IEU Experience

17/02/2020

The two IE University students will participate in the 2020 UniRaid rally. Along the way, they will distribute more than 40 kilos of solidarity material throughout the villages of the Moroccan desert.

In just a few days, Uruguayan Nadine Oppenheimer and Moroccan Oussama Chniank will face a fantastic challenge. These two IE University students will participate in the ninth edition of UniRaid, a rally taking place between the 15th and 23rd of February. Following the ancient routes of the Dakar Rally, over 300 university students in Spain, Portugal, and Andorra will travel from the north to the south of Morocco, a journey that crosses desert areas.

Much more than just a competition, UniRaid is an adventure of solidarity. During their journey, participants will distribute solidarity material including clothes, toys, school supplies, and health items to organizations, schools, and villages located in remote areas of the Moroccan desert. 

UniRaid is certainly a unique rally; not only because of its charitable objectives, but also because participants must drive over 2,000 kilometers of the route in a car that’s more than 20 years old. Nadine and Oussama have already bought a vehicle from the internet for just over 1,000 euros. It’s a Volkswagen Passat 1.8 that is currently being prepared in a mechanical workshop in Segovia. “Now they’re adjusting it so it’s definitely ready for the rally,” says Nadine, who emphasizes that, among other repairs, they must “add tires, skid plates, and headlights to the car so that we can successfully take on the desert sand and the demanding Moroccan roads and highways.” 

Nadine Oppenheimer and Oussama Chniank will take clothes, school supplies, books, and toys to various towns in Morocco
Photo by: Roberto Arribas

The rally, in which some 160 vehicles take part, is an adventure aimed at university students who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are between the ages of 18 and 28. It’s not exactly a sports competition, but rather an adventure of solidarity, since the main objective is to deliver material to the villages of the North African desert. It’s a complicated route that spans mountain roads, tracks, sand, and dunes. Participants will have to tackle the most arid areas of the country, enduring long nights and driving through snow and mud on mountains that are over two thousand meters tall. In addition to the challenge of driving an old vehicle, participants must complete seven stages of the rally using only a road atlas, a map, and a compass. “We won’t have a GPS or any other electronic device to guide us,” Oussama explains. 

The organizers of UniRaid have prepared a “spectacular yet fun” itinerary for the 2020 edition that will allow the young participants to “experience an unforgettable adventure and discover that the sky’s the limit.” 

The rally starts and finishes in Tangier, and takes place mainly in inland Morocco, in the Erg Chebbi desert, where you can find dunes up to 150 meters high. Students will visit cities like Meknes and Marrakech, cross the famous Atlas Mountains, and sleep in camps in the middle of the desert for a few days. They will also have to pass a series of strategy and skill tests proposed by the organization. It will be, without a doubt, an unforgettable experience for the two IE University students. 

For Oussama it will be a particularly insightful challenge as he’s originally from Elhajieb, a town near Meknes. The rally will allow him to get to know a part of his country in depth and better understand the reality of the indigenous communities living in the desert. All participants will carry at least 40 kilograms of solidarity material to be distributed among the inhabitants of the villages. The altruistic purpose is what really motivates both Nadine and Oussama. “I’ll have the opportunity to visit communities in my country that need help; we’re delighted to be able to bring clothes, school supplies, books, toys, and glasses to these populations,” says the IE University student.

In order to embark on this adventure, the students have also had to conduct a business project and look for additional resources and sponsors. In this way, UniRaid allows IE University students to apply the knowledge acquired in the classroom to the real world.

Nadine and Oussama are currently supported by sponsors such as IE University, the gourmet shop «Diablo Cojuelo,» and the brand País Uruguay Natural, as well as by donors, family, friends, university students, and people who have contributed through the crowdfunding platform Gofundme.   

During the adventure, UniRaid will provide assistance to drivers who need it. The organization behind this rally of solidarity emphasizes the participants’ safety and has created a team of 35 professionals in charge of it. For UniRaid, safety comes first, so all vehicles are also equipped with a control system and satellite tracking. 

Nadine and Oussama, with their Volkswagen Passat 1.8, will start the UniRaid adventure in a few weeks. When they return, they plan to hold a talk in Segovia to share details about their once-in-a-lifetime experience.