Carl Wilkens, the man who stayed in Rwanda

Carl+Wilkens%2C+the+man+who+stayed+in+Rwanda

CAMILLE DESJARDINS

In April of 1994, the country Rwanda faced a genocide that wiped out about 800,000 citizens. The Tutsi, an minority ethnic group in Rwanda, were targeted and killed by Hutu extremists. Over the course of the four month long genocide, only one American stayed. The man that stayed, Carl Wilkens, visited Freedom on Wednesday, Dec 12.

Wilkens had many things to say to the group not only about the genocide and the things he saw, but also about life. He told stories of the people he met and saved and talked about the bonds he formed with those people. Wilkens had been living in Rwanda with his wife and three kids when the genocide began. His family evacuated almost immediately, but Wilkens decided to stay for the safety of his Tutsi housekeepers.

When speaking to the Freedom students, Wilkens had three ideas he presented.

“When we open our hearts to others, there is a much greater chance they will open their hearts to good,” Wilkens said. “Let it be what it already is in your life. Learn how to learn from those I would rather not.”

Wilkens used his ideas to teach how he coped with the trauma of witnessing genocide, and to show students how to make the most out of their everyday life. His positive outlook on life impacted many of the students.

“He was an amazing person to look up to because he was always optimistic and never talked about any negative especially what he witnessed in Rwanda,” said sophomore Bella Pam.