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Wash U alum aids in Philippines relief

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If you asked current Washington University students about their future plans, most would say that they hoped for a stable job after graduation. Wash. U. alumnus Marshall Mayer instead sought adventure.

A history major with a minor in Chinese, Marshall graduated from Wash. U. in 2009 with a great desire to work abroad. Mayer was a member of Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and had an interest in business, so international business seemed like a natural fit for him. When he was offered a job in Asia, he took it without hesitation. But things did not work out as he had initially planned.

“The offer was withdrawn for no reason,” Mayer said. “But I said, ‘Screw it—I’ll come out here with nothing to do.’” Mayer was able to find a job and since then has continued to travel from country to country, seeking even temporary work.

“I’ve been traveling solo on and off for five years and live out of a backpack,” Mayer explained. He estimates that he has been to about 45-50 countries in total. This past summer, he worked in Ukraine, his favorite workplace to date, where he worked 12-hour shifts for 15 euros an hour in a hostel during the 2013 Eurocup.

“I did everything from concierge services to preparing meals to changing beds and booking reservations,” Mayer said. He has also spent time working in countries such as Georgia, Turkey and Mongolia.

Mayer found a position with Young Pioneer Tours, a for-profit company that does tours to generally inaccessible areas, with the bulk of its tours taking place in North Korea. “Working with the company is somewhat serendipitous,” Mayer admitted. “The second floor of the apartment [where I was living] was being rented out by the company as a sort of home for the employees.”

Through this housing arrangement, Mayer met those who worked there and gained an understanding of the work the company does. “The company was looking for someone to head out the program, and things just sort of arose,” Mayer said.

Mayer’s next project with Young Pioneer Tours will be to lead a relief effort for the recent disasters in the Philippines. Mayer knew a few friends living in the Philippines, and together they determined that relief aid would be the biggest help. Young Pioneers will head to the Philippines and focus on rebuilding five schools that were destroyed in the town of Bantayan.

“Our company is the only company at all that is doing any sort of flexible volunteering for people who are in the area or who just want to help out,” Mayer said. “We don’t charge people for volunteering. We ask them to maybe raise money beforehand if they can, but if not, it’s no problem.”

The first members of the company left for the Philippines on Dec. 1. They will continue their efforts to raise money and organize people and have already secured 10 electric solar lighting systems to install in the schools. The company is also trying to secure power tools from companies to help with the construction.

“Now we’re doing indiegogo crowd funding,’” Mayer said. “[That means] pleas to friends and family asking for donations.”

Though he has never traveled to the Philippines before, Mayer has faith that the trip will be a successful one.

“The goal is essentially getting the word out about our relief effort,” he said. “It is an incredibly unique opportunity. Our company has nothing to do with charity or anything else and is the only company that lets volunteers come whenever they want for free. I don’t know any other company that wants to do the same.” Young Pioneer Tours has eight different tours that will be in the Philippines at the same time and already has 75 volunteers outside of the company who have requested to join its efforts.

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