For over a decade, Carl Wilkens has been sharing stories around the globe to inspire and equip people to “enter the world of The Other.” He was the only American who chose to stay in Kigali, Rwanda throughout the 1994 genocide. Venturing out each day into streets crackling with mortars and gunfire, he worked his way through roadblocks of angry, bloodstained soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles in order to bring food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. Working with Rwandan colleagues, they helped save the lives of hundreds. His harrowing yet hopeful journey weaves together stories of tremendous risk and fierce compassion in the midst of senseless slaughter. In 2011, Carl completed a book detailing these days titled I’m Not Leaving. A 40 minute documentary by the same title has since been released.
Carl’s storytelling does not stop with Rwanda’s tragic history, but moves forward to the powerful and inspiring recovery process. Among the many lessons he shares from his experience is the transformative belief that we don’t have to be defined by what we lost or our worst choices. We can be defined by what we do with what remains – what we do next after terrible choices. Each year he returns to Rwanda with students and educators to see for themselves how people are working together to rebuild their country and the toughest challenge of all—rebuilding trust.
Rwanda’s story is a powerful platform to launch meaningful conversations under the broad umbrella of learning to live together. We explore stories of the genocide and how respect leads to empathy, resulting in inclusion (REI).