Top stories from 2014

ShelterBox disaster relief achievements the most popular post on Rotary Service Connections blog. Worth a look and sharing with your friends on Facebook etc ………..

Service in Action

By Ellina Kushnir, Rotary Programs staff

To wind down 2014, we’re taking a look at the past year. Your five favorite stories (based on views):

  • ShelterBox International Partnerships Manager Melissa Martins Casagrande recaps disaster relief accomplishments made possible through the Rotary-ShelterBox partnership.
  • Monique Cooper-Liverpool, a member of the Rotary Club of Monrovia, Liberia, shares updates about Ebola’s impact in Monrovia and information about how the Rotary family can help Rotarian-led relief and recovery efforts.
  • The October ethical dilemma discussion seeks recommendations on reminding members to act with integrity in their personal, professional, and Rotary endeavors.
  • RI President Gary C.K. Huang inspires us to Light Up Rotary through Rotary Days: fun, informal community events that highlight Rotary’s accomplishments while introducing neighbors and friends to Rotary.
  • The July ethical dilemma discussion asks how to resolve a service project issue by following Rotary’s guiding principles.

Tell your Rotary story: add completed projects to Rotary…

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Rotary and ShelterBox, A Year Of Collaboration

image of ShelterBox tent with rotary logo on


The global support from the Rotary network is the cornerstone that ShelterBox is built upon. Rotary has been instrumental in our growth and Rotarians are the cement that binds us together. Since we were founded, we grew from one club’s adopted project to the largest global Rotary club project in the 100-year history of the organisation. In 2014, both Rotary and ShelterBox have built upon this partnership, lending support to one another strategically, in terms of fundraising and awareness and with Rotarians lending operational support in many of our disaster responses.
In 2012, ShelterBox became Rotary International’s first project partner. This agreement offers opportunities to collaborate and combine resources to provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters and humanitarian crises.
The fundraising efforts by Rotarians make up a significant proportion of donations received by ShelterBox. Alongside this, Rotary Clubs provide invaluable logistical support during our disaster zone responses.
Rotarians will often be the people who ensure our aid can be delivered into a country by acting as consignees and taking responsibility for a delivery. These essential acts mean we can deliver aid to people in need as quickly as possible. More often than not, it will be Rotarians who are the first point of contact for our response team volunteers when they arrive in a country that has been devastated by a disaster. They provide everything from logistical support, translators and local knowledge, to a bed to sleep in.
This slideshow celebrating International Rotary Day 2014 highlights how Rotarians have volunteered for ShelterBox in response to the Syria crisis, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and flooding in Niger throughout 2013 and early 2014.
The global Rotary network has been key in our international growth. At present, all of our affiliates have been set up by Rotarians or Rotaracters and the growth has been phenomenal.
Operational support
In May of 2014, local Rotarians leant much-needed support to help shelter flood-stricken families in isolated areas of Serbia. The region had suffered what many were calling the worst flooding in the Balkans in decades. Response team volunteer Giles Walker produced this short film, in which we hear from local Rotarian Svetislav Goncic who was invaluable in assisting ShelterBox throughout the response in the region.

In a year which has seen ShelterBox respond to 25 disasters around the world we’d like to extend a huge thanks to the global Rotary community without the support of which we could not continue our work to help families in need following disasters.

Assessing The Damage Caused By Typhoon Hagupit

Messages of help line the roads in Eastern Samar in the Philippines where Typhoon Hagupit first made landfall. Image courtesy of Liam Norris.

Messages of help line the roads in Eastern Samar in the Philippines where Typhoon Hagupit first made landfall. Image courtesy of Liam Norris.


As our ShelterBox Response Team volunteers continue to assess the damage caused by Typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Philippines earlier this month, they describe how much the island of Samar has changed in just a few weeks.
The evidence of Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Typhoon Ruby, is clear to see in Eastern Samar, where a team made up of John Cordell (US), Richard Innes (UK), Richard Loat (CAN), Liam Norris (UK), Mike Peachey (NZ) and Brian Glenn (US) has been assessing the need for shelter.
Samar Island is among the Visayas, in the central Philippines. It is divided into three provinces, Samar province, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar.
While many of the people residing in Eastern Samar were fortunate enough not to have felt the full force of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines last year, they knew of the devastation it caused and were prepared when Hagupit made its way towards the country.
More than half a million people were evacuated before the storm hit, which helped to save many lives. Although the evacuation centres were the strongest buildings in each municipality, they were filled to capacity.
Now that the typhoon has passed, people have emerged from the evacuation centres to find that houses have been destroyed, debris covers everything and signs requesting help litter the road leading to the municipality of Dolores, where the typhoon first made landfall.
Infrastructure has been heavily affected too as trees lay fallen over power lines, roads remain partially blocked due to landslides and high levels of water, and flood damage is visible in many places.
Response team member Richard Loat unloads a delivery of tarpaulins, which will be used to create shelters and repair structures, in Eastern Samar in the Philippines. Image courtesy of Liam Norris.

Response team member Richard Loat unloads a delivery of tarpaulins, which will be used to create shelters and repair structures, in Eastern Samar in the Philippines. Image courtesy of Liam Norris.


The team has assessed that the need for shelter and aid along the island’s coast is everywhere. From coastal villages damaged by storm surges and flood water, to inland areas where coconut trees, the main source of income, had been flattened.
Michael Adlao, district captain in the coastal area of Mababang, lives in an area where more than 80% of his community relies on coconut trees for their livelihoods. When he met our team, he explained that not only was their evacuation centre badly damaged but that none of their coconut groves were left standing. It will take around 20 years to re-establish a crop large enough to feed the whole community, and in some ways it will take a whole generation to recover from the legacy of Typhoon Hagupit.
The team has identified that there is not only a need for immediate shelter, but tools to help rebuild homes and livelihoods. Therefore, they will be working with aid organisation Plan International to distribute tarpaulins to families, which can be used to create temporary shelters and to waterproof existing structures.
2,000 tarpaulins are en route to Eastern Samar and will be distributed throughout the rest of the week.

2014 Reflections: Nepal

ShelterBox Response Team members  in Nepal


Over the years we’ve reported countless stories of the unending commitment of our response team volunteers to overcome challenging conditions when delivering aid. This autumn’s response in Nepal sits amongst any of them for the sheer grit and determination shown by our volunteers to deliver aid to families living in remote communities.
This past autumn ShelterBox sent seven response teams to assist in Nepal following a series of severe floods and landslides in the country. The teams quickly became familiar with Nepal’s world famous rugged and mountainous terrain.
One team, comprising Sallie Buck, Angelo Spencer-Smith and David Hatcher (all from the UK) trekked 13 miles, across rivers and around landslides in the Surkhet district to find 35 families living under tarpaulins after their homes had collapsed.
Response team volunteer Sallie Buck commented: ‘The trip back was even harder than the trip there, including crossing a thigh-deep river. The temperature had risen considerably by then and we had to make frequent stops. However at the end I felt that this is what ShelterBox does best, reaching the parts that other organisations don’t.’
Makeshift ramps
Meanwhile in another part of the country, a six hour trip by tractor, 4×4 and on foot was the only way for response team volunteers Sanchia Gallagher, Mark Errington and Nicola Hinds (also from the UK) to deliver a consignment of boxes to a remote village in the Taranga area. At one point, boxes had to be manhandled almost vertically up a makeshift ramp to gain access to a suspension bridge damaged by the floods.
Mark Errington said: ‘We were the first NGO to get supplies through as the road had only been cleared a few days before…it’s fair to say that there was a mood of excitement once we erected a tent and demonstrated the equipment to the villagers.’
It is thanks to the support of our donors around the world that our response teams are able to operate in countries like Nepal, working around the clock to ensure aid reaches families in need, no matter how remote, following disasters. Thank you.

2014 Reflections: The Syria Conflict

Syrian children in a classroom, receive ShelterBox school packs


It’s been a busy 2014 for everyone connected with ShelterBox. This past year we have sent aid to 25 different disasters and throughout this holiday season we will be looking back at how these responses have made a difference to families in need as a direct result of the support of our donors.
One disaster, which we have continued to respond to throughout the year, is the ongoing conflict throughout Syria, Lebanon, the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Jordan.
In the three years since the conflict first broke out in Syria, more than 9 million people have been forced from their homes in the war-torn country, after being exposed to violence and unremitting fighting. The majority now remain within the borders with no home to go to and no possessions. More than 3.2 million refugees still seek safety and shelter across neighbouring countries.
The vast majority of fleeing families arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs. Many are injured from continuous bombing and shelling. They have no regular food and no income. Men, women and children are suffering through no fault of their own. They are in desperate need of shelter and other vital supplies.
ShelterBox has to date sent aid to support more than 5,000 families in Syria, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in some truly challenging situations. Throughout 2014 our aid efforts have continued in earnest, working with partner organisations to continually preserve to deliver vital aid to where it is needed the most.
One of the aspects of life that has been most greatly affected is education. Children whose families are on the run from conflict in Syria have been described as a generation lost to education. However ShelterBox is helping to bring refugee children back into the classroom.
Working with long-term partner charity ‘Hand in Hand for Syria’, ShelterBox has been sending truckloads of aid deep into Syria, containing tents, shelter repair kits, mosquito nets, water filters and carriers, blankets, groundsheets, solar lamps and most importantly for some, ShelterBox SchoolBoxes. As the above video shows, our SchoolBoxes contain essential supplies for teachers, including wind-up radios that also charge mobile phones, and school equipment for 50 children. They also include blackboard paint and a brush – these two items alone can transform any flat surface into a focus for learning. School packs, in bright yellow material bags, also contain stationery, pens and calculators along with drawing and maths equipment.
ShelterBox continues to work to assist families in need in the region. As another winter closes in on those who have lost their homes, thanks to the support of our donors, we strive to help bring families in from the cold.

Helping People Rebuild Homes In Mexico After Hurricane Odile


ShelterBox has been working with local groups to help people create safe shelters and rebuild their homes following Hurricane Odile.

In September, Hurricane Odile, described as the most intense tropical cyclone to hit in 60 years, made landfall on the Baja California Peninsula on the west coast of Mexico.

As the hurricane was not expected to hit land, little warning was given and it inflicted widespread damage. In the state of Baja California Sur, the popular tourist area Cabo San Lucas suffered winds of 125 miles per hour.
While more than 26,000 tourists were evacuated from the area, the locals were left to deal with the devastation.
Following the disaster, ShelterBox received a request from a local Rotary group to assist 400 families in the state capital of La Paz, so ShelterBox response volunteers Derek Locke (US) and Yi Shun Lai (US) were sent out to assess whether any shelter-based aid was needed.
When the team arrived, they found that the affected families in La Paz and the surrounding area were being supported by the government, but that the municipality of Los Cabos had sustained a great deal of damage.
The teams developed relationships with local Rotary groups and a local church initiative called Feeding Los Cabos Kids and decided that shelter repair kits would be of most use to help families affected by the hurricane, as there was no space for tents and people didn’t want to relocate and be far away while trying to rebuild their homes.
They identified several communities built on the fringe of the city of Cabo San Lucas, which were prone to flooding, whose houses had blown away during the hurricane and possessions had been washed away by the subsequent floods.
Following the work of Derek and Yi Shun, another team made up of Robert Partridge (NZ) and Jan Larsson (SE) headed to Mexico to distribute the Shelter repair kits.
When they arrived, they worked with the dedicated members of Feeding Los Cabos Kids and the Cabo San Lucas del Mar Rotary club to distribute the shelter repair kits and show people how they can be used.

A beneficiary in Cabo San Lucas del Mar, Mexico receives a ShelterBox shelter repair kit to help rebuild her home following Hurricane Odile.

A beneficiary in Cabo San Lucas del Mar, Mexico receives a ShelterBox shelter repair kit to help rebuild her home following Hurricane Odile.

The team found that people were pleased to see how useful the kits can be, such as recipient Dulce Maria Diaz, who lives with her husband and two children.
Her husband works six days a week, but still doesn’t have enough money for new building materials or enough time after working to make the necessary repairs. She explained that while they have been able to collect sheet metal to use as a roof, it is not watertight and will not be enough protection during the rainy season, which starts in December.
The contents of the shelter repair kit will not only help her and her husband to line the roof with a tarpaulin and make it waterproof, but the family will also be able to make a sunshade with the second tarpaulin and create a place where the children are able to play away from the extreme heat of the sun.
Tony Hernadez, from Feeding Los Cabos Kids, said: ‘Many families had lost hope after the disaster. With their homes destroyed and no way to rebuild, this was just too much for them.
‘When we were able to give a small amount of support, it helped to encourage people and I believe that the shelter repair kits will create a turning point for many families that still haven’t been able to start rebuilding their homes or even decent emergency shelters.’
The team distributed 270 shelter repair kits while the Rotary Club of Cabo San Lucas del Mar is in the process of issuing a further 80 to communities in the area.
While working with the Rotary Club and Feeding Los Cabos Kids, the team found that these communities would benefit from SchoolBoxes as they recover from Hurricane Odile. ShelterBox is now in the process of sending 18 SchoolBoxes to Mexico to help children get back to normality and to improve their quality of life in the future.
To find out more about the work of ShelterBox, click here SHELTERBOX

Typhoon Hagupit – ShelterBox Response Underway

Satellite image of Typhoon Hagupit ©EUMETSAT 2014

Satellite image of Typhoon Hagupit ©EUMETSAT 2014


ShelterBox’s Toby Ash reports back to the international disaster relief agency on the initial impact of the Philippines’ latest tropical storm. He describes last Tuesday as ‘The day Tacloban stopped smiling’. 

Toby Ash is ShelterBox’s Country Co-ordinator in the Philippines, overseeing projects to help make these island communities more resilient to their violent climate.

Toby has just reported back to ShelterBox’s UK base on the initial impact of Typhoon Hagupit, saying that some areas are expected to receive up to half a metre of rain over the next two days, making flooding and landslides inevitable.

He says, ‘Tacloban, where 6,000 died during Haiyan, has been spared the worst of the typhoon and many of the tens of thousands who evacuated are now returning home. However, there is no power in the city, and unlikely to be for the next few days.’

Toby has been working in partnership for much of 2014 with other aid agencies, and with local Rotary clubs. ‘Currently I am trying to gauge the impact of the storm using the partners we have on the ground. The Rotary Club of Legazpi will be reporting back in the next 24 hours on the damage levels there, and we are also trying to contact Rotary on the island of Masbate. We are also working with our project partners who will be carrying our rapid assessments in E and N Samar over the next 24-48 hours.’

Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, made landfall in North Samar around 18 hours ago. It has been moving very slowly across the central part of country, with wind speeds peaking at 130mph. The centre of the typhoon is now over the island of Masbate and the city of Lagazpi in Albay province.

Toby has heard no reports of loss of life, but says that communications are cut off in many areas. He warns, ‘A storm surge of 4-6 metres is expected tonight in Legazpi, which has a population of 200,000 and where we deployed aid in July after Typhoon Ramassun (Glenda).’

About half a million people were evacuated from coastal areas across the country, and Toby himself relocated from Tacloban before the storm hit. He has worked in the Philippiness for many months now, and says, ‘Filipinos are some of the happiest and smiliest people you will ever meet. But when news of the impending storm came through, everything changed. I was in the city of Tacloban, and last Tuesday was the day the city stopped smiling. Residents began packing up their possessions and started to leave the city or head for evacuation centres away from the seashore.’

‘Buildings and homes were boarded up and long queues formed at shops as people stocked up on essential provisions. As I left the city at dawn on Friday, I passed long candle lit processions, with priests leading the prayers that the storm would pass them by.’

Typhoon Hagupit’s house-wrecking winds have downed power lines, mobile phone masts and other communications. But it is a relatively slow-moving storm, and may take a further 48 hours to clear the archipelago.

The people of these storm-ravaged islands are used to response teams from ShelterBox being at their side. Since an earthquake in Bohol in October 2013, through the horror of Typhoon Haiyan in November, and then Typhoon Rammasun this summer, and on into partnership projects aimed at building more storm-proof shelters, ShelterBox has had a continual presence in the Philippines for over 15 months. Once Typhoon Hagupit has done its worst, there is little doubt that ShelterBox teams will still be needed well into 2015.

As soon as meteorologists warned that another super-typhoon was poised in the Pacific ShelterBox marshalled its resources. It has prepositioned stock already in country at Clark Freeport – around 1,000 tents and 400 ShelterBoxes, and a further 50 ShelterBoxes and 2,555 tarps already imported.

A ShelterBox response team is now en route to support Country Co-ordinator Toby Ash.  ‘We are working with partners on the ground to assess the damage over the next 24 to 48 hours. A response team will be in the country by Tuesday ready to distribute our aid as required.’

You can donate here: PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox On Standby As Typhoon Hagupit Sets A Course For The Philippines

Image by NRL Marine Meterology Division [Public domain]

Image by NRL Marine Meterology Division [Public domain]

Little more than a year after Typhoon Haiyan caused devastation across the Philippines, Typhoon Hagupit is on course to reach the country at the end of the week.
The tropical storm, which has now been reclassified as a super typhoon, is intensifying as it travels across water and is expected to reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall.
Officials are predicting that Hagupit could follow the same trajectory as Haiyan, which could affect people that are still living in tents and temporary shelters following last year’s typhoon.
ShelterBox’s in-country team is liaising with the operations team in the UK to monitor the severity of the typhoon and decide whether a response will be needed. If so, the team will be able to distribute supplies, including ShelterBoxes and tarpaulins, that have been prepositioned at Clark International Airport in the Philippines.
ShelterBox has continued working in the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan first hit in November 2013.
In the first few months of 2014, we had sent more than 100 response volunteers to deliver aid to communities devastated by Haiyan and our commitment to people in the Philippines has continued throughout the year with the launch of four projects to deliver ‘core transitional’ shelters – resilient temporary structures that allow people to move on from living in emergency shelter.
Read more about ShelterBox’s continuing work in the Philippines to help people rebuild their homes and their lives.

Green Boxes Mark A New Start For Families In Nepal

ShelterBox response team members Richard Innes and Richard Loat deliver ShelterBoxes to Sindhupalchowk, near the Chinese border in Nepal

ShelterBox response team members Richard Innes and Richard Loat deliver ShelterBoxes to Sindhupalchowk, near the Chinese border in Nepal


When extraordinary monsoon rains hit Nepal earlier this year, many communities across the country suffered from landslides, loss of infrastructure and rising floodwater.

ShelterBox has been working tirelessly since the floods first struck to reach isolated communities despite the country’s challenging terrain and damage to roads and bridges.

This week, the latest ShelterBox team of Richard Innes (UK) and Richard Loat (CAN), successfully delivered 31 boxes and 3 SchoolBoxes to Sindhupalchowk, a village situated around 20 miles from the Chinese border.

Here, the constant downpour caused an entire mountainside to collapse, burying the village and blocking the local Sun Koshi River in the process. What remained of the village was then submerged as the blocked river flooded the immediate area, leaving only rooftop antennas visible.

Resident Sarita Eanang was working in another city when the mountainside collapsed, while her husband was labouring near the Chinese border. She returned to find that their three children, her parents and in-laws had died in the landslide, and that the road to the Chinese border, and her husband, had been completely blocked.

Now reunited with her husband, Sarita carries a red card, which has been issued by the Nepalese government to those affected by the disaster to show that they have lost family and are without a place to stay.

Along with her red card, Sarita and her husband now also have a green ShelterBox. She told the team that after having lost everything they owned, the ShelterBox represents a new start for her and her husband.

Living alongside other families that have lost their homes and received ShelterBox tents, the resilient people of Sindhupalchowk are holding their heads high.

As they grieve and start to rebuild not just their village, but their entire community and way of life along the Sun Koshi River, green boxes and white tents temporarily dot the riverside during their transition back to normalcy.

Find out more or donate here:

‘Rice, Sugar and Salt’ – Lessons learned from seven months in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan Remembered


Toby Ash is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox and has, along with our four project partners, been working to help construct almost 1,700 shelters for families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck one year ago this week. In this personal reflection from Toby we hear about the difference ShelterBox is making in the region thanks to the support of our donors from around the world. 

‘When are you moving in?’ I asked a beneficiary of one of our newly built shelters yesterday. ‘Not until we’ve brought good luck to our new home,’ she replied. ‘The first things we bring in are containers of sugar, rice and salt. Then we will plant a Kalipayan (‘happiness’) tree by the foundations. Only then can we move in’.

So, yesterday was much like every other day of the last seven months I have spent here in the Philippines – it was a day of learning. I arrived here at the tail end of the emergency phase, some five months after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country leaving more than 6,000 dead and a million homes destroyed. By April the basic needs of those affected had been largely met – most had access to some basic shelter to protect them from the elements. But travelling through the great swathe of the country that was affected, it was clear that the future of many of the Haiyan’s survivors remained precarious – the road to recovery would be long and difficult, and many would not be able to get there without further assistance.

ShelterBox was one of the leading international shelter agencies that responded to the typhoon last November. Over the course of more than five months we helped almost 7,000 households with more than 100 ShelterBox response team members distributing boxes, tents, shelter kits, solar lamps, water purification systems and other desperately needed equipment.

In many disasters, the provision of a tent and other household items are all that is required for those affected to start rebuilding their lives. But the scale of the damage wrought by Haiyan has made the process of recovery much more difficult. The typhoon destroyed millions of coconut trees, rice fields and thousands of fishing boats, leaving those who depend on them for their living without any income. And with no income there can be no rebuilding. Even those able to eke out a living are faced with the stark choice of having to put food on the table and sending their children to school or buying building materials. Then, of course there are society’s most vulnerable. How does a frail, elderly woman rebuild her home by herself?


Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines

Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines


Once the frenzy of the emergency phase had calmed, we began to look at how we might be able to continue our assistance to help these survivors recover from this devastating and traumatic event. I travelled extensively across the typhoon hit areas in a bid to better understand the needs of those affected and to look at how we could assist the most vulnerable, building on our legacy from the emergency stage.

Given our limited operational resources in the country, a key goal has been to identify project partners to help us continue with our work. The initial ground work on this was done by Sam Hewett, one of our operational co-ordinators who oversaw the emergency response in the early part of the year. Myself and Jo Reid, our projects consultant at HQ, followed a strict and rigorous criteria for selecting our partners that examined every aspect of their proposals including the nature of the shelter project, its location, the partner’s track record and the likely speed of completion.

Over the course of the summer we signed partnership agreements with four large international aid organisations – ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services. In total we will be building almost 1,700 transitional shelters built mainly of locally sourced materials in four separate locations badly affected by the typhoon. Although not permanent, they are designed and built to be resilient. Each will meet the ‘build back safer’ guidelines as recommended by the International Federation of the Red Cross’ (IRFC’s) shelter technical team here.

But in many ways these projects are bigger than the individual shelters themselves. We are working with our partners to create shelters that can serve as exemplars of safe building practice in the communities they are built in over the coming months and years. Moreover, we are directly training carpenters and engaging the wide community in safer building practices, with the goal of leaving them better prepared for natural disasters in the future.

I have been a ShelterBox response team member for six years now and have delivered ShelterBoxes to many far flung places across the world. The last few months has been a different ShelterBox experience, but one that has been equally rewarding. Last week we handed over a specially adapted shelter to Conchita Suamer, a frail 89 year old woman, that will allow her to live in dignity after months in a tiny shack cobbled together from rusty lengths of corrugated iron. At this stage in the disaster, almost a year after the typhoon struck, a tent would be not be the right shelter solution for her. But the shelter we have built for her and her family is.

ShelterBox’s response to the calamity that hit this part of the Philippines last year, has been its most complicated and multi-faceted to date. Institutionally it has been a learning process, but one which will hold us in good stead in tackling the complex shelter issues that will invariably be thrown our way in the future. And what I have learnt? Many, many things but first and foremost, what a wonderful country the Philippines is and how warm-natured and resilient its people are. And of course to have a container of rice, sugar and salt in my home, and a ‘happiness’ tree planted close to its foundations.

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