Carl Wilkens, the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, visited Gillespie High School for the day on Monday, March 19. Wilkens’ family was evacuated when the genocide began, but he chose to remain to deliver aid to survivors. Along with about ten other foreign aide workers, they assisted the survivors (many of them orphans and women) of the genocide in any manner they could.
Wilkens befriended the director of a nearby orphanage, Damas Gisimba, and was instrumental in assisting the 400 plus orphans and others who took refuge there. He even approached Prime Minister Jean Kambanda himself to plead for the lives of the refugees at the orphanage. The Rwandan genocide lasted 100 days and resulted in nearly 1 million deaths.
Today, Wilkens travels throughout the United States and abroad delivering his message of humanitarian aid and community support in the eyes of disillusionment and destruction. After the school-wide presentation, he visited classrooms throughout the day and engaged students in different topics of discussion, focusing on aspects that ranged from general historic occurrences to brain functioning to modern responsibility.
Wilkens is the author of I’m Not Leaving, a memoir about his time in Rwanda. He has also been featured in several documentaries such as Ghosts of Rwanda and Defying Genocide.