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Ba Chieu Home Update (Part Three) September 11, 2012

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 4:52 pm
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This is the last part of Celia’s Caughey newsletter about Ba Chieu Shelter:

“Vinacapital in HCMC has also been assisting the Home (thanks to kiwi Brook Taylor) by having some of its staff work as volunteers in computer training for the girls.

Lorraine’s visit

During the July school holidays another link with New Zealand was strengthened when Lorraine Andrewes from the St Andrews Early Childhood Centre in Epsom, Auckland, came to Ho Chi Minh City (at her own cost) and stayed for 2 weeks in the Home.  Lorraine is a trained kindergarten teacher who was able to spend time teaching the girls art in their holidays as well as doing some great face painting and developing closer bonds with the girls, many of whom are in need of motherly contact.  Lorraine has also organized a fundraising event at the kindergarten for the Home.

New Website

One of the kiwis in HCM City who has helped with selling books for the Home is Julia Parker. Now back in New Zealand in her new role as Futureintech Facilitator Julia has arranged for Naomi Shingler at St Dominic’s College to create a new website for the Home.  This is long overdue, so we await her work with keen interest.

Fundraising in Bonn

More kiwi connections are emerging in other corners of the world.  I was contacted by a former teacher at NZ’s ACG School in HCMC who is now teaching in Germany at the Bonn International School.  She is keen for her students to be able to support the Ba Chieu Home through their Community and Service project, so has sent their donation through to WOCA.

ACG and swimming

The New Zealand Associated Colleges Group HCMC campus has generously allowed the girls to use their swimming pool on Sundays to learn to swim for the past few years.  This continues the New Zealand link with  the Home, and several kiwis have also volunteered to give up their Sunday morning to supervise the swimming sessions.  Many thanks to Ian King and his Vietnam staff for this very kind gesture; it is much appreciated.

New Zealand Chamber of Commerce – NZ Wine and Food Festival

This year once again the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce organized the New Zealand Wine and Food Festival, the hottest event in town, which began in 2000 (when I was Trade Commissioner).  Thanks to good organization, a superb event and generous sponsorship, the Chamber was able this year to make a significant donation to the Home, which could pay for maintenance on the house and provided new lockers for the girls, as well as contributing to operating costs.

Meeting Tram

In a newsletter last year I included a photo of one of our earliest girls, Tram, who spent many years at the Home, as a beautiful bride.  On my recent trip to Vietnam I passed through Danang where Tram now lives and was able to meet up with her and her beautiful new baby boy.   When she left the Home with a good education Tram was able to get a good job in the jewellery department of a large department store in the centre of the City, and it was there that she met her husband to be.  It is lovely to see her now happily married and starting a family of her own.

It is always heartwarming for me to go back and see the Home running well and the girls thriving and happy, thanks to the generosity of you all –  friends of the Home, donors and those who have bought the books and game which were produced to support the Home.

Many thanks for your continued interest and support.

Celia M Caughey

Fundraising Coordinator, Ba Chieu Home, Ho Chi Minh City

Tel 6305292   021 1402 190, Email:

Buy an ethical gift this Christmas and support the Ba Chieu Home”


Ba Chieu Home Update (Part Two) August 31, 2012

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 4:25 pm
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From Celia Caughey newsletter August 2012:

New girls

“The new girls are mostly 12 or 13, with one, Tuyen, only 7.  Tuyen is tiny but a bundle of energy.  She has always lived with her grandmother who was moving around too much for Tuyen to go to school.  She loves to sing and is looking forward to being able to start school in September.  Lua (12) had a complicated family set-up and dropped out of school after Year 1 when her mother left, then worked looking after younger children and as a waitress in beer halls.  Now in the Home she will be able to resume her schooling in Year 2.   Dang (12) has been sleeping  at night in the park on stone benches with her father and by day selling various wares in the backpackers’ area, so will now be able to start school in Year 1.  Linh (12) has lived with foster parents who are tenant farmers but live too far away from a school for her to attend, so they brought her to the Home so that she could go to school.  Kieu (12) was abandoned by her parents when they both divorced and remarried, then lived with her grandmother who sold lottery tickets on the streets.  When she got too old to look after Kieu she brought her to the Home.  Trinh (13) and Vy (13) have both come to the Home so that they can continue schooling  which their families couldn’t provide, while Tram (13) has come as her father died and mother has a terminal illness with not long to live.  That gives you a picture of who our girls are and why they come into the Home.

Partnership with Fonterra

While I was in Ho Chi Minh City I was pleased to be able to formalize a partnership with the HCMC based office of Fonterra.  As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme they aim to focus on children and provide dairy nutrition.  They have chosen Ba Chieu Home as a key partner to seek to build a long term relationship with, given its link with New Zealand and with their principles.  The General Manager, Leon Clement,  said his staff “were also impressed with the Home’s management and the dedicated people that work there”.  This is all very good news!  I organized an afternoon meeting between Leon, a dozen of Fonterra’s management team and Mrs Thanh, Vice President of the Women’s Charity Association which administers the Home, at the Home with all the girls there.  Leon said in his speech he thought Fonterra shared the same values as the Home, in terms of nourishment, care and protection.    The partnership will involve Fonterra donating UHT milk for the girls to have a glass each every day, and its staff getting to know the girls to look for other ways to assist.  Staff raised funds which were used to give all the girls a new pair of shoes and new school uniforms to start the new academic year.  Leon also hosted the girls at his home at a party to celebrate the Lunar New Year.  (He commented that at the party the girls behaved remarkably well and showed great maturity in their contact with other guests, more so than many of the other children there.)   This is a very promising initiative which should provide great long term benefit to the Home.  I am happy to see New Zealand businesses working in Vietnam giving back by providing assistance to the Home”.

From my students only Hanh (picture in the bottom) is still at the shelter; she is an accounting student now.


Ba Chieu Home Update (Part One) July 31, 2012

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 4:17 pm
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I received an update from Celia Caughey about the Ba Chieu shelter in Ho Chi Minh:

“Dear friends and supporters of the Ba Chieu Home ,

I am happy to report to you following my visit to Vietnam last month.  I met with the girls several times and they were in good spirits and enjoying their summer holidays.

I attach a copy of this newsletter with photos if you would like to print it out, but have set the text out below.

I also have available an updated list of all the girls, with a photo of each and a brief background about them, so please let me know if you would like me to email that to you also.


Once again all the girls finished the academic year well and graduated up to the next class (in Vietnam they need to reach a certain level to be able to proceed to the next grade).  That is quite an achievement, and reflects well on the way Ms Yen is managing the Home and coaching the girls.  Hau (10) is continuing her interest in art and won 2nd prize in the district in the “Green Paint” competition.

The girls also spend time in the computer room, and many are now on facebook with a group set up for their friends and supporters.

The girls get up  at 5.30 each morning, do exercises, chores to clean the house, wash their own clothes (the older ones helping the younger), have breakfast and are out to school before 7am.  I recently heard of a survey of retired people as to what factor determined who had the most satisfaction in their lives:  the key thing was having been used to working in their homes as children.   So perhaps the girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in the Home will get more life satisfaction than our pampered western (and wealthy Vietnamese) children!

Girls leaving

There has been quite a bit of movement in the past year, with 8 girls moving out and 9 new girls.  Of the girls leaving, Tien, Nga and Thao have returned to live with their grandmothers;  Tien, Nguyen, Nga and Hong have left to go home and Loan has left to go to Nursing College.  Loan has always dreamt of becoming a nurse, with strong Christian principles and a commitment to wanting to help sick people get better.

She will make a wonderful nurse, and I was pleased we were able to provide some funding for her college fees to help her realize her dream.  I have always told the girls to dream their dreams and we would help them make it happen.  So it is very satisfying to see one of the girls who has been in the Home since soon after it began when she was 7 now coming through at 21 and able to train in the vocation to which she has aspired.

Two of the other older girls, Thuy and Tien, both aged 20, have now finished 2 years of study at a technical college in Go Vap specializing in economics and accounting, and both now have jobs, Thuy in a bank and Tien as an accountant, so they are able to support themselves and have left the Home”.

It’s been two years since I met the girls in Ho Chi Minh. 5 out of 6 girls I was teaching Sugar left the shelter. One day I’ll visit them again.


More Girl’s stories June 1, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:00 am
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There are twenty four girls in Mai Am Shelter right now. Here are more stories:

Vo Thi Thuy (1992) came from Thua Thien Hue.  Her father abandoned her when she was little and her mother was disabled and sold lottery tickets in a wheel chair.

Thuy has just finished her final year 12 with average grade.  She is about to start studying economics at a technical college in Go Vap for four years.

Nguyen Thi Kim Hau (2002) likes to sing and draw.

Hau has no father and her mother died of Aids.  She was found under a bridge over a canal in district 1.

After her first year in the Home Hau finished Class 1 passing with excellent and in June 2010 she graduated from Class 2 also with excellent.  She enjoys maths.

Nguyen Thi Tien (1992) is Ha’s big sister.  She comes from Quang Binh. Her father was an alcoholic who couldn’t work and regularly beat them, so her mother and the children escaped and came to Saigon to find work as servants, but had nowhere to live.   Tien has just finished Class 12 with average grade.  She is studying accounting.

Nguyen Thi Kim Loan (1992) has no father and her mother sells lottery tickets.  She likes to listen to music and watch tv. 

Loan has been in the Home since soon after it began 13 years ago.  She finished Class 11 in 2009 with average grade and graduated from Class 12, the last year of school, in 2010 with above average. Now she wants to be a nurse and will go to nursing school for 2 years in district 4 (4 million dong fee).  She has Christian principles and is committed to wanting to help sick people get better.  She will make a wonderful nurse.

Nguyen Thi Thu Ha (1998) is 12 and finished Class 4 with excellent grade in 2009 and Class 5 also with excellent in 2010.  Ha was abandoned by her father, her mother works  as a cleaner in a restaurant.  Her sister is handicapped.   She likes to play the piano and sing and enjoys maths.

Tran Thi Ngoc Oanh, nickname Tien, is now 10.   (On arrival she was said to have been born in 2000.)  She has no father and was abandoned by her mother.  Her grandmother was too poor to take care of her.  She likes to draw.  She’s a real character, always laughing and mischievous.  She wants to be a kindergarten teacher.

Tien  finished Class 2 with above average grade in 2009 and Class 3 also with above average in 2010.  She enjoys maths.

 Nguyen Thi Bang Phuong (2002) was abandoned by her father who is a Swede, and her mother was very poor.  She came to the Home in February 2008. She finished Class 1 with above average grade in 2009 and passed Class 2 with excellent this year.
For those, who don’t know much about this shelter read my earlier posts (Jan-Apr 2010). All girls sleep in one room on bunk beds, they cook and clean themselves. They wear donated clothers. They go to school and support each other. If any of you want to be pen pals with the girls (must be in Vietnamese), they would appreciate it. It is hard to replace a real family but kind words will help them to grow in life and become mature individuals.

If you are interested in learning more about the shelter and want to help the girls have education, food and clothing, feel free to contact Celia at or just leave your comment to this blog post and we will contact you.


Girl’s stories May 30, 2011

This is the first time I learned their stories, and some of them are shocking, you wouldn’t tell if you saw them that they had hardship in their lives, because they are full of life and positive energy. The following is from Celia’s file about 6 girls I taught last year:

Ho Thi Hoang Anh (1995) is 15.  She is an orphan who was begging at the Saigon train station before coming to Ba Chieu Home.   Her father was from Hong Kong, and went back there.  Her mother died of breast cancer in 2000.  Hoang Anh came to the home in 2002.  She finished Class 6 with above average in 2009 and wants to be a kindergarten teacher. (She also wanted to be a teacher 2 years ago.) In 2010 she finished Class 7 also with above average grade. She likes sewing.

Nguyen Thi Huong (1993) is now 17.  She was abandoned by her father, her mother works but is too poor to look after her.

She finished Class 7 with above average grade in 2009 and Class 8 also above average in 2010.  Huong likes cooking.  She wanted to work in finance and banking when she grows up but is now favouring cooking (chicken with ginger is her favourite dish).

Ho Thi May Hanh (1990) is 20.  She was abandoned by her mother, so her father looked after her and they earned their living by collecting rubbish.  She has been in the home for 8 years since 2002.

She has always liked to cook, and gave me the recipe for Bun bo Hue.

She finished Class 9 (end of Junior High School) in 2009 with above average grade and Class 10 with excellent. She is now going on to study at a City School for 4 years from which she should graduate with 2 certificates, one in accounting and the other a high school certificate.

The following three girls are not longer at the shelter, and as Celia mentioned it is a good thing because it means that they reunited with their families:

Nguyen Cat Tien (1995) was abandoned by her parents and came to the Home 4 years ago.  She finished Class 5 with average grade in 2009 and Class 6 also with average in 2010.  She likes to cook

 and wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up.

Pham Thi Mai Thao (February 1997) is 13.  She came from Ben Tre.  Her family migrated to Ho ChiMinh City to find work as servants and were transient with no home.  Thao has just finished Class 7 with excellent.  She enjoys literature.

Phan Thi Huong (1994) is 16. She’s finished Class 8 with average in 2009 and Class 9 also with average in 2010.  She will now leave school and start a 2 year course in hospitality learning the restaurant trade. She wants to work in a restaurant.  She left the Home to go back to her family.


Ba Chieu Shelter Founder May 28, 2011

Several weeks ago I receved comments to my blog by Celia, who is the founder of the shelter I volunteered at last year. We exchanged emails and I learned more about Mai Am Ba Chieu, the girls there and how Celia keeps this organization alive:

Hi Marina

I have attached my list of all the girls in the home, updated on my recent trip (next post).  You can see their photos, something about them, and some of the movements. 

I helped to start the home 13 years ago, and also to build the current house, and since 1998 have been responsible for finding the funds to keep it going. (We lived in VN for 7 years.)  For the first 2 years I arranged for the NZ embassy in Hanoi to fund it, then when they couldn’t fund operating costs, I took it over to keep it as a kiwi project. We get some profits from the NZ Wine & Food Festival which I set up in 1999 when I was NZ Trade Commissioner and Consul General, some from sponsorships (approx US$100 for one girl’s education for a year, $365 for food and around $600 for all costs). 

I also am a guest speaker and give my fees and gold coin donation to the home.  I have also written a book called Taste Vietnam, introducing Vietnamese cuisine, with a photo of each girl on each page, and all profits going to the home.  I’ve also done another book There’s Lots of Love… of poems for children, illustrated by the girls, and a boardgame Venture Vietnam, again with profits going to the home. So somehow each year we manage to find the US$12-15,000 needed to keep the home going.  I am in close contact with Yen and the girls, and have organized for the NZ Embassy to fund the sewing room and computer room.

I am always happy to hear of volunteers like yourself and hope you have found the contact with the home as rewarding as I do.

Kind regards

Celia M Caughey

Fundraising Coordinator,

Ba Chieu Home, Ho Chi Minh City


Mai Am Ba Chieu February 19, 2011

Exactly one year ago I was in Vietnam. About two weeks ago, I wrote an email to my students at Ba Chieu in Saigon and sent them a card to congratulate them with New Year of Rabbit! I received two emails back from Bi and Hanh. I was glad Hanh wrote in English or translated her letter into English with Google Translate, so I could understand the meaning very well.

Hello Marina!
I am happy to receive your mail you, thank you about the pictures, it was very beautiful. How is the knife? How are you? all is not favorable?
You know now there are more changes that, and Thao, Truc, Huong skin no longer with us anymore, and there is a lot of new kids on with us. I hope someday you can come visit us again as the days past are happy with us.
New Year, wishing the men that a lot of fun and always smiled. all good things will come to you most.
miss you very much.

I was really concerned about three girls who are no longer in the shelter, and I immediately wrote to Hanh asking where the other girls went, to Andy, who is  a VPV local volunteer organization coordinator, asking him to investigate what happened. I also wrote to Kris, who was a volunteer just like me, who lives in Spokane, WA, and who is going to Vietnam again  this year to teach children English in another shelter. I asked her to bring presents from me (which I mailed to her) to my students at Ba Chieu shelter and to find out about missing girls. She will be flying to Saigon next week on Thursday. I also did some research online to learn more about Mai Am Ba Chieu and that is what I found:

Bà Chiểu Home
Add: 149/1 Nguyen Van Dau, Ward 11, Binh Thanh Dist, HCMC
Tel: (+84). 85.150.556
The Ba Chieu Home for disadvantaged and homeless girls in Ho Chi Minh City was set up in May 1996 with initial funding from the New Zealand Embassy. It is administered by the Women’s Charity Association of Ho Chi Minh City, a voluntary, non-governmental organisation set up in 1989 under licence from the HCMC People’s Committee. After the first two years, the Embassy could no longer fund operating costs, so I have organised fundraising and private donations mainly from New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses with a Vietnamese connection ever since.

Mai Am Ba Chieu (MABC)  

Mai Am Ba Chieu is an open house for street children and little girls without parents’ care. It was established in 1998 and twenty children, at the age from seven to sixteen are living in it. Before NVC‘s gathering money through PR at TV and constructing the current house, there was just one room. It should be mentioned that WOCA offers land and Ambassador of New Zealand sponsors for Mai Am Ba Chieu. It is a model open house in Ho Chi Minh City and many volunteers from overseas and the members of Embassies visit there. This is one of the successful projects which NVC sponsored as the facility constructions. Twenty girls live in MABC in 2001, seven high school students, five junior high school students and four trainee of national factory.  They used to be street children, who had lived on collecting garbage, begging and selling them. They have to leave MABC to society at the age of seventeen or eighteen, so they are job-trained in MABC. Some of them will be able to go to college by the scholarship of NVC.

 Please, also see Video 1 and Video 2, and one more Article about a New Zealander Celia Caughey, who helps Ba Chieu Shelter.


Vietnam OLPC Meeting in Hanoi June 13, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 2:22 pm
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You never know how you may impact other people with your action and writing. As Nancie said, it is always nice to know that whatever you started is growing, even when you are away.

As mentioned earlier, Serge Stinckwich organized Vietnam OLPC meeting in Hanoi on June 5. Her wrote:

“Hi all, we were around 15 people for the 1st meeting of OLPC Vietnam developers.I put some pictures of the event here:
I made a short presentation of the OLPC project and a report of my visit to the Vung Vieng village. My slides (report of the VV village visit) are available here:
The conclusions of my visit are as following:
– every XOs are working and are used everyday by kids. They really enjoyed it.
– XOs are not part of a curriculum. This is more a leisure activity at the moment.
– there is a problem with the local teachers: they only stay one year in the village. We need to train them every year. Teachers need to be more involved in the use of XOs in the classroom.
– Only a limited set of activities seems to be used by the children.There is not enough Vietnamese activities
– XOs need to be update to newer versions of Sugar (0.82.1 => 0.88). We need to select specific activities (with good vn translation) and write some pedagogical documentation.
We also made some demos of the Sugar environment (on Linux & XOs). Some students present at the meeting are particularly interested in developing Sugar applications.
One of the conclusions of this meeting is that we need to grow the user & developer Sugar community in order to have more Vietnamese content. This will be one our top priorities of the next months.”


Hanoi Q&A April 11, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 10:00 am
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It’s been 10 days since I left Saigon. Hanoi is everything Saigon doesn’t have, I feel like I’m in Paris of Asia. Weather is cooler here and I see it as a bonus at the end of my volunteering term!

As we planned, the girls at the shelter had Internet access last weekend and I received 2 emails from them, saying something in Vietnamese, I couldn’t really understand but it sounded positive 🙂 I couldn’t translate as they used English characters to write in Vietnamese, because Vietnamese characters still  don’t work on the XOs properly. I  sent more pictures to them and asked to write more, and to run software updates on their XOs.

There are a lot of volunteering organizations and NGOs in Hanoi. I visited two of them, met the managers and learned about different programs. Volunteers are always wanted! Habitat for humanity is offering micro-finance programs for families willing to start a business or renovate their houses. Volunteers come and help build houses for the most in need.

I met Phuong from VPV, and he told me about his programs. His focus is international development and volunteering. Local hosts and volunteers work together and learn from each other, make their friendship long-lasting and businesses sustainable. In the case of Giao Xuan, it took two years to develop sustainable eco tourism businesses with good qulity of services and  goods.

I thought of Hung, a business owner of a home stay in Can Tho, Mekong Delta. Hung was a former boat driver, who learned English from tourists. He saved some money and built several bungalows  next to his house. Today he hosts tourists and offers additional services, like private tours, cooking classes, etc. He learned how to be independent and successful.

I remember my questions from and I think I found some answers. Volunteering is very rewarding and I would recommend it to everyone. The XO and Sugar, besides being fun educational tools, help children develop skills, including problem solving skills, that they can use in real life.  Skills plus access to information help people to find ways to improve their lives and help others.

Vung Vieng Village. What is in its future? Will its residents stay poor or learn to be entrepereneurial and start their own businesses and then they will supplement their income from fishing? I hope they will not become heavily dependent on toursits like in Sapa.


Vung Vieng: Part 1 April 4, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 11:11 am
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As promised to Nancie, I arranged to visit the Vung Vieng floating village

I contacted Mr. Tuyen at Indochina Junk company, which provided transportation from Hanoi in a tourist van and a boat to the village. I had to run software updates on 10 XOs and teach the children. Vung Vieng doesn’t have the Internet, so all XOs were transported by boat to the office of Indochina Junk company in advance.  I had to stay one night in Halong City. Mr. Tuyen couldn’t give me the XOs that day, as he was busy with the opening ceremony for the new office of Indochina Junk in Hong Gai. I was invited, so I came to watch. As I was the only foreigner, the TV camera man was making sure he covered my presence. 

The next morning I reached the office, received 10XOs and worked on upgrading the software, which eliminates errors, adds improvements to already existing programs/Activities. Unfortunately, wi-fi was not catching up with our agenda. It took several attempts (up to 5) to connect each computer to the Internet, which was slow. I still managed to update all XOs, download new games and change language to Vietnamese. While doing that I checked the journals and noticed that some computers were not used in a while, which concerned me. 

At 12:30 I was dropped off at the harbor and boarded the 4 star boat Paloma. Tourists paid up to 170$ for two day cruise on it.  Mike, the manager,  told me that he is very honored to give me (a volunteer ) a ride to the village as he cares about its residents. He explained that two years ago Vung Vieng was very poor, but now more and more boats bring tourists there. Tourists shop at the pearl shop, take scenic boat rides,  giving the opportunity to the locals to make some money. I was glad to hear that and to have free lunch as a bonus for being a volunteer 🙂

Two hours later the boat stopped at Vung Vieng village and the tourists onboard were surprised that I plan to stay in the village. Vung Vieng looked like massive rocks surrounded by water and scattered floating houses.

Hong (the pearl shop keeper, who speaks English) was my hostess. I didn’t do any teaching as I still had to finish working through some updates and file sharing capabilities. I also had to recharge all 10 Xos, which was not easy as electricity is limited in the village.

At 6Pm Hong ( who happens to be the brightest 20 year old  female and an OLPC project leader), the dance teacher and I had nice dinner on the deck.

I settled in a  pearl shop – the center of cultural life in the village. At 7PM about 10 young people arrived by boats. They came for one hour of  traditional dancing class. As I learned later, Indochina Junk hired the dance teacher for several months. I suspect, these young people will be performing for tourists in the future and will bring money to the village. Great idea.  

When they finished dancing, which looked like they were rowing, I was super exhausted, as I had almost no sleep the night before. Hong was kind enough to set up a mattress for me in the middle of the shop. She made me company and  stayed in the shop overnight as well. I fell asleep quickly, it felt like I was on a different peaceful planet and no one in the world can spoil anything. It was so serene.


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