Czech drug prevention train to cost 30 million crowns


A new project to discourage young people from taking drugs has been announced in the Czech Republic. Organisers are convinced that despite the 30 million crown price tag - the "Revolution Train" will have a strong impact on preventing drug abuse. Kate Barrette has more.

When Britain's Prince Harry was discovered using marijuana in 2002, his father responded by taking the young prince to a drug rehabilitation centre. He wanted Harry to see the ugliness and realities of drug abuse up close.

Here in the Czech Republic, a new drug prevention project applies a similar philosophy. But, instead of a walking into a rehabilitation centre, young people hop on board a train.

Pavel Tuma heads the project:

"The train is made up of eight carriages which will travel throughout the Czech Republic. We expect about 900,000 children to visit the train over a period of two years. What is revolutionary about it is that we are trying to engage all of the visitor's five senses. That is to say that we are trying to affect the visitor, not only through what they see and hear, but also with smells and tastes."

Each carriage of the train contains multi-media presentations which play on the senses. Visitors will step through deserted, dirty rooms littered with needles; they'll experience temperature changes and smell a drug addict's room.

Otto Jelinek,  photo: CTK
These sensory experiences are intended to leave a deep impression that will be triggered later, when making decisions about whether or not to use drugs.

But not everyone is enthusiastic about the project. Tomas Forytek is the director of the anti-drug music festival, Modre Dny, or Blue Days.

"I have doubts about the effects of this project on children. The organizers are counting on getting a high number of visitors and that people will be interested in it; but in my view, this is impossible to guarantee. Nothing shows us that the effects will be positive. Moreover, it doesn't take into account that the children could react very badly."

But, the organizers have a long term vision for the project and are working to promote the idea both in Canada and the United States.

Jiri Komorous  (on the left),  photo: CTK
Otto Jelinek, a former Canadian cabinet minister, is helping to raise the 30,000,000 crowns - that's over 1,300,000 US dollars - needed for the project. He says it's a small price to pay.

"That's a very small investment for drug prevention - it comes out to about 40 crowns per child in this country which isn't very much. The amount of money being spent is very minimal compared to the benefits that we are convinced will materialize as a result."

When I asked Jiri Komorous, the head of the anti-drug department of the Czech police force, whether he thought this anti drug plan would work, he said he wasn't sure.

"That's the big question - but I think it has a good chance of appealing to people. They may not refuse drugs in the end - but it will at least make them think about the problem."