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  • Discovering Hope For Island Child Orphanage

    In the fall of 2013, our family moved to Entebbe Uganda, we had a lovely house just up the hill overlooking Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake. One Sunday afternoon, after church, a friend of mine, Phil who was visiting from the USA, and I were a bit on the bored side and decided to venture down to the lakes edge, find a local boat captain, and go off in search of hippos and crocodiles. Soon after leaving shore, I asked the captain, Captain Rogers, if we had enough fuel for our adventure. He replied with an honest “no”, so I asked him what his plan was. We did a quick 180 and headed back search for enough jerry cans of fuel for the afternoon. With round 2 underway, we soon came across some small islands which we quickly conquered, one of which I’m pretty sure a massive hippo had just slipped off of at our arrival. Side note, according to an article in the BBC Wildlife magazine that reads, “How dangerous are hippos? The hippopotamus is a very aggressive wild creature and is the deadliest large land mammal on the planet. It is estimated that hippo attacks kill 500 people each year in Africa. It is not only their size and weight that makes them dangerous, but also their very sharp teeth!” Thankfully the death toll did not rise that day. After exploring a few more small atolls, the Captain brought us ashore on a larger inhabited island named “Bussi”. We started the exploration process and came across a dirt road that led inland. We journeyed down the path that was lined with small houses and shops, and endured stares from the locals at these 2 out of place travelers. Approximately 1 mile into our journey we started hearing the melodious voices of children, rhythmically singing “mzungu, mzungu”. According to Wikipedia, Mzungu is the southern, central and eastern African term for a person of foreign descent. Literally translated it means “someone who roams around aimlessly” or “aimless wanderer” (from the Swahili and Ganda words). I would say this pretty much summed us up. When we finally arrived at the source of the song though, our adventuristic vibe took a somber turn. What we walked up onto was a scene that I can’t hardly describe. Before me lie a group of children, joyful and playing, but clothed in tattered, ill-fitting garments (I use that word loosely), standing next to a pitiful swing set and in front of a small, rudimentary built mud / brick “building”. Behind them to the left was a partially built structure, and to the far right several stick made lean-to canopy’s. As I was sucking in the scene, an older gentleman with a big white smile came out walking towards us with hands in the air and exclaimed “Welcome, we have been waiting for you!” The man, now my dear friend known as Pastor Charles, first introduced us to himself and his wife, and then to the orphanage, “Hope for the Island Child” (“HFIC”). He gave me a tour of the “facilities” and pointing to the building that had been started but long from finished, he explained that that was going to be the school once they come up with enough funding, but the stick lean-to structures are the current classrooms. And in case you didn’t know it, it rains a lot in Uganda – a WHOLE lot. The building in the center spot served as a dormitory for the give or take 160 children who call HFIC “home”, and it was pitiful. Split up into a room on the left for the girls, a small room in the middle which served as an office and house for Pastor Charles and his family, and then the boys side on the right. The furnishings were atrocious and barely hanging on, and the floor on the girls side was dirt and infested with mites. Mosquitos were another problem. The beds were miscellaneous tree branches, poles or other pieces of wood fashioned together with whatever soft material they could find to serve as a mattress. And many kids shared beds. It was truly a heart wrenching site. On the outside I noticed kids with jerry cans and was informed that they have to take the 1 mile walk down to the shore and fill up the jugs from the lake as their source of water. Lake Victoria is heavily polluted, and has a particular parasitic worm called “bilharzia”, that once ingested wreaks havoc in the body. Pretty much all of the children there had extended stomachs as a result of this and malnourishment. Food wise, they survived off of meager portions of poshu, which is basically a starch, and maybe some fruit here and there. After the tour, the children gathered together and dawned some handmade outfits and sang us a few songs while they danced around and enjoyed entertaining us. It was a bit surreal to witness honestly. As we came to the close of our visit, Pastor Charles led me into the office and asked if I would sign his visitor log. He opened it up, and I signed my name next to the last visitor who came to see them, some sort of local worker from the capital city Kampala. Their visit was dated 2008…mine was 2013. I left that day with the absolute knowledge that God had just placed a calling and purpose on my life, and my heart was on fire to be involved in lifting those children up. I need to lay the foundation here and give some context, some background info as to my experience with this sort of thing. Growing up in South Florida in the mid 80’s, my dad worked for an aviation company named Missionary Aviation Fellowship “MAF” who catered to groups traveling throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere, that were doing various projects with churches, missions, orphanages etc. His job was to help organize the trips, and to even go on some of them to help ensure things went smoothly. When MAF pulled out of Haiti, my dad then started an airline called Lynx Air International, who’s initial main route was from Fort Lauderdale to Cap Haitian, Haiti. As a young buck my dad would carry me in tow with him to all of these wild and wonderful destinations that MAF would fly to, and then of course it continued on with Lynx. I cut my teeth in Haiti at a very young age, I would say really before travel to there was as prominent as it is now. We would go on weeklong trips up into the mountains where electricity didn’t exist, and you got to fall asleep to the rhythmic sounds of the voodoo drums off in the distance. I would join him on church building trips, visiting hospitals, orphanages, business meetings, – you name it. I was thrust (thankfully) into this environment at a very early age. Then later on in my early 20’s I worked for him at Lynx full time, doing various jobs, one of which had me traveling around extensively in the field trouble shooting challenges, meeting with the clients, meeting new clients etc. All this to say that I have a lot of experience with orphanages – real ones and fake ones. I’ve seen the well-oiled, properly funded orphanages, and I’ve seen the fake, set-up-shop-overnight-to-collect-money ones, and everything in between. When I laid eyes on Hope for the Island Child, my heart broke because it was in the poorest condition of any of them I have ever witnessed. Since that unexpected day in 2013, myself and others have come along side Pastor Charles and his wife and changed the trajectory of those children’s lives. I immediately went back to Entebbe and met with the US pastor, Craig, at the local Calvary Chapel church and asked him if he was aware of this orphanage, and said he was intimately aware of every orphanage throughout the islands, and that this particular island did not have one. I assured him it did and pulled up Google Earth in search of it. Wouldn’t you know it that on that particular day the map was clear except for one cloud, which sat right above HFIC blocking it from view. Pastor Craig was in full support of helping out however he could from day one, and introduced me to a few members of his team. Calvary had a mission whereas they would partner with the local Red Cross and send medical workers out to the various islands, maybe once a month, to host clinics for the island communities. I joined a couple of these trips to be hands on seeing how things are done and learning about the water filtration systems they were a part of. With this new on the job training underway, I set out to make changes from day one. Quickly we solved the girls dorm mite problem by pouring a concrete floor. We bought them school supplies, medical supplies, food, toys, much needed mosquito nets and whatever else we could get our hands on. Soon after that we dug them a well so they would have onsite access to clean drinking water. Once this was completed we brought in a medical team to purge the parasites and address any other health concerns. As it turned out, by Divine Providence, we dug the well during a drought which meant we had to go deeper than normal, so in later years when another drought hit our well was the only one on the island pumping out clean water. Dysentery or one of the other devastating water borne illnesses ravished the island but skipped over the orphanage due to its clean water source. From there we hired a full time nurse (she saved a kids life once who was snake bitten), and even school teachers, and provided them a place to live. We bought new beds and mattresses, a van for transportation, built the girls a new dormitory and finished building the school house, even installed solar panels on it (the kids thanked us because they could now do their homework at night under the light bulbs.) One time I had budgeted and saved up enough money to go and build a latrine and bathhouse, but when I got to the island I discovered another group had come in and already installed one, beating me to it. They had gov’t money and were looking for the orphanages that were in the most need and determined that HFIC fit the bill. I also organized with Calvary and funded a monthly medical trip to ensure the kids were staying healthy. As part of this trip, Calvary would send along their volunteers from the States who were in Uganda on mission trips. As a result, we have had world class surgeons from the top hospitals in the US visit this orphanage and provide attention to the kids. We have participated in getting surgery for one little girl who was born lame and drug herself around in the dirt. On one of my last visits I got to witness her running around with a smile so big on her face that you could see it from across the yard. I’m sure I’m missing other incredible stories and additional provisions that have been supplied, the list is long. One other big project we accomplished was building the church. Sometime in 2016 I felt that God had placed on my heart to build a church on or near the HFIC property. I relayed this to Pastor Charles and he started the hunt for property. I also shared this with Pastor Craig by telling him I didn’t know the first thing about building a church but was in good company because I’m pretty sure Noah didn’t know how to build an ark. Pastor Craig then asked me if I would like a set of blueprints he has for churches “out in the bush”. I said “heck yeah” and he asked which size – big or small. I replied “go big or go home” so he sent me the blueprints for a 400-seat concrete building. Pastor Charles came back and advised that he had identified the land for the church which was just across the road from HFIC and backed up to the swamp, but the owner has not surrendered it yet. I got a kick out of that. Sure enough soon after he struck a deal with the landowner and the plot of land was purchased. I came up with the money with a few others and the building process began. During this process a friend of mine, Joshua, visited the island with me and he asked Pastor Charles what the name of the island, “Bussi Island”, meant. Pastor Charles told him it translates into English “Murder Island”. Joshua then asked him what the translation for “life” was, and was given the word “Bulamu”. Joshua declared that from now on this island would be known as “Bulamu Island”, and then walked up and down the road asking the residents if they approved of this change, and when they agreed the change was made. On the opening day of the church, Christmas 2017, the 400-seat church was at full capacity with the crowds overflowing out onto front yard, and across the road into the orphanage. Since the name change and addition of the church, Bulamu has witnessed a drastic change among its people. Crime is down and health is up. Tangible differences have been made in numerous people’s lives. At some point in time, I had a conversation with Robert, the young man with Calvary who was spearheading the medical trips. He advised me that there is a need for borehole restoration. Throughout the islands and communities, are many many many water wells, or boreholes, that various groups have come through and dug. The challenge is that after time they tend to break – either the pump loses suction due to a crack, or the handle breaks off or whatever the case may be. The borehole is now out of commission and the people must return to the lake as their primary source of water. I asked Robert and Pastor Charles to gather a list of broken wells, which they did, and Pastor Charles put a team together and we set out with motorcycles and boats to visit as many as we could in an afternoon. We would cruise around from one well to the other on our motorcycles (usually 2-4 people per bike, seriously) and then when we got to the water’s edge we would throw them into a boat and cruise across to the next island. We ended up identifying and subsequently fixing some 30 odd wells. That was a few years ago and we have already identified another 30 or so, 15 of which we have fixed. The point is new ones to be fixed pop up frequently and we need financial help to stay on top of this urgent challenge. Bringing clean, fresh water to villages is fundamental to life. As the cycle of life goes, a majority of the funding we enjoyed in the past is no longer there, but the list of needs continues to expand. The projects are endless, but so are the dreams and goals these kids can accomplish with a little help. This is my passion; this is what I was built for. But I can’t do it alone, I need your support. Alone I can drop a pebble into the water and watch the ripples grow and then dissipate. Two of us can hoist a rock into the water, and witness a bit bigger of a ripple that soon fades out. But a group of us can leverage a boulder that will cause a splash so big it sends shockwaves to the other side of the lake. My goal is to create ripples so big that these kids can surf them. Please consider partnering with us in this cause and truly be a difference maker. Watch a short video of Justins trip to Uganda... Thank you and God Bless, Justin, Shelly, Jaiden & Ashtyn Southerland The Pioneers

  • Your Ultimate Guide to RV Camping in New Braunfels, Texas

    Are you itching for a Texan adventure? Look no further than New Braunfels, where the good times flow as freely as the Guadalupe River. Whether you're a nature lover, history buff, or just seeking a relaxing getaway, New Braunfels has all the ingredients for an unforgettable trip. And with Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals, your vacation just got a whole lot easier. Let's dive into the best spots to park your RV and the coolest things to do in this little slice of Texas heaven. 1. Lazy L&L Campground: Lazy L&L Campground offers a genuine taste of Texas hospitality, embodying a laid-back, family-owned vibe where the simple joys take center stage. Days are best spent exploring the nearby trails or taking a refreshing dip in the river, while evenings beckon relaxation by the comforting glow of the campfire. But that's not all; Lazy L&L goes the extra mile with amenities like Devil's Playground for aquatic delights and shaded relaxation areas. Here, pickleball and volleyball courts add a competitive edge to the fun, ensuring a tranquil getaway brimming with cherished memories for all who visit. It's also home to a stunning wedding venue that captures the essence of rustic romance. 2. Camp Fimfo: Escape the chaos and find tranquility at Camp Fimfo, a secluded haven nestled amidst nature's beauty. Situated on the outskirts of New Braunfels, this hidden gem offers more than just RV parking—it's a destination brimming with excitement for the whole family. Thrill-seekers will love our zip lines and mountain rollercoaster, while mini-golf enthusiasts can enjoy our challenging courses. When the Texas heat sets in, our splash pool and waterslides provide a refreshing retreat, with a swim-up bar pool for adults to unwind. Explore the great outdoors with scenic trails and river access, perfect for hiking, wildlife spotting, swimming, and paddling. And after a day of adventure, relax by the campfire under the stars, swapping stories with fellow campers and letting the serene ambiance of nature rejuvenate your spirit. Camp Fimfo promises an unforgettable escape filled with relaxation and excitement for all. 3. KL on the River: For a true riverside escape, KL on the River offers an unbeatable experience. Park your RV on their spacious, grassy sites, where stepping out your door puts you just footsteps away from the tranquil Guadalupe River. Spend your days immersed in nature, fishing, kayaking, or simply soaking up the sun along the riverbank. With its prime location and abundance of water activities, KL on the River is the ultimate destination for water lovers seeking a peaceful retreat. 4. KL Cliffside: For breathtaking views and unbeatable sunsets, head to KL Cliffside. Perched high above the river, this spot offers panoramic vistas and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Whether you're hiking, birdwatching, or just taking in the scenery, you'll feel like you're on top of the world. 8. Camp Hauco Springs: Escape the crowds and reconnect with nature at Camp Hauco Springs. Tucked away in a secluded corner of the Hill Country, this peaceful campground is the perfect place to unwind and recharge. Spend your days exploring the nearby springs or just soaking up the sunshine. 9. River Road Camp: If you're a water baby at heart, River Road Camp is the spot for you. Nestled right on the banks of the Guadalupe River, this campground is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Whether you're tubing, kayaking, or just splashing around, you'll find plenty of ways to stay cool on a hot Texas day. 10. Gypsy River Resort: For a truly unique experience, check out Gypsy River Resort. With its bohemian vibe and laid-back atmosphere, this riverside retreat feels like something out of a dream. Spend your days lounging in a hammock, listening to live music, or just soaking up the good vibes. 11. Summit Resort: For the ultimate in luxury camping, look no further than Summit Resort. Perched high atop a scenic hillside, this upscale campground offers all the comforts of home and then some. Spend your days lounging by the pool, soaking in the hot tub, or just taking in the breathtaking views. Activities and Tourist Attractions: 1. Schlitterbahn Waterpark: Cool off from the Texas heat with a visit to Schlitterbahn Waterpark. With its thrilling rides and lazy rivers, it's the perfect place to make a splash with the whole family. 2. Gruene Historic District: Step back in time with a visit to the Gruene Historic District. From quaint shops to historic dance halls, it's a charming glimpse into Texas's past. 3. Natural Bridge Caverns: Explore the underground wonders of Natural Bridge Caverns. Guided tours offer a fascinating look at the hidden beauty beneath the surface. 4. Wine Country: Discover tranquility in the Texas Hill Country with Canyon Lake and its surrounding vineyards. Embrace outdoor adventures amidst crystal-clear waters and scenic trails, perfect for boating, fishing, and hiking. After a day of exploration, unwind in the nearby wine country, where rolling vineyards and charming wineries beckon. Indulge in award-winning wines crafted from local grapes, paired with gourmet cuisine amidst peaceful countryside settings. Whether seeking lake adventures or vineyard relaxation, Canyon Lake and wine country provide a serene escape to savor the beauty and flavors of the Texas Hill Country. 5. Prince Solms Park: Named after New Braunfels' founding father, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, this expansive park offers a serene oasis in the heart of the city. Visitors flock here to enjoy picnics, outdoor activities, and soak up the sunshine under towering trees. But the real highlight? The crystal-clear waters of the Comal River. Flowing gently through the park, it's perfect for leisurely tube floats or thrilling kayak adventures, providing a refreshing escape from the Texas heat. Families gather along its banks to splash in the cool waters and revel in the natural beauty. With its tranquil setting and abundant outdoor opportunities, Prince Solms Park and the Comal River capture the essence of leisurely days in New Braunfels. 6. Wurstfest: Experience the essence of New Braunfels' German heritage at this lively festival held annually in November. From savory sausages to traditional music and dancing, it's a celebration of all things German. Wander through vibrant market stalls, indulging in delicious cuisine and refreshing beers. Live entertainment, carnival rides, and cultural exhibits enhance the festive atmosphere, making Wurstfest a must-visit event for those eager to embrace the vibrant spirit of New Braunfels. Why Visit New Braunfels and Rent from Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals? As you can see, New Braunfels is more than just a destination—it's a state of mind. With its natural beauty, rich history, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, it's the perfect place to escape the everyday hustle and bustle. And with Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals by your side, your vacation just got a whole lot easier. From luxury RVs to personalized service, we'll make sure your trip is one for the books. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to make some memories in beautiful New Braunfels. RV Campgrounds: Lazy L&L Campground Camp Fimfo KL on the River KL Cliffside Camp Hauco Springs River Road Camp Gypsy River Resort Summit Resort Activities and Tourist Attractions: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Gruene Historic District Natural Bridge Caverns Events: Wurstfest Nature and Outdoor Recreation: Hill Country Texas Wine Country Parks and Rivers: Prince Solms Park Play In New Braunfels Comal River Please note: For some specific campgrounds, attractions, or events, direct links may not be available, but you can easily find more information by searching their names online.

  • "Campground Etiquette 101: Creating a Harmonious Outdoor Experience

    Welcome, fellow adventurers, to the great outdoors and the allure of campground living! At Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals, we believe that the key to an unforgettable camping experience is not just the destination but the shared responsibility of creating a harmonious environment for everyone. In this blog post, we're diving deep into the world of "Campground Etiquette 101," where we'll explore the dos and don'ts that ensure every camper leaves only footprints and takes away memories. "Leave No Trace: Preserving the Beauty of Nature" The first and foremost rule of campground etiquette is a simple yet powerful one – leave no trace. As responsible campers, it's our duty to preserve the natural beauty of our surroundings. This means picking up after ourselves, disposing of waste properly, and avoiding any activities that could harm the environment. Whether you're a tent camper or an RV enthusiast, following the leave no trace principle ensures that the next generation can enjoy the same pristine landscapes we revel in today. "Mind Your Noise: Embracing the Sounds of Nature" One of the joys of camping is immersing yourself in the tranquil sounds of nature – rustling leaves, chirping birds, and the gentle flow of a nearby stream. Respecting fellow campers means keeping noise levels to a minimum. Whether it's the hum of your RV generator, late-night conversations, or music around the campfire, being mindful of noise ensures that everyone can relish the peaceful ambiance of the outdoors. Inquire on quite tines, usually 10pm to 8 am is standard. "Lights Out: Embracing the Beauty of the Night Sky" Campgrounds are not just a daytime haven; they transform into celestial wonders at night. Proper lighting etiquette is crucial for preserving the mesmerizing night sky. Shield your lights to avoid excessive brightness, opt for soft, warm-toned bulbs, and use minimal lighting during late hours. This not only enhances your stargazing experience but also ensures that your neighbors can enjoy the beauty of the night without unnecessary disruption. "Respect Personal Space: The Unwritten Rule of Campground Living" While the great outdoors offer vast spaces, it's essential to respect the personal space of your fellow campers. Keep a reasonable distance between your campsite and others, avoid cutting through occupied sites, and be mindful of noise levels during quiet hours. By following these unwritten rules, you contribute to a sense of privacy and tranquility for everyone on the campground. "Waste Management: The Responsible Camper's Guide" Proper waste disposal is a cornerstone of campground etiquette. Whether it's trash or wastewater, knowing the rules and following them diligently is vital. Use designated trash bins, recycling facilities, and dump stations for wastewater. If you're camping in a remote area without facilities, bring trash bags and leave with everything you brought in. It's a small effort that makes a significant impact on preserving the environment. "Pet Etiquette: Ensuring a Wagging Good Time for All" For those traveling with furry companions, responsible pet ownership is key. Always keep pets on a leash, clean up after them, and be mindful of their noise levels. Not all campers are pet lovers, and by being considerate, you ensure that everyone, including your four-legged friend, can enjoy the campground experience. As we embark on our outdoor adventures with Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals, let's embrace the spirit of responsible camping. Campground etiquette is not just a set of rules; it's a shared commitment to preserving the beauty of nature and ensuring that every camper, present and future, can revel in the magic of the great outdoors. Let's leave no trace, be mindful of our impact, and create a harmonious haven where the call of the wild is met with respect and camaraderie. Happy camping, responsible pioneers!

  • "Rolling through the Texas Wilderness: Unleashing the RV Adventure with Pampered Pioneer"

    Welcome, fellow adventurers, to the heart of the Hill country, Texas and the gateway to a world of outdoor escapades! If you've been yearning for the open road, the scent of cedar trees, and the freedom to roam the Texas wilderness, you're in for a treat. At Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals, we're more than just a rental service – we're your key to unlocking the untamed beauty of Texas. In this blog post, let's embark on a journey that celebrates the spirit of camping, RV life, and the enchanting landscapes that make the Lone Star State a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The Essence of RV Life: There's something magical about life on the road and at Pampered Pioneer, we believe in making that experience as comfortable and hassle free as possible. Our fleet of top-notch RVs is designed to be your home away from home, equipped with all the amenities you need for a pampered journey. From cozy upgraded beds to fully-equipped kitchens, we've got you covered. Imagine waking up to the crisp Texas morning, stepping out of your RV, and sipping a cup of coffee surrounded by natural beauty. Texas Camping: Where Adventure Meets Hospitality Texas is more than just a state – it's a sprawling canvas of diverse landscapes, from the Guadeloupe River and Canyon Lake, the rugged canyons of Palo Duro, to the serene shores of the Gulf Coast. With Pampered Pioneer, you have the freedom to choose your own adventure. Head west for the iconic Big Bend National Park, where the vast Chihuahuan Desert meets the Chisos Mountains, or venture east to the lush piney woods of the Davy Crockett National Forest. Whatever your heart desires, Texas has it, and we're here to help you explore it. Hidden Gems and Campground Delights: As seasoned travelers ourselves, we understand the allure of discovering hidden gems along the way. In Texas, the road less traveled often leads to the most enchanting spots. Picture yourself setting up camp beside the crystal-clear waters of the Guadalupe River, enjoying the warmth of a campfire as the stars twinkle overhead. Pampered Pioneer has insider tips on the best campgrounds, secret fishing spots, and the coziest spots to stargaze. It's all about creating memories that last a lifetime. Embracing the Texas Spirit: Camping in Texas is not just an activity – it's a state of mind. Embrace the spirit of Texas by indulging in local flavors, whether it's savoring slow-cooked barbecue in Austin or relishing the authentic Tex-Mex cuisine in San Antonio. Pampered Pioneer RVs come with spacious kitchens, so why not try your hand at whipping up some Texas-style chili or grilling under the vast Texas sky? Immerse yourself in the culture and let the Lone Star State leave an indelible mark on your RV adventure. Tips and Tricks for the Ultimate RV Expedition: Embarking on an RV journey requires a bit of planning, and we're here to share some insider tips to make your trip unforgettable. From packing essentials to navigating Texas highways, our blog is a treasure trove of advice to ensure your expedition goes off without a "hitch". Learn how to maximize the RV's capabilities, find the best spots for boondocking, and discover the joy of unplugging from the daily grind and reconnecting with nature. As you prepare to hit the road with Pampered Pioneer RV Rentals, remember that this is not just a vacation – it's a lifestyle. The call of the open road, the thrill of discovering new landscapes, and the joy of creating lasting memories await you. So, pack your sense of adventure and let Pampered Pioneer be your trusted companion on this extraordinary journey through the heart of Texas. Your RV adventure starts here – where comfort meets wilderness, and every mile brings you closer to the soul-stirring beauty of the Lone Star State. Safe travels, fellow pioneers!

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