Slum children of gas tragedy to tell their tale to US teenagers
www.worldtrek.org to host chat on worst industrial disaster
The Hindustan Times Bhopal, June 4

Ignored in their own land, teenagers living in abject poverty in the slums inhabited by the Bhopal gas disaster survivors here are about to rediscover their voice over the worldwide web.

While most of the Bhopal gas disaster survivors would be preparing to turn in for the night after hard labour on another hot summer day on June 9, a bunch of these teenagers would log on to a non-profit educational website for high school students in the USA at 9.30 pm (Indian Standard Time), telling the horrifying details of the industrial catastrophe.

The site is called The Odyssey World Trek (www.worldtrek.org). A similar online chat involving teenagers of the Yamuna Pushta, one of the largest slums in Delhi, was held last month.

An educator with the site, Monica Flores, was in Bhopal recently to make arrangements for the chat that aims to bring American teenagers face-to-face with the worst industrial disaster in the world.

Farah Khan, the 'trekker' of the chat from Bhopal, will communicate the queries posted in the chat room to Bhopal teenagers before translating and posting their replies.

She says the participants selected for the session were either born to gas victim parents or were toddlers at the time of the leak of lethal fumes from the Union Carbide plant in December 1984. They will be from gas-hit slums like Arif Nagar, Kainchi Chhola and JP Nagar.

Programme director of the site Karina Alexanyan informed in an email that the site's mission was to use the Internet to promote global awareness among youth and to involve them in activities to create positive change in the world.

The site has over 2,000 registered teachers and classroom and receives an average of 30,000 hits every day. Students are connected to a group of five educators, who have visited over 30 countries in the past two years.

The session with Bhopal gas disaster victim teenagers will be the eighth such interaction. Earlier sessions were held with youths from Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Iran and lndia. Ms. Alexanyan said the idea behind the chats was to establish links among students and sensitise American high school students to important global happenings. All the questions are screened by a moderator and then posted live on the site to filter out inappropriate material.

Two days before the chat session, some reports regarding the gas tragedy would be put up to allow teachers and students in the USA to know the background before the chat begins. The site's aim is to allow American students to realise the implications of a colossal human tragedy like the gas disaster, Ms. Alexanyan wrote in her email.

'As for the indigent teenage survivors, it will be a 'once in a lifetime' experience," Ms. Khan said in Bhopal.

Ambreesh