Special to the Times-Tribune
On March 26, University of the Cumberlands (UC) hosted Carl Wilkens of the World Outside My Shoes organization at its Monday Convocation. Wilkens spoke to a packed auditorium about the 1990s genocide in Rwanda, which he and his family lived through.
Wilkens moved his wife and children to Rwanda in the spring of 1990. When many hear about Rwanda they think of the genocide, but according to Wilkins, Rwanda is a developing country filled with diversity and beautiful landscapes.
When the genocide began in April 1994, Wilkens refused to leave, even though he was urged to by friends, his church and the United States government. He was the only American to remain in the country, and every day he ventured into streets filled with mortars, gunfire, blood-stained soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles, carrying food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. These actions saved the lives of hundreds.
Wilkens told a story of a little girl who would brush her teeth with twigs on the way to school. “It’s not about what you don’t have and can’t do without it,” he said. “It is about what you do have and can do with it.”
In 1996 Wilkens returned to the United States where he and his wife Teresa formed the educational non-profit organization, World Outside My Shoes, to share their experience with others. Through descriptive storytelling and photographs, Wilkens uses shares his experience of Rwanda and the genocide to people across the globe.
UC students, some who were aware of the Rwandan genocide and some not, were interested and horrified by the tragedy that happened while many of them were just babies.
“I thought that Convocation was very informative,” said Madison Haycraft, a freshman. “It really opened my eyes to what genocide was like and how things are in other places.”
“It was really interesting to get a firsthand experience from someone who was there,” said sophomore Brad Pearce. “It was touching to see on a personal level.”