Global Citizenship Rwanda

Valley High School Students Connect with Humanitarian Carl Wilkens

This post reflects an added direction for our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project Student Gallery: Global Citizenship. In addition to showcasing immigration and refugee stories, we recognize the need to address difficult global topics, such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. For teachers who are looking for primary sources to enhance their World Geography unit on Africa, we have developed “I’m Not Leaving” a curriculum package for teaching about Rwanda.

Last month we were able to connect students in Ben Johnston’s World Geography classes at Valley High School with humanitarian Carl Wilkens, the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Through a Skype videoconference Carl Wilkens joined students for an interactive discussion about what he witnessed and experienced during his time in Rwanda. Thanks to our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) we now able to share highlights from the videoconference:

“My students entered the videoconference with some background on what set off the genocide, turning neighbor against neighbor, and the resulting slaughter of thousands of innocent people,” said teacher Ben Johnston. “But Carl Wilkens focused more on the difference a single person can make by standing up for others – and even ‘finding allies among enemies.'”

Throughout the videoconference, Wilkens initiated small group discussions and invited students to share their thoughts and questions. “After hearing Carl Wilkens talk about what happened in Rwanda, I understand the importance of personal stories when learning about an event,” said student David Brown. Classmate Brandon Allen added, “I feel like Carl Wilkens went through a lot – but he also did a lot.”

Being able to Skype with Carl Wilkens about his experiences in Rwanda brought a historical event to life for Ben Johnston’s students and initiated thought-provoking conversations on how “it is small things that allow bigger things to happen.”

If you have resources about Rwanda to share or if you have another Global Citizenship themed lesson or project, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Gail and Kathleen

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