What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? How did you manage to achieve it, against all odds?
For Auxane and Jennifer, two third year Speech Therapy students from Montpellier University, France, their big adventure was not only competing in a gruelling car rally across the Moroccan Desert but somehow also managing to also deliver Little Sun lamps to children in a remote village during their journey. They had a goal, they achieved it, and they brought sustainable light to a village to top it off!
Auxane and Jennifer are from Nîmes and Agen, respectively, in the South of France, and they met a little over three years ago at their University.
This year, their dream of competing in the 4L Trophy, a humanitarian car rally distributing school supplies across the Moroccan Desert, finally came true. For them, the rally is synonymous with adventure, with surpassing one’s limits and, above all, with solidarity. Then when they heard about Little Sun from Joan in our off-grid team, they decided to add something extra special to their mission.
“The adventure was going to take another dimension for us: not only were we going to bring school supplies for the Children of the Desert association, but in addition we would stand out from the other crews by bringing Little Sun solar lights directly to a Moroccan village.”
The girls’ proposal to bring Little Sun lamps to a school in a remote village complemented the education mission of the 4L trophy so was welcomed by the rally’s organisers for this year’s 20th edition. Then before the girls knew it, February was upon them and the rally began!
Established in 1997 upon the initiative of Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Rennes, 4L Trophy is a humanitarian rally that only students can compete in. The other restriction is that all participants must drive a Renault 4 car – a tiny vehicle that is largely unsuitable for the terrain of the desert, making the journey all the more challenging for the drivers.
The rally begins in France, traverses to the southern tip of Spain, takes the ferry across to Morocco then – the most challenging part – navigates across the roadless Moroccan desert, to arrive at Marrakech. The objective of the rally is to provide school supplies to the children living in the remote villages along the journey. The team that manages to do so with the fewest kilometres (that is, in the most efficient way) is crowned winner.
The rally is supported by local partners such as Moroccan League for the Protection of Children, the Enfants du Désert (or ‘Children of the Desert’, a local organisation which fosters the educational opportunities of children from the least developed areas of the region) and Rire Médecin which encourages participants to raise extra funds to bring medicines and medical equipment to the under-equipped children’s hospitals. Participants are also encouraged to visit the hospitals along the journey to help brighten a sick child’s day.
Each year, the 4L Trophy organises “Ambassador Days”, during which 40 crews competing in the rally whose project has been selected, get the opportunity to spend a day in a school, meeting the locals. This was the part of the rally that Auxane and Jennifer realised they could incorporate Little Sun into. They raised enough additional funds from their sponsors to purchase 25 lamps.
“February 16 was the big day! We took off from Biarritz, with our 4L loaded with sports and school equipment, and of course our large box of Little Sun lamps. Our Ambassador’s Day was scheduled for 21 February. We were terribly looking forward to it! The crossing of Spain was dotted with some mechanical repairs, but we finally arrived in Merzouga on Monday 20 February! It was here that the 1450 crews donated their goods (school equipment, sports equipment, medical supplies, computers …). They will be distributed to 16 associations in the province of Errachidia. More than 20,000 children will benefit! Also, specially for this year, financial donations will allow the construction of five new schools.”
On Tuesday morning, “Ambassador’s Day”, Auxane and Jennifer headed off with nine other crews, along with Laëtitia Chevalier (President of the Enfants du Désert) and her team, in the direction of Mokta Sfa, a small remote village, about 2 hours drive from Merzouga. The inhabitants of this village have recently been connected with the electrical grid but it is a very unreliable supply. Auxane and Jennifer decided that it was here that their donation of Little Sun lamps would make the most sense.
“We will remember for a long time our arrival in the village: music and songs, tea and small cakes were offered for a warm welcome. The fourteen children of the school were all there, both curious and shy in our presence. Accompanied by their teacher, they showed us their school, the well under construction and we even had the chance to visit some of their homes. Courses are taught Arabic and children learn French from the age of 9. The two current classrooms in the village will soon be too dilapidated to accommodate the 14 school children (from 6 to 15 years old). The financial donations of the 4L Trophy 2017 will allow the construction of a new school which will accommodate all children in the same room and in far better conditions.
At the end of the afternoon, it was time for us to distribute the lamps to the children. After we explained how they work to their teacher, who then translated the explanations to the children in Arabic, we gave them each a lamp. The children loved the lamps and they all wore them proudly around their necks! They will use the lamps to do their homework in the evening, for example, or so that they can move around safely at night in the villages.
This day was full of beautiful moments of sharing and emotion. We will remember it for a long time! Of the 25 lamps we had with us, 14 were given to the children of Mokta Sfa. The other 11 will soon be distributed in another village by Children Of the Desert, which will of course keep us informed.
For the three days following our time in the village, we drove along the desert tracks from Merzouga to Marrakech. For us too, the Little Sun lamps have been very useful – for lighting under the hood of the 4L, to look for our belongings in our bags, and in our tent!”
The girls arrived in Marrakech on Friday, February 24th in the evening. They then took the long journey back to the South of France, arriving on Tuesday 28th feeling proud to have completed the entire rally from A to Z. They felt especially proud to have brought some light to the children of the Moroccan desert.
“This rally allowed us to surpass ourselves, encounter a new culture and meet other students guided by the same thirst for discovery as us. We return from this travel changed, with eyes full of stars and hearts full of memories!”
Merci beaucoup, Auxane and Jennifer, for bringing solar and smiles to classrooms in the Moroccan desert.