Meet This Year’s Riders!

by Michelle Brock on September 30th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is taking place in FOUR DAYS!  There are 39 riders on 6 teams across 3 provinces riding for Hope for the Sold, and on October 4 they will hop on their bicycles and brave whatever elements may come their way.  Here’s your chance to support their efforts!

Team Name: HFTS Winnipeg

Team Captain: Katie Daman

Riders: 7

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The Daman girls!

Katie hosted a screening of Red Light Green Light in Winnipeg last fall, and her sister Bethany hosted a second one in Niverville in April.  Delicious baked goods accompanied both screenings (made by their super cool family) making for stellar events. Oh, and the day of the RIDE, October 4, just happens to be Katie’s birthday!

Check out their team and SUPPORT HFTS WINNIPEG HERE!

 

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Screening at The Tapestry

Team Name: Ride For Hope (Vancouver)

Team Captain: Flora Miles

Riders: 11

Flora and her husband Brandon brought Red Light Green Light to Richmond BC this past spring.  They just celebrated their 3 year anniversary!

Meet the rest of their team and SUPPORT RIDE FOR HOPE HERE!

 

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Cate, Mady & their Justice Team

Team Name: HFTS Langley

Team Captain: Cate Felton / Mady Sieben

Riders: 3

Cate hosted a screening at Trinity Western University, packing out a lecture hall with students who were eager to talk about social justice and trafficking prevention.  Cate and her friend Mady have been part of a justice club together (pictured).  Meet the HFTS LANGLEY TEAM & SHOW YOUR SUPPORT HERE!

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The bride to be!

Team Name: HFTS Hamilton

Team Captain: Niki Devereaux

Riders: 4

Not only was Niki the first person to donate when we were raising funds to make Red Light Green Light, but also jumped on board to coordinate the RIDE FOR REFUGE campaign for Hope for the Sold this year!  Oh, and she is getting married on October 11 – exactly one week after the RIDE!  Meet Niki’s team and SUPPORT HFTS HAMILTON HERE!

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Victoria screening

Team Name: Restore Dignity (Victoria)

Team Captain: Tania Betiku

Riders: 10

Tania, as part of a passionate team from Vancouver Island, brought Red Light Green Light to Victoria as part of our spring tour.

Meet and SUPPORT THE RESTORE DIGNITY TEAM HERE!

 

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Team Name: Hope Peddlers (Oshawa)

Team Captain: Cindy Gates

Riders: 4

Sadly I have no picture yet of these fine folks, but don’t let that stop you from supporting them Cindy and her team!  You can donate to Hope Peddlers HERE!

To all of you strapping on your helmets and hitting the road on Saturday, WE’RE CHEERING FOR YOU!

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Is Sensationalism a Prerequisite for Our Compassion?

by Michelle Brock on September 18th, 2014

Rosewater

I recently listened to a CBC Radio interview about Rosewater, a movie about a journalist who is detained and brutally interrogated in an Iranian prison for more than 100 days.  The film, based on a true story, is John Stewart’s directorial debut, requiring him to take a 3 month leave from The Daily Show to make it happen.  During the interview, Stewart highlighted something interesting that we don’t usually associate with detainment:

“I think there is a tendency to view torture in a very narrow light.  I think we’re accustomed more to that American cinematic version…’Tell me what you know’ and the guy’s in a dank dungeon and [gets kicked] in the face…But the truth of the matter is, deprivation is torture.  And solitary is torture. And what Maziar went through is a far more common and ubiquitous form of torture that we no longer recognize.  

We’ve become desensitized to the more mundane aspects of someone losing their freedom.”

The things we do in our day-to-day life – our routines, habits, and relationships – are an intrinsic part of being human.  Like drinking coffee in the morning, going to work, hanging out with friends, doing laundry, sleeping in a bed, reading a book, listening to music, eating good food, buying a home, raising children.  Torture is not limited to being physically battered and verbally threatened.  Torture often takes the form of simply losing one’s freedom to do the mundane – yet meaningful – things that make us who we are.

The bit got me thinking about a conversation I’ve had with several front-line workers who deal with victims of trafficking and abuse.  There is a temptation for many of us in anti-trafficking circles to tell the worst stories, to shock the audience with horrific details, and in some cases, to exaggerate stories to the point where they are no longer true.  But while focusing on “the worst stories” may illicit temporary support and funding for important projects, in many cases it undermines sustainable compassion - the kind of compassion that cares about the nuances of people’s situations and doesn’t require sensationalism to keep it going.

It’s true – some victims of exploitation are locked in a room and have to service dozens of men daily. But there are other victims that are stuck in prostitution because of invisible chains, like being in love with their pimp or trying to provide for their kids.  There are some who were kidnapped off the street and sold into prostitution, and there are others who knew they would enter prostitution but had no idea how hard it would be to get out.  Some are beaten every day and deprived of food and medical attention, while others are permitted to move around and even have their own home as long as the money keeps filling the pimp’s pockets.  And then there are those who are not being sexually abused at all, but are forced to work in a field or a factory for little or no pay.

Our response and our compassion should extend to all these situations, because while some are more extreme than others, they are all missing elements of freedom.

As cliche as it sounds, picture yourself in another’s shoes and allow yourself to feel their fear, their discomfort, their frustration.  Let’s strive to care about injustice in all its forms, and wean ourselves from the addiction of sensationalism.

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Ride a Bicycle, Prevent Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on September 10th, 2014

Check out our new Ride for Refuge video!

Register a team or sign up as a rider here!

Can’t join the RIDE?  Donate directly to Hope for the Sold or support a RIDE team.

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Ride for Hope for the Sold in This Year’s Ride for Refuge!

by Michelle Brock on September 9th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is fast approaching, but there is still time to sign up, dust off your bike, and get ready for ride day!

Ride for Refuge is a fantastically fun, family-friendly bike-a-thon supporting charities serving the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.  It’s taking place on October 4 in 30 locations across the country, and is a great way to support organizations like Hope for the Sold.

 

Hope for the Sold is still looking for riders and team captains for the RIDE.  You can read more about our vision and what you’d be supporting here.

Check out the city listing and register today!

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15 Indicators Teachers Can Look For to Spot Trafficking in Their School

by Michelle Brock on September 4th, 2014

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The fall always feels like the beginning of a new year, and as I write, teachers and students in Canada are wrapping up their first week of school.  I have the privilege of knowing some incredible teachers, who not only care about information transfer and test scores, but also about the students themselves. Some of my teacher friends have become mentors, helping kids through difficult issues like bullying or abuse in the home.  They may be the only ones who notice a student struggling with an eating disorder, loneliness, or, in some cases, something as serious as human trafficking.

The Texas School Safety Center recently came out with an article about recognizing the signs of human trafficking in schools.  As I read the article, faces of trafficking victims flashed through my mind. I met one girl who, at the age of 15, met some older guys on facebook.  The exploitative nature of the relationship progressed to the point to where she’d go to class during the day and be sold for sex at night.  Her parents had no idea.  In Vegas I learned that grade 12 boys were pimping grade 9 girls out of bathroom stalls at school.  Due to cell phones and the internet, traffickers can have access to students all day long without even having to enter school premises.

Teachers, coaches, and other school personnel are in a unique position to spot warning signs.  Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

Human Trafficking Chart

Source: Texas State School Safety Center

 

Though these signs can point to a variety of issues, not just trafficking, it is good for teachers to be aware.  Here’s some more pointers:

1.  Have a relationship with the school liaison police officer, and ask if they have been educated/trained on human trafficking.  If so, they may be able to help you with a specific situation and give you ideas for local resources.

2.  Build a relationship of trust with your students.  In many cases, a trafficking victim won’t identify themselves as a victim, so it takes trust to help them.  Jennifer Lucking, a good friend of mine who has worked extensively with survivors of exploitation, explains that unless teachers have an incredibly close and trusting relationship with their students, a victim of trafficking will likely not listen to a teacher’s concern.

It may be better for a teacher to ask some challenging questions that will really help a victim identify for themselves that their situation isn’t ideal.  For example instead of a teacher saying “he’s a pimp, not your boyfriend, you shouldn’t be doing that,” a teacher could ask “what does he do to make you feel cared for? What does he do that makes you feel uncared for? Do you think you deserve that?”  At the very least, you are establishing that you are a safe person if the student ever decides to reach out.

You can read the entire Texas School Safety Center Report here.

It’s my hope that we can work together to traffic-proof this school year, and make schools safe zones where kids can learn and grow without fear of exploitation.

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Red Light Green Light is Headed to the U.S.!

by Michelle Brock on August 27th, 2014

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In June, we wrapped up a cross-Canada film tour with our documentary, Red Light Green Light.  Here are some road highlights from the last 8 months:

  • Did 85 screenings across 8 provinces
  • Survived snowstorms in Thunder Bay and the Rockies
  • Collected thousands of petition signatures
  • Met dozens of MPs, MPPs, MLAs, police officers, social workers, and other service providers
  • Met survivors of exploitation/abuse in almost every audience
  • Testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-36

 

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While Canada has been our focus to date, trafficking prevention is something that every country needs to be discussing.  This fall, we will be headed across the border to do a U.S. film tour!  We want to plant seeds of awareness with the hope that each state will adopt laws and initiatives that prevent commercial sexual exploitation.  We hope to partner with local organizations that are already doing important work, and believe that Red Light Green Light could be a valuable tool to rally up support for anti-trafficking efforts across the country. So here’s where you come in.  Do you know anyone in the U.S. who would be interested in hosting a screening of Red Light Green Light?  Our plan is to hit the following states:

Upstate New York (ie. Niagara Falls/Buffalo/Utica/Syracuse)
Boston MA
Providence RI
New York City NY
Washington DC
Lynchburg VA
Charlotte NC
Atlanta GA
Jacksonville/Daytona Beach/Orlando FL
Lantana FL
Sarasota FL
Tampa FL
Tallahassee/Mobile/New Orleans
Houston TX
San Antonio/Dallas TX
Phoenix AZ
Las Vegas NV
San Diego CA
Los Angeles CA
Santa Barbara/Monterey/Santa Cruz/San Jose CA
San Francisco CA
Sacramento CA/Redding CA/Eugene OR/Salem OR
Portland OR
Seattle WA
Spokane/Missoula/Helena/Butte/Great Falls MT
Colorado Springs/Denver CO
Lincoln NE
Kansas City MO
Minneapolis MN
Chicago IL
Gary/Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids/Lansing/Ann Arbor/Indianapolis MI
Louisville KY
Nashville TN
Knoxville TN
Cincinnati OH/Dayton OH/Columbus OH/Pittsburgh PA
Akron OH/Cleveland OH/Toledo OH/Detroit MI

RED LIGHT POSTER RGB 662x1024The tour starts NOVEMBER 1st, so we need your help today.

Take some time right now, or in the next few days, to contact your American friends and encourage them to host a screening of the film in their community.  If you know folks on our route that might be willing to jump on board (and who might have the connections and capability to pull off a good event), we’d love for your to connect us!

The easiest way is for you to shoot an introduction email their way and CC Michelle (hopeforthesold@gmail.com), and she will follow up with more details. Here’s a sample you can personalize and email to your friends (be sure to include the links so they can check out the website and trailer):

 

Hi ___________, I’d like to introduce you to Michelle Brock, the co-director of Red Light Green Light, a documentary about sex trafficking. Michelle and her husband Jay run a charity called Hope for the Sold, and went to 10 countries to examine the best ways to prevent commercial sexual exploitation. They just finished an 85 city cross-Canada tour with the film, including a Parliamentary screening for government officials in Ottawa, as well as a bunch of churches, universities, and women’s crisis shelters. 

Jay and Michelle are currently planning a film tour in the U.S., and are looking for schools, churches, and other groups that might be interested in hosting a screening in the fall. I’ve CC’d Michelle on this email, and she will send you a follow up email with some more details. In the meantime, you can check out the film trailer and synopsis right here.

Excited to bring Red Light Green Light to the U.S. of A!

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Crisis in Iraq: Rape and Sex Slavery as a Strategic Weapon of War

by Michelle Brock on August 15th, 2014

When most of us think about war and conflict, we tend to picture soldiers, guns and bombs.  If we watch a lot of movies, we may even envision hand-to-hand combat, underground torture chambers, and chemical warfare.  But there is another factor that is tragically common in the context of conflict: sexual violence as a weapon of war.

The current crisis in Iraq is no different.  ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) – otherwise known simply as IS (Islamic State) – a militant Sunni jihadist group that is advancing through the country, is strategically raping and kidnapping women and children along the way.  Historically on a global scale, rape and pillage have been common, opportunistic practices in the context of conquest.  But in recent decades, sexual violence has become known as a strategic war tool, intentionally and systematically carried out to undermine and fatally wound local communities.

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According to two United Nations officials, about 1,500 women and children may have been forced into sexual slavery in recent weeks.  The victims are mostly from minority groups within Iraq, consisting of Yazidi, Christian, Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys.  What is the purpose of this? Dr. Nazand Begikhani breaks it down:

  1. To foster fear in communities – even if a man is not afraid of getting killed himself, he is afraid for his family and what might happen to his wife and children
  2. Since women are traditionally caretakers, raping or kidnapping them undermines family structures
  3. Perpetrators see gang rape as an opportunity to bond with each other, strengthening their loyalty to the brotherhood
  4. In the case of ethnic cleansing, which is an apparent goal of IS, impragnating women from minority groups is a way to “pollute” the bloodline of a population

As Major-General Patrick Cammaert puts it:

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

 

ISISAs IS gains ground in Iraq, we must do everything we can to support those who are on the front lines offering humanitarian support and advocacy.

This is not an easy fix situation, and the history of the area plays a huge role in its complexity.  But but below are some links to organizations that are requesting your activism and generosity (please note that some of these are international organizations and may not be able to provide a Canadian tax receipt, but don’t that that stop you from giving):

Yesterday I watched a VICE undercover documentary (42 mins) about the situation in Iraq and Syria. Please set aside some time this week to watch, learn and pray.  But before you do, remember that this is an extremist group, and most Muslims are just as horrified as the rest of us at what is happening. Considering that many Iraqis and Syrians who currently live in North America or Europe still have family and friends stuck in the midst of this crisis, now is the time for us to reach out to our neighbours and offer support and kindness.

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If Slavery Doesn’t Kill You…Freedom Might

by Michelle Brock on August 11th, 2014

MansSearch 577x1024I am reading a really good book.  It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning, written by holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. Whenever I’ve studied the holocaust or the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I’ve assumed that being freed from such horrific bondage would be the best feeling in the world. And momentarily, it probably is.  But as Frankl points out in his book, being freed is actually more of a process than a moment, and there are many challenges along the way:

“Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being.  The way that led from the acute mental tension of the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to mental peace) was certainly not free from obstacles.  It would be an error to think that a liberated prisoner was not in need of spiritual care any more.  

We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.  This danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychological counterpart of the bends.  Just as the physical health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he left his diver’s chamber suddenly (where he is under enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health.

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During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life.  Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly.  The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed.  They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice.  They justified their behaviour by their own terrible experiences.  

This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events.  A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops.  Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it.  I stammered something about not treading down the young crops.  He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, ‘You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us?  ‘My wife and child have been gassed – not to mention everything else – and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!’

OatsOnly slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.  

We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse than the loss of a few thousand stalks of oats.”

Why is it that so many girls return to their pimps after they’ve been ‘rescued’?  Why is it that some people who have experienced child abuse end up abusing their own kids? Why is it that service providers experience violence at the hands of the very people they are trying to help?

Because freedom isn’t a moment, it’s a process.  With courage, boldness, and patience, we must strive to walk alongside those who have been hurt, enslaved, and exploited, and foster sustainable, healthy liberty.

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How To Prevent Your Child from Falling Prey to a Trafficker on Facebook

by Michelle Brock on July 30th, 2014

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“Heyy thanks for adding me your very pretty would you be interested in a job making easy money.”

“hey sexy how you doing im rico…i just wanna say you sexy and I will love for you to come get this money with me i see a lot of potential in you.”

“What up Bri? Call me soon as u get this love so we can chop it up and get better acquainted..”

“I LOVE trapping on the weekends. #$Money Making Mission.”

These are some facebook status updates and messages taken from court documents, showing how pimps recruited girls into prostitution by making initial contact online.

A couple years I met a girl in the Oakville area who had accepted a friend request on facebook from some “cute older guys.” They told her they could hook her up with alcohol and get her into all the parties.  She was in high school at the time, and had no idea these older boys were traffickers on a mission to recruit.  As the relationship developed, she was gradually groomed into prostitution.  (I recently came across a similar story online – you can listen to Nina’s story here).

textingThis is happening all over the world.  In Indonesia, 27 of the 129 children reported missing to its National Commission for Child Protection are believed to have been abducted after meeting their captors on Facebook.  The internet has no cultural or socio-economic boundaries.  While many trafficking victims have traditionally been lured or abducted from marginalized or impoverished communities, the internet has opened up the playing field to include middle and even upper class homes.  Teenagers and children are curious and hungry for compliments regardless of socioeconomic status, and traffickers can easily access them via facebook, twitter, and texting at all hours of the day.

For parents, this is a poses a real challenge.  Cell phones, the very thing that parents often want their kids to have for safety purposes, may be the tool that undermines their safety in the worst way.  Social media, which is supposed foster good relationships, sometimes acts as a breeding ground for toxic ones instead.  So what’s a parent to do?

The FBI has identified some warning signs that your child may be at-risk online:

  • Your child spends large amounts of time on-line or texting, especially at night
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer/phone
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else

 

Here is a list of tips for parents regarding internet safety that could be quite helpful.  Instruct your children:

  • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line
  • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know
  • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number
  • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images
  • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing
  • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true

You can read the full FBI Parent Guide here, and some more social media tips here.  Below is a conversation between a pimp and a teen’s parent who stepped in (taken from this CNN Money article):

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family dinner 300x300The most powerful way to traffic-proof your child is to have a strong relationship with them.  This starts at the youngest of ages.  Maybe it’s time to make regular family dinner a bigger priority.  Or to get a new job that allows for more quality time with your kids.

Investing into your kids when they are young can pave the way for a healthy relationship when they are teenagers, and that is a challenging hurdle for pimps to overcome.

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A Subtle Way to Guard our Girls from Predators

by Michelle Brock on July 21st, 2014

I heard my mom’s laughter upstairs.  “Michelle, come take a look at this!”  I bolted up the steps and saw her pointing at the large stuffed animal mouse that stood in the corner of her bedroom.  Its face was covered in lipstick, the red marks concentrated primarily on the lips and eyes.  We considered the culprit – my little sister, who had just learned how to walk – and wondered how she’d managed to find a lipstick and create such a masterpiece during her short nap.

lipstickAfter some investigation, we figured that my sister had crawled over the guardrails on her bed, pushed aside obstacles that were supposed to keep her out of my mom’s drawer, picked out the lipstick and used it on the mouse, returned the lipstick in its rightful place in the drawer, and crawled back into bed as if nothing had happened.  My mom tried to her best to reprimand my sister without breaking into a smile, and we both thought her plan was ingenious and adorable.

I remember marvelling at the keen awareness of a two-year-old.  Whether she had seen my mom put on lipstick, me put on lip gloss, or a commercial advertising eye shadow, my sister understood the basic premise of make-up.  While at her age it came down to mere curiosity and wanting to imitate the women around her, in our appearance-obsessed society there is a point where, for many young girls, curiosity can switch to insecurity.

During our documentary film tour this spring, I met someone who told me of a tactic that some traffickers were using in their area.  They would go to a place where teenage girls were hanging out, like a mall or park, and strike up conversation.  They’d find ways to compliment each girl in some way, whether it was about her hair, her eyes, or her body, and strategically gauge their reaction.  Some girls would ignore them entirely.  Others would respond with “thank you.”  Some would immediately gush out “no I don’t” or “I’m so ugly,” and these were the girls that would be selected for the grooming process.  A little attention goes a long way for a girl starved of self worth, and traffickers would merely pose as boyfriends, showering them with gifts, compliments, and affection, while gradually grooming them into a life of prostitution.

Those of us who are adult women have a responsibility to set an example for young girls.  Are we masking our natural beauty because we are insecure?  Do we complain about our bodies in front of our children, our nieces, our sisters?  What are the possible repercussions of living out of fear?  Let’s examine our hearts and our minds, so we can empower the younger generation to live with contentment, gratitude, and courage.  It’s a subtle way to guard our children from predators seeking to exploit insecurity.

This video says it so beautifully:

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