Almost three weeks after the genocide began, Carl Wilkens was able to leave his house.
"Finally the government said, 'Heads of organizations can leave their houses, come to government headquarters and get a permit to travel around the city.' From that point on, we moved about the city finding food, water and meds for the orphans."
"This American showed up at the orphanage," says Gisimba. "He said he was just stopping by to see if anyone here needed help. I told him what we needed most was water. Carl Wilkens promised to come back the next day with water and anything else he could get his hands on. I kept wondering, 'How will this stranger get past so many checkpoints?' And besides the checkpoints, there were bullets flying everywhere."
Front gate of Damas Gisimba's orphanage
Photo by Stephen Smith
Rakiya Omaar says it would have been a daily trip through hell.
"There were so many roadblocks manned by drunken men armed with machetes. Their hands were so stained with blood."
But Carl surprised Damas.
"Carl came back the next day with water and lots of goodies. And the next day, and the next day. There were some days he could not reach us because the militia blocked him or let the air out of his tires, but Carl kept his promise. He was fearless."
The militia came to get Damas Gisimba one morning. He says they wanted to get him away and then kill everyone else in the orphanage.
"They tried to trick me, saying 'The governor of Kigali wants to see you.' I was suspicious, so I lied to them. I said, 'Has the governor forgotten that I have an appointment with him at 9 this morning?' So the militia pulled back but waited for me to leave. I snuck away to the office of the International Red Cross."