Basil Merk ’23 |Major: International Management

Sophomore Basil Merk ’23 is ever-present at Menlo, volunteering over the summer and preparing for club initiatives for the 2020-2021 academic year. In addition to his current roles on campus, which include Catalyst at the Oaks Innovation Club, University Innovation Fellow candidate, Founder and President of RISE (The first Self Development club at Menlo), and co-organizing the first Startup Weekend Womxn Online Edition, he and current student Bianca Neme Barros ’21 remain #oakstrong and are currently volunteering their time to help others who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

How has your summer been? | What additional projects have you started?

“My summer has been really busy. I pay for a major part of my college tuition myself, so I was mostly working during the summer, going door-to-door promoting memberships for the German Red Cross. Besides this, I was preparing material for RISE, the new Self-Development club on campus I just launched. On top of that, I started collecting donations for people in Brazil who are greatly suffering from COVID-19.”

Tell us more about your fundraising project 

“The purpose of the project is to collect donations for people in Brazil who live in high financial need and are greatly suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The boxes we buy cost $25 and provide one family with basic food for a whole month and include a small pack of masks and some hand sanitizer. 

We buy the donation boxes in Guararema, the Brazilian town we are living in, and then we take them to São Paulo to help the people in need. I joined the project in July and began reaching out to people in Germany asking for donations. 

We do not currently have a name for the project but our slogan was always to just “Act like our actions make a difference because, in the end, they do.” (Based on quotes from William James)

What inspired you to begin this project? | What are your goals?

Bianca Neme Barros ’21 inspired me to help her with this project, and when I realized how serious the situation is for many people in Brazil in terms of hunger and living conditions – in a way I have not seen before – I wanted to help. Due to the current currency exchange rate, a reasonable donation coming from Americans or Germans can make a big difference! That inspired me to start talking to friends and family and many people have been really understanding and helped right away. We have already delivered more than 150 boxes and our goal is to double the amount within the next two months.”

How has your fall semester been so far? | Will you continue your project during the academic year?

“My fall semester has been truly unique. A few weeks before the semester started, I flew to Brazil and we have been studying online from here since the first day of classes. On top of the challenges online classes bring, I am currently managing to live in a different country and learning Portuguese. My highlights have been the extracurricular activities like the UIF training, which my cohort and I just finished, and being part of the organizing team of Startup Weekend Womxn which we are hosting on November 13-15th. 

I am also enjoying exploring Brazil and its breathtaking beaches and nature as much as the pandemic allows for. We are still continuing the project and we have just set ourselves the goal to double the number of boxes that have been donated to make a bigger impact.”

How can people get involved/support? 

“Contact Bianca ( or myself ( or donate right away through Venmo (Basil-Merk), Thank you!”