Nearly a decade ago, Marshall Mayer took the 1st Chinese class offered at Staples High School.
He graduated in 2009. Last month — Washington University diploma in hand — Marshall headed to Beijing. His goal was to increase his fluency in Chinese.
Then Typhoon Haiyan hit. Marshall contacted Young Pioneer Tours, and offered to help. The organization — “group tours for people who hate group tours” — is sending more than 50 volunteers from 8 nations to the Philippines. Their goal: rebuild Santa Fe Elementary School, on Batayan Island. Local officials want life to return to normal as quickly as possible there, but residents are busy reconstructing their own homes.
Marshall and his fellow volunteers will live on school grounds, at their own expense.
Young Pioneers asked Marshall to join its leadership team. They recognized his skills — many of which were honed in Westport.
Marshall joined Westport’s Emergency Medical Service at 16, and earned EMT certification. As a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 39, he learned survival and camping skills. He has Third World construction experience, thanks to Builders Beyond Borders.
A crew athlete at the Saugatuck Rowing Club, he knows how to kayak — a key form of transportation between Philippine islands.
As for his organizational ability — well, he was a prime mover behind a harmless, yet hard-to-pull-off, Staples senior prank.
Marshall is excited about his work. He’s also working hard to raise funds. Every dollar goes directly to the relief effort: tools, building equipment, a small generator, food for the locals, school and medical supplies. If the group has extra time and money, they will move on to the next school on Batayan.
As Thanksgiving nears, Westport should give thanks to volunteers like Marshall Mayer, who help strangers halfway around the globe. And we should thank too our own town — and the many organizations in it — which provide young people with the educational and extracurricular opportunities to make a difference.
(To donate to the Young Pioneers Tours effort, click here. To contact Marshall directly, email email@example.com.)