Inspire Resource


Inspire: Taking the 'T' to the next level.
A resource to encourage young trans gendered people facing the challenges of being themselves.


Taking the

‘T ’

to the next level...


Taking the

‘ ’

T to the next level...


his resource is brought to you by Te Punawai

service in association of ME Family Services

which provides gender and sexuality diversity

support for youth 25 years and under and their

families. We work primarily in Mangere/Otahuhu

with extension support to the South Auckland


Contributors featured in this resource are

inspiring young people with stories that break the

stereotypes placed on their communities. These

are real stories of role models who have shown

leadership in their own lives. It is our hope that

the stories featured in the Inspire resource provide

encouragement for young people facing the

challenges of being themselves.

As much as possible, I wanted the stories that we

share in this resource to have as little editing as

possible. This is because I wanted to pay respect

to the storytellers. I believe that everyone has

their own story and that story belongs to them.

Their stories certainly inspired us and we hope

that it is the same for you. “Dreams can become

a reality regardless of what gender or sexual

orientation you are”. You can be who you want to

be and these girls are a true testament of that.


He’ehau AKA


I’m 21 years of age and I am

a Tongan born transgender


I moved to New Zealand when I was six and was

adopted by my grandparents and travelled back

and forth between Tonga and New Zealand for

family visits. I started primary school in Tonga and

when I moved to NZ I had attended a Primary

School in Manurewa, Auckland. In 2002, I was

moved to Hastings. I eventually went back to

Tonga and from there I passed my National exams

and made it to Tonga ’s all boys’ school. I was

bullied almost daily from older boys because of

how I acted. I knew I was different and I didn’t

belong there. I did really well in terms of being the

1st in my class and 3rd overall. My second year in

the school was just awful and regardless of how

good my studies were, I had had enough of the

bullying. I moved back to NZ and attended a boys’

school in Gisborne. I thought it would be different

but it was just as bad as my previous school. I had

no other choice but to stay there until I finished

school. In year 12, I managed to complete my

NCEA level 1 and Level 2, and that year we just

had a lot of family dramas. We ended up moving

back to Auckland for financial reasons and I

attended a co-ed school in Otahuhu. Things for

me were much better in this school. I think it’s the

fact that it was a boys and girls’ school. I was also

lucky enough to get a transfer from my part-time

job in Gisborne to the KFC in Mangere East.

“I was bullied almost

daily from older boys

because of how I acted.”

My Grandfather, who adopted me, was very ill

but was in Tonga with my mum. I worried about

them a lot, while I worked and studied at the same


After just a few months of working at Mangere

East, I was told that I would be promoted as a Shift

Supervisor, which for me meant more money

and also helping my mum back in Tonga. At this

time, I had to do a lot of thinking and made a big

decision to leave school and work full time. After

a long year as a Shift Supervisor I was promoted

to become Assistant Manager for the store in

Papakura. I was the first assistant which means

when my store manager was absent, I took on

the role of Manager. I also had the chance to

work in the role as a Store Manager for some

time because my boss was on leave. I achieved

multiple targets, sales numbers, and customer

growths in just a short period of time. I was also

offered the position of Store Manager but at that

time I did not feel ready. One of the skills I had

was educating and training staff. I really enjoyed

passing on my skills and knowledge and what

was rewarding for me was seeing the staff do an

amazing job and seeing some of them become

successful. All of my experiences with Restaurant

Brands has been a rollercoaster. I had my ups and

downs. In the workplace, I met some amazingly

talented people who I now consider family. I

also experienced being treated unfairly, racism

and bullying. Through it all, I successfully stood

my ground and it has gotten me to where I am

today. I am truly proud of myself physically and

emotionally because of the achievements I have

accomplished. I targeted the goals that I wanted

and I reached out for it. But I always keep in

mind that it’s not the end of the journey, the

journey has just begun. It is possible to become

more and more successful. It wasn’t easy, but

the motivation and the inspiration that drove me

was my FAMILY. I am now going into my fifth year

with Restaurant Brands and at the moment, I am

thinking forward about what there is for me to do

next. I am looking to expand my work experience

“Whatever life throws at you, catch it, put

your head up and move on, and never let

anyone take advantage of you!”

and also thinking about going back to study. My

message to our Trans community is: Whatever

life throws at you, put your head up and move

on, and never let anyone take advantage of you!

Whenever you’re feeling down, get back up and

strive for success. Despite the achievements and

the goals I’ve targeted that have been reached and

accomplished, I always bear in mind that it’s not

the end of the journey, the journey has just begun

in becoming more and more successful in life. It’s

gotten to a point where I had worked two jobs and

it wasn’t easy, the motivation and the inspiration

that drove me was my FAMILY. I stepped down

from the position of an Assistant Manager this

year because of various reasons and I am really

happy where I am at the moment. I think it has

come to a time where I think it is time to move on

and do something else where I can achieve more

goals in life but it has been an outrageous journey.

Currently looking for other jobs and might go back

to studying next year. I am currently a fulltime

Shift Supervisor at KFC Papakura which employs

25+ employees and next year in March will

complete my fifth year with the company.

And my message to our Trans community is,

“Whatever life throws at you, catch it, put your

head up and move on, and never let anyone take

advantage of you’! Whenever you’re feeling down,

get back up and strive for success.”



Life as a T girl “we say” comes

with many life challenges.

As a child I had matured

faster than others my age.

I knew early about who I was and who I was going

to be. Growing up, everything I did seemed to be

wrong. “Boys wear this and act like this” people

would say. Names like ‘Fag!’ ‘Poofter!’ and ‘Queer’

were said to me a lot. I didn’t really understand

or know what they meant, but what I did know

was that these words weren’t words of kindness

because people would say them with anger.

School wasn’t any interest to me. I hated it so

much. Some boys just loved to bully me. My

sister who was a year older would have to come

to my rescue every day and defend my battles for

me. The one thing that I will always remember

about school, was the love and support I received

from our nurse department.

At the age of 16 I had left school because I was

over the bullying. I left with limited education,

not understanding its importance until I learnt

for myself that my reading and spelling wasn’t so

good. I signed up at a course thinking I could start

off trick, playing unsprung but that didn’t happen.

I was going through the same issues I was going

through at school: bullying, abuse, discrimination,

hate. Wherever life took me, the situation stayed

the same. I had trouble finding a job and when I

got one it was hard to

hold onto it. When I was

19 years old my parents were

ambivalent in their support

of me. My understanding of

being transgender was that it

wasn’t a life choice and I was

born like this. Most times I

would imagine waking up

and me being transgender

was all a dream. Although

at times I hated being born

transgender I had to learn to

accept me so that I could be


Over time I had met many

sisters, who were girls

like me. Those sisters were friends with other

sisters, who all became sister friends with me. I

was surprised meeting so many others like me

because I thought I was the only one. Some of my

sister friends were having family disputes so they



wanted advice or was

feeling down. During the

months of living together

the sisters had built back

their relationships with

their families and moved

out one by one.

When I was in my

20s I travelled around

Australia where I realised

how much I missed

New Zealand. It got me

thinking about what I

wanted to achieve in the future. Although I was

living a lavish lifestyle and with people who loved

me I knew at some stage in my life I needed to be

independent and that meant getting a job. This

scared me because I had previous experiences of

is OK…

would stay at mine often. Even though we didn’t

have much, my parents didn’t mind them staying

at ours. Having all of us nine sisters together was

nice. We learnt so much from one another. We

all had our individual strengths. My strength was

listening and I was seen

by our group as the goto

person when a sister

trying to stay employed, and I knew that it could

be hard for T-girls in employment. Not only did I

have to deal with the normal challenges of getting

to work like transport, and figuring out what to

wear. I also had to deal with discrimination in

the workplace and other peoples’ issues with my

identity. I was reminded of the struggles I had

been through to get to where I was. One day I

really thought about my strengths and decided

that I would go back to study. I had always

doubted myself in everything I had done but this

idea I had of becoming a social worker was of no

doubt and I knew that was my calling in life.

I came back to New Zealand determined to start

afresh. I went and signed up at Manukau Institute

of Technology graduating in a certificate in Social

Services then going on to Te Wananga o Aotearoa

to complete a Bachelor of Applied Social Work


Since making the decision to really follow my

calling, I was offered a job as a LGBTQI Youth

Support worker and was even elected to be a

youth representative for the Mangere / Otahuhu

Local Board with the Auckland Council Youth

Advisory Panel. Being offered these roles meant

so much to me. I didn’t say yes straight away as I

needed time to think and ask myself am I the best

person for this role? What do I have to offer? And if

my intentions of wanting these opportunities are

pure. After serious consideration I accepted.

I am very proud of all that I have accomplished so

far. I was determined to achieve the many goals

I have set for myself. It is not always easy. Having

to study and work can be very overwhelming but

so rewarding when I look at how far I have come.

I look back at all those people who doubted me

and said “you can’t” and I think “thank you for

making me work even harder to get here”. I believe

that being transgender shouldn’t be a barrier to

anyone chasing their dreams. Your goals are

achievable if you work hard at everything you do.

My message to our younger generation blooming

and our parents of LGBTQI children is that: you are

not alone. We have a wide spread community of

younger and older generations in our back yard.

Seeking support is ok and by working together a

culture of unity is formed. Learning is reciprocal

and relationships will get stronger.

Life is a blessing.

When you’re feeling down talk

to someone, it helps.



Hansen Vaeau

My name is Sarah Michelle

Hansen-Vaeau I am Cook

Island/ European / transwoman

/ Aka va’ine.

Growing up in South Auckland, Mangere, the

heart of the Pacific made things very easy for me.

At a very young age I identified with being a girl

however I felt the body I was given at birth was

wrong. Being eldest born in my family meant there

were all these hopes and expectations that I would

marry and have kids “but” that was not the case.

When I had started primary school I met so many

feminine boys who now are also trans. As sexuality

wasn’t an issue at primary I enjoyed school and

did very well. It was when I started intermediate

that things started to become difficult. I was often

left out and persecuted, called names and beaten

for not fitting in by being “normal”. When I went

to high school things had become worse. I tried

to confide in a school counselor who was a very

staunch religious man who was worst than the

kids in the playground. He said “you need to stop

acting and thinking like that and act normal”. At 16

years of age I didn’t know what normal meant and

feeling as though that door had been slammed in

my face and there was nowhere else to go. I began

to wag school. When I did attend school it was

always in mufti so I could feel as girly as I possibly

I have overcome

so much and am

prepared for the

challenges ahead.

could. Teachers and students picked on me and I

had a guts full. I decided to try and finish school so

I could have something to my name. My final year

of high school I began to transition. I had never

felt so free. Through netball and external contacts

I became Sarah. I became heavily involved in

human rights and other community organisations

not only supporting trans but just supporting. I

shared nationally my journey and tale of how I

came to be. My achievements through sports and

community work shortly got me jobs and great

contacts. I became one of the first trans woman

to compete internationally and have since played

for NZ in netball for 10 years. I still do community

work now in West Auckland where I live and am

heavily involved in netball. My work is always to

push and make change. I have overcome so much

and am prepared for the challenges ahead.



My name is Stacey Atonio.

I’m 21 years of age and I

am a transgender or what

society labels as a “Fafa, fag

or tranny”.

But those labels don’t affect me nor does it

define who I am as a human being. I’m a full

Tongan, born and raised in Auckland - Otahuhu

and Manurewa to be exact. Growing up I always

knew there was something about me that wasn’t

quiet right, that I wasn’t a typical “boy” who

liked doing “boys things” such as riding bikes,

climbing trees etc. I found my fun in dressing up

in girls clothes, playing with make up, watching

my sisters/girl cousins and just being around

females. It was that exact moment I knew I was

“different”. My life from then onwards changed, I

started acting and wanting to become a girl and

the more I did that the more my family noticed

what was happening and as any Tongan family

would react, it was all in anger. The road for me

started getting harder, being at home wasn’t as

easy as it use to be. My dad did not approve of

me and reminded me on the daily that I was not

accepted in his house. I stood my ground, stuck

to my guns and continued to be me. Attending

school was another hard chapter for my life, it

consisted of non-stop bullying, getting teased and

also being picked on by the boys but like I did at

home I stuck to my guns and dealt with all of that

nonsense. Entering college was a whole new field,

especially attending an all-boys Catholic school. I

dreaded every day of going to school. My friends

helped me a lot because we all fell under the

same category. Coming into my 5th form year of

high school, was one of the hardest years of high

“I didn't know what normal

meant and feeling as though that

door had been slammed in my

face there was nowhere else to go”

school. The pressure of me coming out of the

closet and also keeping up with my studies caused

me to leave school. Straight after I gained NCEA

Level 1 I left college and went into beauty school .

Studying there I found it easier but challenging, as

transgenders like myself were defined as gay guys

as if we all fell under the same category. None of

that affected me as I felt accepted and relieved to

be in a place where I could be me. I felt normal. In

2010 I graduated from Cut Above Academy with

levels 3 and 4. The tutors were great to me, they

let me style and some let me cut their hair and

being a student that was a real big thing, they also

encouraged me to push forward with my career in

Hair&Make-up as I was doing a really good job so

then it was from then onwards I worked at a few

Salons in Auckland and started from a ‘Junior’ to a

‘Senior’ hair stylist then I started up my own little

business of being a hair stylist and also a makeup

artist just doing family and close friends until last

year where I stepped my game up and made my

services open to the public. It wasn’t an easy road

opening up to the public but as time went by, I

started getting better at what I was doing and also

I started getting good feedback from clients which

put my name out there. I’m very proud of myself

and there’s more to accomplish. Today I stand

and walk proud being the young transgender I am

and I do not wish the road I took to get here was

any different. Everything I went through brought

me here. I guess you could really say I started

from the bottom now I am here. To the younger

generations of our community I encourage you

to stand tall, be brave and be you and always

remember that “There’s a light at the end

of every tunnel”.



Falencie Filipo 25-years-old,

born and raised in Māngere,

New Zealand.

I started primary school in Mangere and although I

was young I only hung out with girls because I got

along with them. It was also during this time when I

played with Barbie dolls but it was my dad who kind

of forced me into identifying as a boy because I was

born a boy so I cut my hair and I wanted to cry. I am

the youngest of two boys and one half sister. Growing

up my brothers knew I was different because they

would play sports outside the backyard and I would

stay inside watching sailor moon (lol). I then attended

high school not fully transitioned but by then I

thought being a transgender or gay was a sin so I

forced myself to fit into the heterosexual community.

My first few years at school I noticed there were

two others who acted similar to me (feminine) so

we immediately became friends. At high school we

noticed a few senior students who were transgender

and it was then when I knew who I was. It wasn’t

until my second to last year at school where I started

to transition and the boys in school started to bully

me for being who I am. So when I finished school I

was happy to leave the bullying from students but

also some of the teachers in 2006. In 2007 I started

working at McDonald’s and worked there for 10

months. I left McDonald’s to study at AUT University

because I didn’t want to limit myself to working in

minimum wage jobs and wanted to push myself to

make a better living for myself and especially my

parents. I studied a diploma in travel and tourism and

graduated in 2009. This was the changing point in

my life where I knew that being transgender I can be

whoever I want to be and not listen to what everyone

expects the transgender community to be, only

good for certain things, because it was rare to hear a

transexual / transgender person as a manager, doctor,

lawyer, entrepreneur etc... We were always the bottom

of the chain. So after graduating with my diploma I

decided to study a bachelor in business majoring in

marketing and management at AUT university. Being

in class was a little intimidating because everyone was

smart and I was the only transgender person in class

so that motivated me to study smart to reach my goal

in achieving a BA in business. While studying I also

had a part time job at Sky City to make ends meet in

which I was a bartender from 2009-2013. I graduated

with my degree in business in 2013 to which was a

surprise to some of my transgender peers and people

in general because of my party life and the image I

portray as being overly sexual (lol). So in saying that I

broke the stereotype of being transgender and doing

well academically but also people judging you for

your appearance and not knowing there was a brain

underneath all that hair and makeup. As part of my

degree I was a social marketing coordinator for the

New Zealand Aids Foundation in which I helped

coordinate Big Gay Out as well as the Pride Parade

in 2013. I am now currently working as a sales and

service consultant for IAG which is an Australian

insurance company and is the main insurance

company in NSW and one of the biggest in Australia.

I have been working there for a year now and getting

my foot in the door was my goal as the company

I work for are always looking to promote staff into

senior roles such as human resources and recruitment

which is something I see myself doing in the future.

At the moment I also do work with the FAFSWAG

brand which promotes positivity and creativity within

the LGBTQI community where I collaborate with

artists in the community and modeling their work

which interprets elements of traditional Pacific Island

culture and making it modern with an urban twist. In

the future I would like to do my masters in commerce

or maybe branch into another field of study such

as communications and would like to work in a

managerial role and travel the world. My message

to the youth would be to follow your dreams, stay

in school as education is the key to success and to

not follow what your peers are doing because you

think trans people are only good for doing particular

roles but be yourself and make your mark on the

world. You can be whatever you want to be just put

your mind to it, transgender or not it’s time for us to

break the stereotype. If I can do it, you can to. I am

the perfect example of a transgender with a lot of

ambition and determination.

Don’t wait for the future, do it now.



At sunrise on the 20th of

November 1993 in New

Zealand’s Middlemore

Hospital, a bad bitch was

born, jokes!

Birth is where doctors give you a gender pronoun

based on your physical appearance without even

asking you. I mean I know I can’t speak yet but this

is injustice. Now look what you’ve done, my parents

are naming me Jason. No gender neutral pronouns

just a boy. I wonder what my parents got in store

for me, what school I’d attend? What type friends

I’d have? For the moment let’s be excited cause

everyone else is.

I’m now 8 years old with two older sisters, one older

brother, two younger brothers and life’s not too

exciting! Well only because my parents have not

considered the signs that I’m extremely feminine and

have put me in a rugby team, unless it’s to refrain

me from my being feminine? Well whatever it is, it’s

not working. This sport is awful! I’m getting tackled

like I’m not a girl. Although some of these boys are

quite cute but still, ouch! I think I’m disappointing

my dad for being useless but I don’t mean to. My

mum on the other hand is different. She’s not quite

like my dad, she’s literally yelling at me from the side

line even at my team mates. It’s her way of helping

me play better I guess. You’ve got to be kidding me;

the boy with the pretty long hair just passed the ball

to me, oh my gosh! There’s three boys running my

way to tackle me, this is so going to hurt! I close my

eyes and hug the ball as hard as I can and waited to

get this tackle over and done with. All of a sudden it’s

silent. I then feel someone tap me on my shoulder,

it’s my dad. He’s laughing at me but I can sense a

slight embarrassment. I feel bad for him because

everyone’s laughing at me. I feel like a loser. My dad

then finally gives me some words of comfort and

says, “When you get the ball just run straight up to

the try line okay”. I got myself together and pushed

through. From that day on, my dad never forced me

to play rugby ever again, Hallelujah!

Thanks mum and dad! Sorry for not being as great as

Sonny Bill but I’m happy now.

I went to a Mangere primary school which was good

but it could have never prepared me for what high

school I was going to next. My high school was an

all-boys Catholic school. It’s an Intermediate and

College which means, my older brother is here as

well and he’s not really ecstatic that I’m attending

the same school. I think it’s because I’m a girl or is

it because I’m a Faggot? I don’t really understand

what that means but it seems like a mock that only

I get called, like it was specifically made for me, but

I had to get used to it because it was replacing my

name. I felt sorrier for my older brother because

he was getting mocks as well, so I tried to filter my

personality for him. I thought I was alone in this

shit hole of a school till I came across these other

girls that we’re very similar to me but way more

proud and not so defeated like myself. These fierce

bitches stood up for themselves even if it meant

fighting their bullies. OMG, they’re so fabulous, I

want to be like them… and eventually I did. In 2008

I became one of the Divas of my school and by then

my brother wasn’t at school anymore so the coast

was clear. Because of the Divas I learnt everything

I needed to know to survive in this world, things

they wouldn’t teach you in class. My entire life I was

confused up until they came along. There were a lot

of us, past, present and future young ones coming

through. Most of us would usually come out in

school before being open at home, well I know I did.

I got caught from my mum wearing my sister’s

clothes (which I’d always steal cause they never

share) at our holiday rehearsals for Stage Challenge,

which is a secondary schools performing arts

competition. Surprisingly my mum smiled and just

told me to fix my skirt. I think she already knew

but she was waiting on me. Stage challenge was

awesome that year, my sisters even came on the

day and helped do my hair and make-up. Ever since

then I slowly transitioned and started living as my

preferred pronoun which is female with the blessing

of both my parents. Oh I must introduce myself…

Hi my name is Jaycee.

I have a passion for the performing arts so after

school I went and studied at the Pacific Institute of

Performing Arts (PIPA). Boy was I not ready for them,

“Take off your make-up!” Oh dear it feels like school

all over again but this was good for me. Throw me

some discipline and tell me to get over my vain self. I

made it to the end and graduated with a whole new

outlook on life. Here I am in a black lace dress with

my hormone tits tightly pushed together waiting

for my name to be called. I made it! PIPA was truly

harder than high school. I’d rather go back to school

and get bullied then… I’m kidding. I’m glad I stayed

because I learned a lot. I graduated with my head

held high ready to tackle the industry and so it

began. Four other graduates from PIPA that were

gay, trans, pacific terminology identifying, mermaid,

avatar, fairy’s and I decided to put our acting solo’s

together that we had created whilst studying and

aim to make a ground breaking show. The show

was called, “Teen Faggots Come to Life”. My story

was about my High School Sweet Heart. I called it “A

different kind of love”, thanks for the title David Fane.

The story I shared was about myself and a straight

boy that I dated publicly in high school and the all

barriers we went through being a different type of

couple. You could imagine some of the things we

would’ve faced; it definitely wasn’t easy and still is

one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever been

through but there were so many more positives that

came out from it for one, it played a part in making

our show the one to watch in 2014’s Pride Festival

and we were nothing but grateful. The cast shared

beautiful stories and we all loved doing it even if the

money was terrible.

I hope you laughed at all my stories but more

importantly have taken away something positive

from them. I’m 22 now I’ve been doing youth work

for two years now and I just love giving back. I’m

still doing performing arts, still hanging out with

the Divas and still playing rugby, JOKES! But I do

watch it, mainly for the guys (lol). My family and I

are awesome, my brother couldn’t care less about

what people say, my sisters’ still won’t share their

clothes, my littler brothers are happily still learning

about me and most importantly my parents are very

supportive. I am happy, I am me, and because the

doctors got it wrong here you go in capitals,


Encouragement & Support

Where can you go for support?

Hopefully reading the stories in this resource has given

you some encouragement and hope. Or, perhaps for

some of you, it has inspired some new questions in


In the meantime, you might be wondering who you

can go to for encouragement and support. Here are a

few ideas for you to try:


In Kava’s story, she said that her main motivation and

inspiration was her family. Sometimes for T-girls, this

is not always the case. Talking to family can be a really

positive experience if and when you feel safe to.


No doubt you already have a close group of friends

who you can trust and often talk to. This can be a

good resource when you just need to talk some things


ME Family Services: (Te Punawai Service)

Provides expert support in the area of questioning,

gender and sexuality diversity for young people and

their families in South Auckland. For more info contact

09 256 0810.

School Support Staff:

As you read in Torranice’s story, she felt very loved and

supported by the nurses at her school. School support

staff are a wonderful resource that young people can

reach out to for support. School support staff are

trained professionals in your school like nurses, the

school sounsellor or a social worker (if your school is

lucky enough to have one). Other support staff can be

someone like a teacher aide, or someone who works in

the school office. You might even want to talk with a

supportive teacher.

Student Support Services:

If you are not at school but are studying or on an

alternative education course, ask your tutors or class

reps about student support services. Student support

services usually have counselors, doctors and nurses

available for student access.

Your doctor/nurse:

A good place to go is to your nurse or doctor. A nurse

or a doctor is a trained professional who may be able to

link you with community support.

A local community organization:

There are many services in our communities that we

are sometimes not aware of. So whether you think an

organization can help or not, ask to have a confidential

conversation with a social worker or community

support worker so that you can find out what the

organisation offers.

By Natasha Pokino

Fashion Advice

Everyone has their own sense of creative fashion style which expresses their

personality and individuality. Sometimes this could be frustrating. Here are

some clothing styles that may help you when dressing for an occasion.

Items from Miss Tasha Lee Clothing:

www.facebook/Miss Tasha Lee Clothing Online

Custom made designs, colour choices and sizes up to size 30


If you would like to share your story or have any feedback for us, please get in

touch, I’d love to hear from you:

Te Punawai Service in association of ME Family Services would like to thank:

Story Contributors:

Jaycee Tanuvasa

Kava Victoria He’ehau

Falencie Filipo

Sarah Michelle Hansen – Vaeau

Stacey Antonio

Torranice Campel


Torranice Campel

Support Contributors:


Joanne and Justin Latif (275 Times)




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