BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mongol Rally Raises Money For Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (VIDEO)

03/16/2013 01:25 EDT | Updated 03/16/2013 01:25 EDT

A rough road trip from London to Mongolia may not sound like the most conventional fundraiser, but that's how three University of British Columbia students hope to generate $10,000 for a Vancouver non-profit group.

The Mongol Rally is a 16,000-kilometre charity car trip that will force Erik MacKinnon, Graeme Law and Josh Wynn to journey across some of the world's most remote terrain in a car with an engine of less than one litre.

The three students — two are graduating this year — are raising money for Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, a non-profit group that provides a community space and seniors housing on Vancouver's west side. MacKinnon, a pharmacy student, sits on the board of the Neighbourhood House.

MacKinnon joined the board in December 2011 after leaving a position with the Alma Mater Society (AMS), UBC's student government. He was looking for a way to get involved in the community and Kits House was looking for new board members at the time.

"They didn't have anyone who's an entrepreneur with energy on the board," he told The Huffington Post B.C.

"When I interviewed with the executive director, she said I came off as energetic new blood, so they were more than happy to welcome me on."

Kits House works with anyone who needs help in the neighbourhood or on Vancouver's west side. He said plenty of people in Kitsilano are "just barely holding their heads above water."

"Single parents, seniors, they don't have a great income, they just happen to own their own house," MacKinnon said.

Kits House says on its website that a $70 donation would provide a counsellor for seniors experiencing depression, while $125 would help a new immigrant join an "English Conversation Circle." So there's no telling how far $10,000 would go.

The trip — dubbed a "Mongolian Rhapsody," after the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody" — begins July 13, and can take anywhere from one week to five weeks.

MacKinnon first heard about a different rally where participants drive a rickety car across India for 3,500 kilometres.

"It sounded awful," MacKinnon told The Huffington Post B.C. on Friday. "He's like, 'Dude, it changes you as a person, it gives you a new perspective, and the best part is we're doing it for a good cause.'"

MacKinnon soon learned about the Mongol Rally this summer, so he posted a video on Facebook showing the highs and lows of the journey and said, "I'm doing this, who wants to come with me?"

Graduating business students Wynn and Law, who are also members of MacKinnon's fraternity, said they'd like to tag along and have one last experience as a group together.

The car journey across Europe, Russia and Kazakhstan has featured some past scary experiences, from a car breaking down in Amsterdam to another group having all their belongings stolen when they made it to Kazakhstan. Law is most scared of the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, like on a rural road in Siberia.

"That's where you have to rely on yourself to improvise, adapt and overcome," he told The Huffington Post B.C. "While I'm scared of it, I'm also looking forward to putting myself into situations that get me out of my comfort zone."

Kits House executive director Catherine Leach called the trip "really kind of odd" but said she's excited that people within the community are raising money on the non-profit's behalf.

"It's a unique fundraiser, doing stuff in a different way, but a way that also really engages the people who are making a donation," she told HuffPost B.C. "It is so unique that people are so intrigued by it and want to learn about it."

The "Mongolian Rhapsody" has a lot of ground to cover before making the trip. As of Thursday, the group had raised only $310 towards their goal, and they also need sponsors to help them pay for the journey.

Anyone wishing to donate can go to their website.

The Mongolian Rhapsody, 2013