Special Reports

Last updated: 25 february, 2010 - 14:50 GMT

The Power of the Web

As part of the SuperPower season, the BBC's Anna Vissens followed the stories of three students chosen to receive web training from the BBC at a care home for abandoned and disabled children in Thailand. Can the internet significantly change the lives of Joy, Kai and Yuthana?

Joy, Kai and Yuthana were brought up in residential homes operated by the Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities (CCD). CCD works alongside local authorities in Thailand to provide accomodation for abandoned and disabled children.

Yutthana, who was one of CCD's first intake and has grown up in the residential care home, has always dreamed of working with computers.

He immediately responded: "Wow, that's great - I'll be able to get in touch with my friends in Scotland and Australia".

The friends he was referring to are others from that first intake of abandoned children. They grew up with him at CCD, but most have since been adopted by Westerners.

Unfortunately, Yutthana - now 24 - was never adopted but feels like his childhood friends are his family. He may never be able to afford the air fare to visit them, but is delighted that he will be able to use email and Skype to talk to them.

Kai, 21, lives now in CCD's group home Baan Piam Rak, which is Thai for "House of Love". He is a typical example of a young man who is quite capable of holding down a job, but is unable to get one because of the way his disability is viewed in Thai culture.

He is currently unemployed, and his first reaction to the project was: "This is really great - it will be so good to add a new skill to my CV". He realised that it would actually help him search for work too.

Joy's story is a bit different - she is not strictly an orphan, but when diagnosed with cerebral palsy was looked after by her grandfather who died when she was still very young.

Her mother married a Japanese man and moved to Tokyo with him, leaving Joy behind in Thailand. She knows that her mother is "emailable", but has never had the skills to do it.

So she is really looking forward to beginning a real relationship with her natual mother after an absence of 22 years.

The Power Of Email

Exploring email did get off to a frustrating start - owing to some minor, but significant, confusion.

"The @ sign is very similar to the Thai character for a silent consonant, and I think this has been causing confusion," explains David Giles, of CCD.

"Once I worked out what was going on, I was able to explain more clearly that email addresses can be identified by the @ sign - marking them in bold, red and drawing boxes and arrows around them as necessary to drum the point home."

Yutthana initially struggled with email, so he was very pleased with himself when he successfully sent his first message.

"He didn't actually believe he'd managed to do it, so after the lesson he came to my desk to see that the email had indeed arrived! I wish I had had my camera ready, because he was literally overjoyed - beaming ear to ear," says David.

Joy, on the other hand, did surprisingly well. She is good at English and that helped her a lot when it came to using PCs and the internet.

Kai has made such good progress that he's now helping out with some data entry in CCD's office.

All three students are now able to send and receive emails. The next step will be attachments...

Thank you to all the people who helped to organise this project, especially David Giles (CCD), Ann Wongmanee (course translator), David Banes (the British charity AbilityNet) and Jonathan Stoneman (Head of International Centre College of Journalism, part of the BBC Academy).

SuperPower: Exploring The Internet

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.