Driving a junk car across Europe for charity

Niemann's and junk car

Konrad Niemann, left, and his son by the junk car they used in the Carbage Run. The car was auctioned off, and combined with funds raised by the run, to benefit the Salberghaus, a home for children.

By Konrad Niemann, President of the Rotary Club of München-Münchner Freiheit, Germany

In February, my son and I were driving in Germany when we began passing a bunch of strange-looking cars on the highway. We discovered they were part of a road rally called the Carbage Run, that is essentially a five-day road trip across Europe in a junk car. For the past 10 years, participants have paid about €350 (about $400) to take part in the event, originating in the Netherlands, with cars that must be more than 18 years old and worth less than €500 ($560). Looking at all these junk cars, my son and I thought “what a funny idea for a father-son activity.”

To make the idea even better, we decided we would do the trip as a fundraiser for a children’s home in Munich. The emphasis of my presidential year is children, because they are our future.

We signed up for a German version of the ride that was launched two years ago, that crosses 2,500 kilometers (about 1,550 miles) from Germany, through Switzerland, France, and Andorra, to Spain. We convinced my Rotary club and the clubs of München Residenz and Bavaria to combine support for our trip with €2.30 ($2.60) for every kilometer we drove.

We drove about 500 kilometers a day through breathtaking landscapes. We would get up at 8 a.m. each day to pack our gear and tent and tackle that day’s journey. Each day, you have a choice between a longer and shorter distance, but we always decided to take the longer. It was an excellent bonding experience organizing our day, charting our way, and figuring out how to tolerate the heat (as our junk car had no air conditioning.)

We were able to complete all five days with no major problems. At the end of the road trip, we auctioned off the car and some memorabilia we picked up along the way for €1,600. Combined with the pledges we had received, we were able to give €7,500 (roughly $8,500) to the Salberghaus, a safe house for children who have been removed from their homes by the government because their lives were in danger from violence, drugs, or abuse.

The trip taught me that it isn’t difficult to come up with fun ways to raise money. We do a lot of things in our lives for fun, and spend a lot of time figuring out how to amuse ourselves. But just think how much good we could do if we put some of that time and energy to planning activities that would also make the world a better place. My encouragement to you is to try and combine fun and charity the next chance you get. Trust me, it makes life more exciting. And if you have a family member who is up for it, bring them along for the ride.

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