Tag Archives: mali president

Leadership is Service

When I first met Yeah at University in 2003, he told me that he wanted to run for President of Mali, his country. I thought he was joking. As we got married and began our journey together, I realized he was not joking. In everything he did he always put Mali ahead. I realized very early on that serving Malians was the center of every decision he made.

Back when Yeah was in Mali, after he had graduated with an English degree from the prestigious Ecole Normale de Bamako, he returned to his city of Ouélessébougou. He soon realized that there were not enough teachers in his village. The government did not have funds to pay for teachers. Yeah could have moved to Bamako and gotten a well paying job there, however he chose to stay in Ouélessébougou. He volunteered at the local middle schools teaching English.

After graduating from BYU Utah with his Masters in Public Policy, Yeah partnered with Adrian Escalante to form a foundation that would serve the educational needs of the people of Mali. Through his leadership and fundraising efforts as the director, 17 middle schools were built in the rural villages of Mali. Each of these schools served 150+ children from the community increasing access to quality education. Additionally, Yeah headed many medical and dental missions from Utah helping connect quality resources with a deep need in Mali.

In 2009, the Mayor of his city was up for re-election. The commune was in crisis. The Mayors office had embezzled a lot of money and the result was that the city was suffering with inadequate access to education, electricity and clean running water. We didn’t have the means, but Yeah wanted deeply to run for the Mayor’s seat. He believed that he could change the way the Mayors office was run and ensure that all the money was used to serve the needs of his people in Ouélessébougou. Yeah ran and won with 86% of the vote. He became one of the youngest mayors in Mali. Using the education he learnt and the lessons of service he experienced in Utah, he quickly turned Ouélessébougou, a city of 55000 people, into one of the top ten communities in Mali. During his time as Mayor from 2009-2015, Ouélessébougou got its first big multi-service hospital, the biggest solar panel field, running water and the first high school. Business started to boom and many new hotels and new businesses opened their doors in Ouélessébougou. All of this would not have been possible without people recognizing that Yeah was a good man who truly loved his people and his community and wanted to make life better for them.

In 2012, we believed that we could impact change on a bigger scale. Yeah wanted to run for the Presidency of Mali believing that corruption and lack of management was responsible for the destitute plight of many Malians. In a country of 16 million people, Mali in 2012 remained one of the poorest countries in the world despite being the 3rd largest gold producer in Africa and the second largest cotton producer. The leaders were prospering but Malians were suffering. Committed to making a change, we left the comforts of America and moved our family to Mali. We could easily have stayed but we chose Mali because we believed that Yeah’s leadership and service could bring change. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our bid. But we didn’t loose the opportunity to get a larger name recognition and broaden the bases of our political party.
Through our Utah-based foundation Empower Mali, we continued strong, hoping to make an impact on our fellow Malians living in the rural villages. Through EM, we built 6 more middle schools, teachers houses, donated tractors to villages, initiated scholarship for Malians to study abroad, brought clean energy in the form of electricity generating playgrounds and donated textbooks. Each project Yeah initiated was done as a partnership where the village contributed and became part of their future success.

In 2015, the President of Mali, who Yeah contested against in the 2012/13 Elections appointed him to be Ambassador of Mali to India and 9 other Asian countries. Yeah was ambivalent and unsure as to whether he could effectively serve his fellow Malians abroad as much as he could in Mali. We chose to go. We believed that Yeah could help impact policy at a global level and that the impact would be felt by local Malians. That holds true today, two and half years later. Today, through Yeah’s efforts, Mali has secured funding for the $100 million electric line that will connect Sikasso and Bamako, a commitment to fight terrorism in Mali’s Northern region, scholarships for Malian students to study in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and many more exciting new opportunities.

At every step of our journey these past 15 years, I have never seen a man who loves his country more than Yeah. He sleeps, breathes and is Malian to his very core. Love for one’s country is seen not in the things we say but in the things we do. Yeah has fought for many opportunities in education, healthcare, clean running water and access to a better quality of life. But the fight is far from over. Today more than over, Malians remain destitute, a victim of poverty and lack of access to basic necessities. I once heard a saying “ If Serving is below you, then Leadership is beyond you”. Yeah has served his people from day one but he can do so much more if given the chance.

That is why we have chosen to run for the Presidency again on July 29, 2018. But we need your help. We are fundraising outside Mali because we don’t want to be controlled and influenced by the donations of special interest groups within Mali. Our goal is not to empower them but rather to serve the needs of our people. The 17 million Malians who deserve better. I believe Yeah Samake is that man who can change the course of their path for the better. But we need your help to help us win this election not only for our fellow Malians today but for our generations in Mali to come.

We can do this! We can bring change to Mali. Become a part of our journey and help our bid by donating $50 at


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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Past Posts


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Strengthening ties with India

2015-10-24 23.17.42The last week in October was probably the most important, hectic week so far in our diplomatic career. During this time, India held its 3rd Africa India summit and hosted about 54 African nations in an effort to boost ties between the continent of Africa and India. In the biggest event since 1983, 42 African presidents attended this grand summit .

We had a unique opportunity to host the President of Mali, H.E. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the First Lady of Mali, H.E. Madame KEITA Aminata Maiga, a delegation of six Malian ministers and 15+ government staff. What a nail biting yet amazing experience!!

BF8W5409 FirstladyofMali

ForeignMinister of MaliBF8W5574 BF8W5809 BF8W6014 BF8W6128 BF8W6149 BF8W6155 BF8W6159 BF8W6164 BF8W6359 IMG_1740 IMG_2265 IMG_2301 IMG_0011_1_11_Mali IMG_0011_2_11_Mali IMG_0011_3_11_Mali IMG_0011_4_11_Mali 2015-10-31 18.21.24 2015-10-29 15.16.10

During the weeklong event, Mali had an opportunity to share with India the many ways that we can grow a mutually beneficial relationship with India. The Foreign Minister H.E Abdoulaye DIOP extended his gratitude for the military support provided by India while encouraging India to further strengthen its cooperation  in the area of ​​peace, security and the fight against terrorism. The Indian PM Narendra Modi announced a 10 billion USD line of credit, aid amounting to 600 million USD over the next 5 years which includes a India-Africa Development Fund of 100 million U.S. dollars and an India-Africa Health Fund of 10 million U.S. dollars and 50000 scholarships for African students over the next 5 years.

In his address, our President, His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita first paid tribute to the longstanding friendship and cooperation between India and Africa that were strengthened by leaders like Gandhi, Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta.

He denounced terrorism and violent extremism, which according to him, is now one of the most serious threats to peace and security and noted that the fight against these evils must be at the center of the joint action of the Partnership. He stressed the potential of both parties and called for a strengthening of the strategic partnership for economic and social development of India and African countries.

He also took the opportunity to express its deep gratitude and that of the people and Government of Mali to all countries friendly to the multifaceted and ongoing support to Mali.

During his meeting with the Prime Minister of India, H.E President Keita expressed his gratitude to India for providing Mali with soldiers to protect the North of Mali. Our President also expressed interest in growing Indian investment opportunities in the fields of agriculture and technology in Mali. PM Modi  further invited President Keita back for a separate bilateral visit to India.

President Keita also took an opportunity to meet with the Malian student leaders from Bangalore. He expressed his support for them and his joy in meeting them.

During this time, I also had an opportunity to spend some time with the First Lady of Mali. I continue to be amazed at her genteel and down to earth nature. During the spouses program, we had an amazing opportunity to visit the beautiful Akshardham temple. During her time at the temple, she joined other African First Ladies in offering  prayers for world peace and harmony by offering ‘abhishek’, the ceremonial pouring of sanctified water from 151 holy rivers, lakes and ponds across India on the sacred image of Sri Neelkanth Varni. About the visit, the First Lady said: The visit was really educative. It is a place of peace, humanity and wisdom. Simply magnificent and a beautiful monument. May we keep inspiring from the past values to make our life more beautiful. Well done to Indian people for their ingenuity work.”

The last night, our delegation was received by a big Indian delegation that introduced us to the mystery of Bollywood and the true Indian culture. The night was filled with great music and good Indian food. This experience left quite a indelible unforgettable mark among all our delegation.

This summit was monumental in terms of the endless possibilities to grow Mali and India’s friendship. Yeah and I gained a fresh perspective on how we can move Mali forward in our role. We learned so much more about diplomacy and had a chance to experience it truly at work. What an unforgettable, mind blowing experience all round!



Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Past Posts


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Taking on India

2015-08-23 11.42.56What a busy couple of months it has been since our plane touched down in New Delhi, India!! The sights, smells and sounds of Delhi has brought back many beautiful memories. It has been 15 years since I returned back home to India and so far the experience has been marvelous. If anyone had said to me a few years ago, that I would be in India in service of the Malian people, I would have laughed. Our kids were amazed and did not believe it when we were called to serve in India. For many years, Keanen and Carmen would talk about India and how since they had lived in their dad’s country, they now wanted to visit their mom’s country. And what better way to do it than to help represent Mali’s interest in India.

On August 16th, our family and dog arrived safely in New Delhi. As we walked out of the plane we were greeted by the Mali Embassy team based in Delhi. But the welcome was not over yet. We were then welcomed by the Ambassadors of all the West African nations that are based in India. It was truly such a warm welcome and an unexpected honor. What a great start to our journey in India!

Just one short week later, we were in for another auspicious occasion. Yeah welcomed the First Lady of Mali, Her Excellency Madame Keita Aminata Maiga, and her delegation who arrived in New Delhi to attend a week-long conference on ending child and maternal deaths. Being an issue that is close to her heart, she spoke to Ministers of Health from many countries and Indians leaders on what Mali is doing to create a safer, healthier environment for both mothers and children. Reducing infant mortality while ensuring mother safety is a key part of her mission as a First Lady. It was an honor to meet her and it was interesting to notice a humility and down to earth nature that is usually not common to someone in such a high position. The trip was a first for the First Lady and an undoubted success!

FirstladywithMaliteam and Modi

Call2Action Summit 2015: First Lady of Mali with Indian PM Modi and other world health ministers


Ambassador Samake visiting with First Lady of Mali, Her Excellency Madame Keita Aminata Maiga

The very next week, on September 2nd, in an official ceremony, Yeah got to present his credentials to the Indian President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.


Ambassador Yeah Samake presenting his credentials to Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee

And I was honored to watch him do this. What a once in a life time experience! With close to a billion population, not many Indians can say they shook hands with the President. The ceremony was amazing and awe inspiring. I am so proud of Yeah and all he has done to reach this stage of his career. After Yeah presented his credentials and the greetings of the President of Mali, he visited with the President to discuss the Mali-India relationship and what he hoped to accomplish to strengthen ties between the two countries. It was truly a special, memorable day. And the feeling of sitting in a car, flanked by Indian armored cars, with the Mali flag fluttering high, is just incomparable. In the months to come, Yeah will present his credentials in the 9 other countries we oversee: Bangladesh, Nepal , Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.

Since that auspicious day, in an effort to strengthen Mali-Indian ties, Yeah has held audiences with Indian businessmen from many different fields of interest to Mali. He also visited with the Indian Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Dr. Mahesh Sharma.

Yesterday, Mali celebrated her 55th Independence day. And what better way to celebrate this special day than with Malian students in the city of Bangalore. Many of the Malians that are in India are students pursuing a higher university degree. Yeah and his first counselor flew in to Bangalore to meet with the Malian student body. During their time, he visited with the students to better understand their goals and the challenges they face studying in India. This visit will open up opportunities to better place Malian students and also provide a better support system for them through the Embassy.


It has truly been a busy yet fulfilling few weeks. Our goal here in India, is to increase the profile of Mali and to create many more opportunities for the two countries to grow stronger together. And the start has been simply amazing!


Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Past Posts


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A New Adventure!


Well! It’s all official. The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, nominated Yeah the new Ambassador of Mali to India.

My country INDIA!! Whohooo!!! I am super excited to return back to my country. After 4+ years in Mali, the kids and I have had a wonderful opportunity to learn and experience the Malian culture and traditions. We have come to love the Malian people like our own and to understand intimately the many challenges they face on a daily basis. Through Yeah’s role as Mayor, we have enjoyed many unique experiences and learned much about local governance and the ability to impact the citizens of Oueléssébougou. Running the campaign was a whole different ball park and it was probably the biggest challenge we have lived through. The kids have adapted amazingly well to life in Mali. We came here when Keanen was 5 years old and Carmen barely 3, where they knew only English and the comforts of America. When we first came, the adjustment was hard, the challenges many. But we were blessed with courage at our most difficult times. Now the kids speak French fluently and I have been able to learn both French and Bambara. Through school and our different road trips, our children have enjoyed the beauty of experiencing different cultures. They have accompanied us on the many projects that have taken us to many villages and communities all over Mali. Road trips took on a whole new meaning and I have to say they have loved it!! Through our foundation Empower Mali, we have continued to partner with rural communities in Mali to make an impact in education, clean water/energy and leadership development. The high level partnerships and contacts we have in Mali and the United States will allow us to continue fundraising and implementing the work we are doing. We have no plans to stop building schools, providing scholarship opportunities abroad or increasing access to basic rights like clean water and food.

So much accomplished and so many great experiences lived in just 4 years. When I first started this blog 4+ years ago, I could not have predicted this. I can hardly wait to see what the next few years hold for our family. India will be a new experience for us all. It has been 15+ years since I have visited. I am excited for the kids to learn my own culture/traditions and get to experience the different religions and exotic cultures all housed in one beautiful country. Not to mention the opportunity to travel the many surrounding countries where we will also serve.

While we will mainly be based in New Delhi, the India Mission will cover 10 different Asian countries. We will have an opportunity to serve Malians and grow relations between Mali and all these countries. The countries are: India, Bangladesh, Nepal , Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand. For 11+ years, Yeah has shown he can help move Mali forward at a local and national level. Now I am thrilled that he has received the opportunity to play this role and will be able to make an impact on a larger national and international level. In this day and age, Asia has shown herself to be a big player and by helping grow relationships Yeah has the opportunity to create many partnerships that will help many Malians abroad and at home.

Yeah said the following in a recent press release: ” Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced that he has appointed me as the next Malian Ambassador to the Republic of India. The jurisdiction of the post in New Delhi, India covers 10 countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

As a result of this appointment, I will soon travel to India with my family to begin my work representing Malian interests in these countries. I am grateful to President Keïta for this opportunity and look forward to representing Mali in this new role.

Malians benefit in many ways from trade with India, whether it be through our increased electricity or access to high-quality medicines resulting from Indian imports, or from our sales of cotton and other agricultural products to India that puts money in the pockets of Malians across the country. This continued and growing trade partnership is improving the lives of citizens in both countries, and I look forward to building upon this relationship in the coming years.

As Mayor of Oueléssébougou over the last six years, I have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone in our area. When I was first elected, less than ten percent of the population paid taxes, and government workers were owed six months of salary. When measured in terms of our governmental management and transparency, our commune was at the bottom of the list. Six years later, I am proud to say we have transformed our area, making it one of the most respected and admired areas in all of Mali. Today, 86 percent of our citizens pay taxes, and our area is seen as a model of transparent and effective government. Working with our city council and other local leaders, I have also brought investment and critical infrastructure to our area as well. We now have a hospital in our area. We have a high school for our children, and we have more primary schools as well. We have improved our water infrastructure. We have the largest solar panel field in West Africa. We are helping farmers with equipment so they can make their land more productive. Instead of citizens waiting weeks for their local government to help them with requests, now they wait only days—with many receiving help on the same day. We have shown this type of transformation is possible in Mali.

In recent years, I have also worked as a part of Empower Mali and other foundations to help build schools for our children, provide scholarship opportunities to children in Mali to study abroad, purchase tractors for our farmers, and construct hospitals for our communities. While I am committed to my role as Ambassador, I will also continue to actively ensure through my contacts on the ground that our projects on the ground in Mali continue to grow, benefiting the communities in rural Mali. I urge Foundation benefactors to continue to support this work and encourage others to get involved as well.

I have worked hard every day as Mayor of Oueléssébougou to make lives better. It is with great honor that I accept the position of Ambassador to India, and I look forward to continuing my service to Mali in this new role. While this new position will take me away from my friends in and around Oueléssébougou, it will give me the opportunity to improve the lives of all Malians across the country and abroad. ”

This opportunity is just simply amazing! We are emboldened by the vote of confidence shown by the Malian government. I am so proud of Yeah and all he has done and continues to do to make Mali a better place. I have not met a more honest man or one that is very committed to making an impact for all his people in Mali. We are so grateful for all our supporters who have stayed the course with us. Our success today is in part due to your vote of confidence and support for all we do.

The journey to achieve a new Mali is not over yet. In fact, we have started a new phase. Keep you posted. Thank you for helping bless our people in Mali. May you be blessed!


* Check out our work in Mali through the Empower Mali Foundation at
Want to help impact change in rural Mali? Make a tax deductible donation today. All donations online are secure. Checks can also be sent to Empower Mali, P.O Box 708514, Sandy, UTAH 84070.




Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Past Posts


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Educating Fala

2014-11-09 23.38.30IMG_0099Every morning, at the crack of dawn, there is a buzz of activity on the outskirts of the village of Fala. Every morning, young boys aged 12 and over, ropes slung over their back where bags should be will walk to the unapproved mines on the outskirts of Fala to begin their 10 hour shift. Mali remains the third biggest producer of gold in Africa producing close to 50 tonnes per year. Much of this gold money will never reach many of the people that work on the ground. So why do it? Because for these inhabitants of Fala, this is the only option.

The residents of Fala, like many villages in Mali, are fighting to make ends meet. They understand and see the power of an education when they see the better life of people in the city, but what are they to do. Where others have schools, they have mines. So they do what they must do to survive.

Meeting with the village leaders and parents of Fala, their plea is uniform when they ask Empower Mali to help bring a middle school to their village. The school will keep their young boys from the mine and give them an opportunity to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. The middle school will save their girls from early marriages. When you invest in a school in Fala, you are not investing in a building. You are investing in a life which then has the capacity to impact a generation in the village.

Empower Mali ( is a 501c3 foundation. We want to bless our children in Mali with opportunities but those cannot happen without donations. We build our schools to last many generations and for a lot less than the government. The school is a shared investment that the village continues to take care of because they contribute 20% of the cost and all land and labor.

We are trying to raise the final $8000.00 we need to make a 3-classroom middle school a reality for the village of Fala.

Check out our campaign to raise the final 8K. We have some fun, ethnic Malian gifts for those who donate. They are limited so hurry!

Whatever you can spare this holiday season will help impact the lives of 1587 children and a village for generations. And your donation is tax deductible.

Check it out at. The campaign will end November 23rd, 2014, so please make your donation soon.

Please donate and/or pass the word at:



For $25, a beautiful Malian beaded necklace

For $50, a handcrafted Mother and Child statue –Handcrafted by artisan Pascal Mounkourou, this beautiful statue is a reflection of this Christmas season. It represents Mother Mary and Jesus–the reason for the season.

For $100, an authentic Malian Bambara mask: Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture and art of the peoples of Mali. Masks usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and they are used in ritual dances and social and religious events, and a special status is attributed to the artists that create masks and to those that wear them in ceremonies. In most cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic meanings conveyed by such masks.

All the masks we have are handcrafted by Malian artisans and are a beautiful reflection of a deeply traditional culture.

For $200, an intricately designed hunter “doso” statue: Equipped with a bag of arrows, this intricately carved hunter statue by artisan Pascal Mounkourou is a representation of Mali’s hunters. During ancient times, hunting was one of the biggest professions ( after farming) among the Malian men. The hunters of Mali are still a celebrated group in their communities and Mali. These traditional hunters are called “dozo” in Bambara. It is believed that the amulets (In Bambara: gris-gris) worn by Dozos possess magical properties protecting them from harm, and amplifying their vision and hearing. Such amulets are said to make them bulletproof.  The design is so intricate on this one that each statue takes 3 days to make.

These make for some great holiday gifts for your friends and family! And every dollar raised goes to the middle school in FALA.

Education is the pathway to opportunity and we want to bring opportunity and hope to our children in Mali.

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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in Past Posts


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Election Day in MALI

Two years ago Yeah and I left the comforts and possibilities of America for Mali to pursue a different future for our family. A future that included helping improve the lives of 15.1 million people in one of the poorest countries in the world.

The journey has in no way been easy but at every step of the way, we have been blessed. We have blessed with family that supported our decision and guided us as we settled into a new, different life in Mali. We have been blessed with friends that have supported us emotionally and financially as we pursued an ambition to change the corrupt system and initiate change. It is your kind donations that have let us run a clean race untainted by corruption and stick on the stage with the corrupt, older giants of Malian politics. We have been blessed with new supporters each day both here and in America who have believed in our vision of a Mali that can break the chains of illiteracy and under- development and welcome a day when every Malian can have three meals a day, accessible, quality education, accessible low-cost healthcare, clean water and a job when they graduate.

Today, was an emotion filled day. Our day started as we cast our ballot in the city of Yeah’s birth. As we entered Ouélessébougou, we were touched to see the throngs of people clamoring to vote. The booths opened at 8 am and people were lining up long before that time. Many came to us, waving their left index finger proudly, stating the exact time they voted for Yeah.

The booths will close at 6 pm tonight. The manual counting and limited access to far regions will mean that most results will not be known until sometime tomorrow or day after.

We do not what tomorrow will bring. We do not know what the results will be. While we hope for the best, we know that we will continue to serve Mali in whatever capacity we can. Our goal is empowering Malians to better standards and a better life.

Our heart is filled with deep gratitude for all you have done to support us. We have been blessed by your friendship and have been touched by your investment in our campaign for Mali.

It is an investment that will never be forgotten.


Posted by on July 28, 2013 in Past Posts


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Why we do what we do


Think about the future of your children when you vote


With 5 days to go, all I can say is Mali’s future is at stake. We are determined now more than ever to affect change. Mali cannot remain destitute for 20 more years.

On July 28th, Malians will choose their destiny. They will either say they want to stick with the old corrupt guards or go with a new leader with fresh ideas and someone who has served them.

For us the Presidency is a means to an end. An end in which we can make Mali the great, prosperous nation that can enjoy education and healthcare for all citizens.

This video captures perfectly our vision and our passion. We thank our Alma Mater BYU for sharing our story. We all have the ability to make a difference in our own corner of the world. Don’t miss it!

Here are some shots from the last few days of campaigning in Koutiala, San, Segou, Commune IV, Kenedougou, Koury and Mopti to name a few

I thank all our supporters for donating to our campaign, especially when we issued an announcement for a $30,000 need. In the last three days we were able to raise $10K. We are still trying to raise $20000 to be used on the actual day of elections to be able to send our members in each voting area to ensure no voter fraud happens. There are 8 regions in Mali containing 703 cities. The money covers their transportation to/from the regions and their food.

Asking for money is not something I am comfortable doing. But we need your help. If you can help, no matter how big or small, please help push us closer to that $20,000 goal. 


God bless Mali and all Malians everywhere!

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Past Posts


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