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Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 17:29 UK
Plymouth students on a mercy mission
Danny Lawrence
By Danny Lawrence
BBC Devon

Simon, Hugo, Harris and Matt in their Mongol Rally van
The quartet with the van which will be their home for 10,000 miles

Four students from the University of Plymouth will be spending the summer of 2010 in very close quarters.

They're putting themselves through difficult conditions on an exacting 10,000 mile trip to the other side of the world.

Their aim is raise funds for Mercy Corps Mongolia, and enhance the lives of thousands of people in under-developed communities.

Oh, and it's the adventure of a lifetime too.

Matt Clarke, Simon Rogers, Harris Kuemmerle and Hugo Maxwell will leave the UK for the Mongol Rally on 24 July 2010.

Where and when they finish the rally depends on a mixture of careful planning, good fortune and a large dose of bravery.

But if there are times when they face difficulty, they'll be buoyed by the effect they'll have on people whose lives are a constant struggle.

Dirt road in Mongolia
Dirt roads will make travelling difficult, as locals know too well

"Two of us are civil engineering students," explained Matt.

"The way Mercy Corps works really appeals to us.

"They create projects that have a lasting social and economic impact on the region.

"Last winter was devastating for the Mongolian livestock population as they had an abnormally cold spell.

"Their main concern is not how much grit the local council has left but how they can feed their herd to sustain their families."

Simon, the other civil engineering student, has visited Mongolia before.

He explained that in addition to sponsorship raised, their vehicle will itself benefit their chosen charity.

"It's a one-way ticket," he said. "We leave the van there to be auctioned off, and we have to make our own way back."

Projects like the Mongol Rally could make more of a difference to Mercy Corps than some other forms of funding.

"Development aid between countries tends to come in the form of loans," explained Harris, who came to Plymouth from the USA to study international relations.

They create projects that have a lasting social and economic impact
Matt Clarke on Mercy Corps

"Charity money is different. It's direct money paid in, with no need to pay it back, so it has more impact."

Harris has been impressed by the appetite to give among people in his adopted Devon home.

"People here seem very keen to donate money. I've often seen charity workers walking round, which I've never seen back in the States."

The four have already been sponsored by a south west organisation called RELAYS (Regional Educational Legacy in Arts and Youth Sport).

Affiliated to the London Olympics of 2012, RELAYS encourages young people to participate in activities that will make a difference.

So here's hoping they get there!

Simon, Hugo, Harris and Matt in their Mongol Rally van
Rally rules determine the type of vehicle allowed

The month-long journey will take them across mountains and deserts, through countries with no real roads.

"The Pamir Highway, on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, will probably be the biggest challenge," said Hugo, a marine biology student.

"Apparently it's really beautiful but there's no tarmac. It's a mountain pass which adds to the difficulty."

They must also visit some of the planet's most hostile landscapes, as well as the fringes of a war zone.

But are they scared?

"Terrified!" they all laughed.

"But the hairy moments make it what it is.

"If it was safe it wouldn't be an adventure!"




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