Detroit Lakes couple joins Global Volunteer efforts – Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — Standing on the banks of a ravine in Ethiopia, Greg and Marcia

DETROIT LAKES — Standing on the banks of a ravine in Ethiopia, Greg and Marcia Potvin helped build a bridge that would save lives. The Detroit Lakes residents explained that during the rainy season, the people in the African village used ropes to cross a 113-foot ravine. It was a deadly tightrope act that claimed the lives of six to 10 souls annually.

“They would fall and drown,” Greg explained. “When people think of Ethiopia, they think of deserts, not mountains. But there are mountains. That is where we were.”

The Potvins offer their skilled labor through mission work opportunities. The two have traveled to Ethiopia, China, Romania, India, Peru, Ecuador, Greece, Tanzania and more. What they do on a mission trip depends on the needs of the community they visit. Typically, their work has included construction and other manual labor, as well as teaching English or health-improving habits.

In addition to helping people, the Potvins are gifted with friendships and unique experiences that extend beyond the average tourist adventure. For example, they visited what locals called “a village” in China to teach English.

“Their village had 4 million people in it,” Marcia said.

The two recalled how they were treated like celebrities, as many locals had never seen a white person. The residents were also eager to try their English skills with U.S. citizens. Whether it was a stroll down the street or visiting a local market, everywhere the Potvins went people wanted to meet them.

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Greg Potvin said that meeting locals who are struggling creates a connection that humanizes headlines of crisis that some may grow accustomed to seeing.

Contributed / The Potvins

“We were walking, and a guy engaged us on the sidewalk (to talk English),” Greg said. “Pretty soon there were 30 people surrounding us.”

After pleasantries were offered, the Potvins continued their stroll to get a malt. While enjoying the ice cream treat, a woman approached them and explained that her father wished to invite them to dinner. The man was eager to test his English skills. Greg said the man sent a driver to pick them up and bring them to the restaurant. It was those types of unexpected events that made a memorable trip magical.

The Potvins had stories to tell from each experience — some were funny and some were thought-provoking. In the end, all the places they visited seemed to have left a heartfelt impression on them.

The adventures began in Jamaica

The mission trip adventures started for the Potvins when their youngest daughter was a senior in high school. She signed up to join a goodwill trip to Jamaica. When a fellow traveler canceled at the last minute, she asked her dad to join.

“Marcia was still working as a teacher, but I had vacation time,” Greg said, adding the focus of the two-week trip was to help build a school. “It was magical; absolutely magical.”


Greg Potvin has enjoyed meeting the residents of the foreign communities he visits with his wife Marcia as part of Global Volunteers. The two have helped build a bridge, provide knowledge about healthy practices, taught English and more.

Contributed / The Potvins

The mission trip was such a vivid experience for Greg because of the bonds he built with those residing in the Jamaican community. Plus, he grew up with an appreciation for participating in volunteer work.

He informed his wife that it was an adventure she simply must do. So, the following year, Greg returned to Jamaica on another mission trip with Marcia by his side. Since, the two have accepted opportunities to volunteer and join mission trips around the world.

The Potvins work with Global Volunteers, an organization that connects good Samaritans with those in need around the world. There are also volunteer opportunities stateside in Montana and West Virginia.

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Marcia Potvin has taught English to students of all ages.

Contributed / The Potvins

The goal of Global Volunteers is to eradicate hunger, improve health and more. The organization provides its volunteers with a place to stay, training, an itinerary and plenty of support throughout the duration of the goodwill trip.

The Potvins encouraged people to consider joining a Global Volunteers adventure. To learn more about the organization, visit

or call 800-487-1074. The Potvins would also be open to chatting about their experiences. They can be reached at 218-847-6030.