By: Frank Chen
On Friday, March 25, English Teachers Katherine Geers and Jennifer Moore’s students had the opportunity to meet internationally recognized humanitarian Carl Wilkens.
Wilkens, the only American who stayed in Rwanda during the country’s genocide in 1994, is currently the director of World Outside My Shoes, a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to educating others about stopping genocide and creating peace. Wilkens is a passionate and active speaker who travels across the nation to share his story with students, teachers, and community members.
Due to the limited number of seats in room C120, students were divided into three groups based on their class period. Although this meant that Wilkens had to do his presentation three times, it did not affect his passionate and enthusiastic tone as he did his presentation.
To help form a better connection with the students, Wilkens based his presentation on stories he accumulated during his stay in Rwanda. He started off with the story of a 70 year-old Rwandan women called Sula Karuhimbi. During the genocide, Karuhimbi used her knowledge of natural medicine to treat and hide 20 Tutsis under her roof. When the militia came to check her house, Karuhimbi displayed great courage by scaring them away with her reputation as a witch. Her story, along with many others that Wilkens had shared, grasped the students’ attention. “Stories,” Wilkens said, “help us see ourself in others.”
Throughout the presentation, Wilkens concentrated on educating students about genocide. “What starts a genocide,” Wilkens said, “is the saying that ‘my world would be better without you in it.’” Wilkens hopes that by passing on the stories based on his experiences, students will be able to understand the violence and conflicts happening in Africa today and try to make a difference. “We start by learning their stories. Sometimes we don’t find out, but we would never find out if we don’t try.” While his main focus is on the Rwandan genocide, Wilkens also talked about the genocide in Darfur and the violence in the Middle East.
After the presentation, students crowded Wilkens to thank him and to shake his hand.
“Carl Wilkens told us stories, each individual story proving that by saving one person, you can save the world,” sophomore Annie Dai said. “Through these stories, I believe he has truly motivated us to try to make a difference in the world, because those pictures and stories were personal, and they really touched all of our hearts.”
For more information about Carl Wilkens and his organization World Outside My Shoes, go to www.worldoutsidemyshoes.org