standard of “safe and dry”.   Homes go through a screening process for eligibility as a client and suitability for our rebuilding capacity.  As needed, we ask architects, engineers or draftsmen to help us create the rebuilding plans. 

The sections below describe in detail some of the work the volunteers have accomplished.

                                               HOME REBUILDING AND GUT PROJECTS

Homeowner: #1

Address: in Frederiksted town

Particulars:  Male senior citizen, veteran, lives alone.  Very old family house had evidence of neglected maintenance, storm damage and then further damage from the very close-by house next door burning down.  The homeowner did not have working electricity or plumbing when we started repairs.  House came to the attention of LDR due to its proximity to the Lutheran Social Services main office.  The homeowner lived in the house during rebuilding.

Work done:

The homeowner continued to live in the house as we worked and contributed with electrical work and painting.

Wood Section – work done

Floor – installed about 15 new floor joists and support posts.

Plumbing – replaced plumbing to get both the kitchen and bathroom working

Electrical – Installed a new meter base and rewired this section of the house completely

Walls – installed new wall studs as necessary, replaced exterior siding on one wall to replace damaged wood.

Roof – scissor new rafters alongside damaged and weakened existing rafters.  Installed hurricane clips.  Bolted ledger boards through the walls and attached straps to rafters.  Replaced the galvanize roofing.  Installed new facia boards and soffits.  Added gutters.

Doors – rebuilt exterior doors and jambs, built new steps to exit from this section to the courtyard.

Out building

Patched metal roofing and added hurricane clips.

Masonry Section

Doors & Windows – replaced entrance door jamb, replaced two upstairs windows

Plumbing – minimal plumbing to get upstairs bathroom working

Staircase – built a new staircase from courtyard to second floor (only access).  We did not plan to do this but realized the existing staircase was a safety hazard due to rotten supporting beams.

Roof – added wood to convert roof framing into trusses for additional support, installed hurricane clips connecting rafters to top plate and to ridge beam, added bolts to top plate to increase to one bolt per truss for strength, replaced old roof with new purlins and galvanized metal.  Reduced overhang size.  Added gutters.

Total hours of Volunteer Labor – 1,578.5

 Homeowner: #2

Address: Estate Hannah’s Rest, Frederiksted

Particulars:  Widowed, female senior citizen lives alone.  House suffered complete roof damage.  After the storm, due to her medical needs, her family sent her to Florida where she still resides waiting for her home to be repaired.  One of her sons engaged a contractor and used some of her FEMA funding to start repairs to one half of the house although he knew there was insufficient funding to replace the roof. More information about this rebuilding is below.  House was referred by the homeowner’s son who was aware that LSS had done rebuilding work after previous hurricanes.

Work done:

This is a house most easily understood as having two halves, a south half and a north half.  Each half has a gable end roof.

North half

Demolition – tore off remaining roof and ceiling pieces.  Muck and gutted the house and yard.

Roof – built a new ridge beam, installed new rafters, hurricane clips, plywood, felt, purlins, galvanized metal, facia board.  Installed ledger boards bolted through the walls and strapped rafters to the ledger boards.  Installed valleys where both roofs intersect. Replaced soffit and installed facia boards and gutters.

South half

Roof – this section was partially rebuilt by a contractor hired by the homeowner.  A ridge beam and rafters were installed.  The bond beam had been heavily damaged as the contractor gouged out sections looking for steel to tie the rafter too.  Very little steel was in the original bond beam.  As an alternative we added ledger boards bolted through the walls and strapped the board to the rafters as we did on the north half.  We installed hurricane clips, plywood, felt, purlins, galvanized metal, and facia board.  The rafter installation done by the previous contractor was not square and had irregular spacing.  This led to a slow process as we had to make multiple plywood cuts and it was equally difficult to place the galvanized metal roofing.  Installed facia boards and gutters 

Interior – Installed t-111 plywood as trim pieces to cover the areas where we bolted ledger boards and strapped down the gutters. 

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor – 1,447.5

Homeowner: # 3

Address: Estate la Grange, Frederiksted

Particulars: Female homeowner lives alone, has visual and auditory disabilities.  House was referred by a neighbor who provides assistance to the homeowner.  The homeowner lived in the house while we made repairs.

Work done:

Main damage to the house was a front second floor porch roof that was destroyed.  Without the roof all rain water entered the house causing a danger to the visually impaired homeowner.

Porch roof – minimal demolition, installed new rafters, purlins, galvanized metal and facia boards.

Back of house roof – replaced a few sheets of damaged galvanized metal.  Repaired other damaged and rusty sections with a three-step coating process.

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor  – 137

 Homeowner:  #4

Address: Stoney Ground, Frederiksted

Particulars:  Female, widowed senior citizen lives alone.  Has one daughter on St. Croix who also lost her roof.  Mother and daughter are in temporary housing and both will move in when the new roof is built.

Work done:

This house lost its complete roof.  In June we did muck and gut work and demolition as needed.  We built a new ridge beam changing the original flatter pitch to a 5/12 pitch. 

In July we resumed work on the house, installed plates on the tops of the walls and secured them with bolts and epoxy.  We installed rafters and hurricane clips connecting rafters to wall plates and ridge beams.  Installed collar ties on rafters on both ends of the house.  Built up masonry gable ends on both sides of the house to meet the new higher ridge beam and installed a bond beam on the gable ends.  Finished the roof with plywood sheathing, purlins and galvanized metal.  Installed facia and gutters.

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor – 916.5

Homeowner – #5

Address: Estate Catharine’s Rest

Particulars: Senior male homeowner lives alone.  Wife died two years ago, and he has not touched much in the house since then.  Homeowner has a daughter on St Croix at whose house he slept in following the storm.  He spends the days at his damaged house while the daughter is at work.  House had some hurricane damage and mold which was fixed by the HER program.

Work done:

A group of volunteers from an independent Christian church in Maryland, worked with the homeowner and his daughter to remove two dumpsters of items from the home, reorganize and clean.

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor  – 200.5

 

Midland Wesleyan Church

Address: Estate Calquohoun

Particulars:  The pastor asked for volunteer help to remove construction debris and tree limb debris from his parsonage area on the church property.

Work done:  A group of volunteers worked over a two-day period to complete the task.

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor  – 24

                     

                             RENOVATIONS FOR VOLUNTEER HOUSING & TRAUMA COUNSELING

St Dunstan’s School

Address: Estate Orange Grove, Christiansted

Particulars: Closed school, owned by the Episcopal Diocese.  The LTRG identified it as the best St. Croix site for volunteer housing due to its size and layout.

Work done:

Using some UMVIM volunteers along with volunteers from other groups we have done muck and gut work, minor repair to bathrooms and extensive cleaning and interior painting of classrooms (will be used for volunteer lodging) kitchen and bathrooms.

Future work includes creating a shower facility and outfitting the kitchen.

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor – 2,016  

IGGY

Iggy is a locally created storm trauma processing and reduction curriculum for children kindergarten through 3rd grade.  The main feature is a puppet show that creates a scene in the storm’s aftermath to show the impact on families and then processes to an ending designed to normalize feelings and give hope.  Volunteers with the assistance of LTRG members and crisis counselors have made 25 presentations to approximately 600 children. 

Total Hours of Volunteer Labor  – 162.5

 

                          UPCOMING PROJECTS: It’s more than a roof. It’s Home.

We are waiting for wood flooring to arrive in order to fix a bedroom in a hospice patient’s home, so the patient can be next to a bathroom.

Three houses with significantly damaged roofs are being prepared to be our next major projects.  Two houses with broken ridge beams are going through engineering and drawings process now to ready them for building permits.  A third house is being assessed for material needs.

We continue to receive rebuilding requests from the crisis counselors, disaster case managers and a hospice social worker as well as the general public.  People come to our office daily to fill out a referral from which is then sent to disaster case managers for initial screening.

 

                          FUTURE PLANS: Leveraging Renovations for More Volunteers

We intend to continue recruiting skilled construction teams and rebuilding the roofs of low and fixed income homeowners, primarily the elderly.  We will continue to need funds/St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is currently identifying funding to subsidize building material costs.  But perhaps most importantly, we hope to be able to expand the program by finishing renovations on St. Dunstan’s School, which will allow us to house three times more volunteers than we can at our current location. We need /Further repairs to St. Dunstan’s School and we will also need additional vehicles and trucks for an expanded volunteer program.   It will require approximately $150,000 to finish that project.  Presently, we are seeking a donation of, or funds to buy, a ¾ ton crew cab truck to allow us to transport large loads of building materials with our trailer and carry additional volunteers.

Iggy is a locally created storm trauma program
Iggy is a locally created storm trauma program
crisis counselors have made 25 presentations
crisis counselors have made 25 presentations
 
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