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American Who Survived Rwandan Genocide to Speak at College of Saint Mary

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. – Carl Wilkens, the only American to remain in Rwanda throughout the 1994 genocide and who risked his life to save hundreds of Rwandans, will speak at the College of Saint Mary this month.

The presentation, which will include screening the documentary “I’m Not Leaving” about Wilken’s experience and a Q&A session, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Gross Conference Center on CSM’s campus, 7000 Mercy Road. Wilkens will also be available to sign his book of the same name. The event is free and open to the public.

Mark Gudgel, assistant professor of education at CSM, arranged for Wilkens to speak and hopes the presentation will benefit those who hear him.

“My kids watch a lot of movies with fictitious heroes in them; there’s nothing wrong with that,” Gudgel said. “But this is an opportunity to step away from Marvel and DC to meet a real human being whose only superpowers were compassion and bravery, and who used those things to save lives. Carl is a hero you can meet, speak to, and get to know. He can help those who hear him realize the power they have within themselves to do extraordinary things.”

Wilkens has shared stories worldwide for over a decade to inspire and equip people to “enter the world of The Other.” He was the only American who chose to stay in Kigali, Rwanda, during 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.

Registration is requested but not required. To register for the event, go to