Source: PARSA Community Foundation
Driving 10,000 miles of rugged, alien territory in a tiny car that frequently broke down turned out to be more than a thrill-seeking passion for Iranian-American MIT student Yasmin Sanie-Hay. It inspired her to start her own philanthropic project and business venture. "The prospect of traveling through a large part of the ancient Silk Route was certainly very exciting to me, but I have always been interested in international development as well, and the charity mission of the Mongol Rally sealed the deal. I was sure I wanted to be a part of it," 22-year-old Yasmin says.
Starting in London and ending in Ulaanbaatar, the rally was created in 2005 to raise funds for charities operating in Central Asian countries. Last year, the Rally raised over $400,000, and this year, it is expected to raise over $500,000. Most of these funds go to the destination country through Mercy Corps Mongolia and other non-profits operating there, and the rest of the money raised goes to work being done in countries on the route of the Rally.
Each team is required to raise a minimum of $2,000 for charity. A minimum of $1,400 has to be raised for Mercy Corps Mongolia, and a minimum of $600 for a second charity, which the team has chosen to donate to CAMDA (Cambridge Mongolian Disaster Appeal). Yasmin and her German cousin and teammate Tina Roshdi have already raised close to $10,000 including the money raised by auctioning off their car in Mongolia. This year, there were only 5 all-female teams out of the 200 teams participating. Only 2 of these female teams made it to the finish line in Ulaanbaatar by the completion date, Yasmin and Tina's self-styled YAXITAXI being one of them.
In addition to finding sponsors, the Rally itself is quite a challenge. Once the teams leave London, they are literally on their own. If their cars, which are not allowed to have engines larger than 1 liter, break down, or they get held up at a border or stuck in the middle of nowhere, it is up to them to find a solution.
As Yasmin had expected, it turned out to be a trip ripe with adventures, which ranged from the extremely poor road conditions and sweltering temperatures, to being forced to bribe border officers in certain countries; from the overwhelming hospitality of local people in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, to waking up with a jolt and stepping on the gas to get away from a man trying to break into their car in the Siberian plains. Yasmin says she took a particular liking to Uzbekistan, where she saw the relics of the Silk Route era- mosques, madrasas, mausoleums, and complexes built by Persians in Bukhara and Samarkand. "Another thing that made my time in Uzbekistan especially memorable is the fact that people there speak Tajik, which is almost the same as Farsi. Consequently, I was able to communicate with everyone and have some very interesting discussions. Everybody seemed to love Iran and Iranians, and they were extremely welcoming."
Other memorable aspects of the trip included the soothing Mongolian countryside and the many interesting people she met along the way. "Last but not least, our car broke down again right after we crossed the finish line in Ulaanbaatar!"
Yasmin's website: www.yaksitaxi.com
... Payvand News - 12/10/07 ... --