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American humanitarian aid worker to speak at Indiana State about genocide in Rwanda

October 3, 2014

Humanitarian aid worker Carl Wilkens will share his story as the only American to remain in Rwanda after genocide began when he presents at Indiana State University.

Wilkens will recount when genocide broke out in Rwanda in April 1994, four years after he and his family moved to the country.

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and the Asian and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Council, Wilkins' will share his account of the mass slaughter of Tutsu and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority that resulted in the deaths of up to an estimated 1 million Rwandans - as much as 20 percent of the country's total population.

As violence rang out, Wilkens sent his family back to the U.S. for their safety, but he refused to leave. Instead, he remained in Rwanda to distribute food, water and medicine to orphans who were unable to escape the violence.

In 1996, after the genocide subsided, Wilkens returned to the U.S., where he now dedicates his time to traveling across the country and sharing with students his firsthand count of genocide in Rwanda.

When genocide in Darfur appeared to be never-ending in January 2008, Wilkens and his wife formed World Outside My Shoes - an educational nonprofit that works to inspire people to stand up against genocide, racism and intolerance.In 2011, Wilkens released his first book, "I'm Not Leaving," which he based on material from the tape recordings he made to his wife and children that recount Rwanda's genocide in real-time.

Yong Joon Park, associate professor of elementary, early and special education in the Bayh College of Education, was instrumental in bringing Wilkens to campus. After being selected as one of 13 recipients for the Carl Wilkens Fellowship in 2014, Park attended a retreat this summer where he met Wilkens.

"Even though he was asked to leave in Rwanda when the genocide started, Carl wouldn't go. He stayed and tried to protect the people of Rwanda," Park said. "At the time, his wife and he and their three children lived in Rwanda, but at the last moment his wife and children left as it got serious. For three months, Carl stayed, though, and did daily voice recordings, like a diary, explaining the violence and bloodshed he was witnessing."

Park said Wilkens' presentation is professional and explains the violence he witnessed, using images from his time in Rwanda.

"There's a connection between the violence he witnessed back then and the conflicts we're seeing today around race, ethnicity and religion, and I think he's a good person come and talk to students about this topic," Park said. "His story is impressive and motivates people to action in the face of any potential genocide."

Wilkens' presentation is scheduled for 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the conference event area on first floor of Cunningham Memorial Library. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Contact: Yong Joon Park, associate professor of elementary, early and special education in the Bayh College of Education, YongJoon.Park@indstate.edu

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

American humanitarian aid worker Carl Wilkens will share his story as the only American in Rwanda when genocide broke out in 1994 during a presentation 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in Cunningham Memorial Library.

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