HUDSON – A 2015 Hudson High School graduate recently arrived in Malawi, Africa as a member of the Peace Corps for the next two years.
Derek Potts, 22, graduated from The Ohio State University in 2018 with a double major in international studies and history.
He’ll be a community health specialist volunteer in Malawi where he’ll help educate people about HIV, AIDS, malaria and basic good health practices like hand washing to prevent disease.
Malawi is a land-locked country in southeastern Africa bordered by Mozambique, Zambia and the United Republic of Tanzania.
"I heard a lot about the Peace Corps in my classes and my friends were in the international study programs," Potts said prior to his departure earlier this month. "They were considering the Peace Corps. I looked it up and thought it would be a good opportunity."
Potts left June 8 and stopped in Washington, D.C. before traveling to Ethiopia, then Malawi where he’ll have three months of training before being posted in the field.
"We have pre-service training in a village with other volunteers with lessons in language and programs we can run," Potts said. "Then they place us at a site. I’ll be placed in a local clinic and work some time at the clinic with what I can help with on top of any projects I do."
Education volunteers are placed in schools and environmental volunteers work all over the place, he said.
The local language is Chichewa, but most people know some English, and Potts knows German.
"I traveled to Germany a few years ago," Potts said. "And there are some German volunteers."
Potts will live with a host family, but said he wouldn’t find out anything about them until he arrives, he said.
"I’ll be working with HIV support groups and educating people on ways to cope with HIV and the importance of taking medications regularly and how to handle stigmas," Potts aid. "We give them a fuller understanding about what HIV positive individuals can do and not have life interrupted by it."
Potts said he is focused on diplomacy and international relations and how to improve relations between the United States and other countries.
His history background had an emphasis on understanding how to use primary source information, Potts said.
"We learned how to argue a point and how to think issues specific around a primary source document," Potts said.
The Bible and ancient history are an example, he said. Look at that time period and what life was like at that time and how belief systems affect people.
"Historical thinking tools can help in a modern context," Potts said.
Terrorism is throughout the world and by looking at writings and understanding the logic of groups, we can apply it to stopping terrorism, he said.
Potts said Africa will be a culture shock, but he had some experience working with refugees in Germany.
"It felt like I was dipping my foot in the water, a start toward development work," Potts said. "This is taking the plunge. I’m taking what I enjoyed in Germany and taking it to the next logical step and making a commitment and making a difference – if I can help people live a healthier and better life even if it’s a handful.
"Any improvement is something I thing should be celebrated. Help other people’s lives and adding value along the way. You’re not there to take someone’s job. You’re there to help people be happier and more effective in their lives."
Potts has no definite plans after he’s finished with the Peace Corps.
"This is me running away from all my future obligations," Potts said. "I’ve thought about grad school, applying at jobs at state department or government jobs. It’s up in the air. I’ll have this experience and see where it takes me and future is in a better position to see what avenues I have and what fits."
His parents, Michael and Tricia Potts live in Hudson and his twin sisters, Kari, 19, attends Kent State University and Kristin, 19, attends Moody Bible Institute.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org