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In 2000 Rye Barcott spent part of his summer living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. He was a college student heading into the Marines, and he sought to better understand ethnic violence-something he would likely face later in uniform. He learned Swahili, asked questions, and listened to young people talk about how they survived in poverty he had never imagined. Anxious to help but unsure what to do, he stumbled into friendship with awidowed nurse, Tabitha Atieno Festo, and a hardscrabble community organizer, Salim Mohamed. Together, this unlikely trio built a non-governmental organization that would develop a new generation of leaders from within one of Africa's largest slums. Their organization, Carolina for Kibera (CFK), is now a global pioneer of the movement called Participatory Development, and was honored by Timemagazine as a "Hero of Global Health." Barcott continued his leadership in CFK while serving as a human intelligence officer in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. Leading Marines in dangerous places, he took the tools he learned building a community in one of the most fractured parts of Kenya and became a more effective counterinsurgent and peacekeeper. It Happened on the Way to Waris a true story of sacrifice and courage and the powerful melding of military and humanitarian service. It's a story of what America's role in the world could be.
Rye Barcott founded Carolina for Kibera (CFK) with Salim Mohamed and Tabitha Atieno Festo while he was an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. After graduation, he served as a Marine for five years on active duty. In 2006 ABC World News named then Captain Barcott a Person of the Year for his dual service to Kibera and the Marine Corps. As a Reynolds Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, he earned master's degrees in business and public administration from Harvard. He is currently a member of the World Learning Board of Trustees and a TED Fellow living in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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"It Happened on the Way to War is part memoir of a life in Rhode Island, North Carolina (Chapel Hill and Camp Lejeune), Africa and Iraq, part acknowledgement of an "incipient bloodlust," part love story, part war and part peace – and wholly engaging and amazing and inspiring."—Military Times "Powerful, compelling, and genuine."—Proceedings Magazine "Moving, sad, humorous, sometimes dramatic, and beautifully written … [It Happened on the Way to War] is a story about what is possible, and will be inspirational to new generations of leaders and public servants."—The Officer"A thoughtful examination of the nature of service and the effects of violence on the human spirit."—Kirkus Reviews"Every American should read this remarkable story by a remarkable man who fought as a Marine in Iraq and waged a battle against poverty, disease and ignorance in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Barcott’s prose evokes the sights and smells of the places he’s been, and the people in this book are not mere names but fully-rounded human beings, with all their virtues and flaws. His tale is cautionary—effecting real change in the world is never easy or cheap, and is often heartbreaking. But it is an equally inspirational story, showing that one individual, acting with courage and commitment, can make a difference."—Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War, and many others"An unforgettable odyssey. We need more of these wonderful affirmative tales of how good can triumph in Africa, as it can anywhere."—Alexander McCall Smith, author of The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency"Compelling. Former Marine Captain Rye Barcott demonstrates how our forces must today be capable of fighting and development in this important and revealing story of service on two fronts."—Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, U.S. Army, author of Dereliction of Duty"Rye Barcott’s engaging and candid memoir on the catalytic power of participatory development shows us that, whether we are in the slums of the world’s biggest cities, in rural Haiti, or on college campuses, we can learn from Tabitha, Salim, and Rye—a nurse, a community organizer, and a young Marine living in urban poverty—about how to fight extreme privation and bring about lasting change."—Dr. Paul Farmer, professor, Harvard Medical School; co-founder, Partners In Health"Rye Barcott is one of those rare people who can bridge the widest divides with ease. This book is a gift."—Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away"A tremendous story of the power of friendship, love, and the transforming grace of God."—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate "A must read for anyone interested in leadership. The solutions to our greatest challenges will be found by unlocking the potential of communities like Kibera."—Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google"Rye Barcott has captured what I have experienced to be true around the world—that people living in the most unimaginable circumstances can do extraordinary things if given a chance and that we have much to learn from them. Rye’s personal story and example encourages, challenges and provides hope."—Jonathan T.M. Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International"Rye Barcott has given us a truly amazing memoir—humane, harrowing, inspiring, and complex in its portrayal of an almost paradoxical accommodation between Eros and Thanatos. This is at least as much a compassionate and emboldening manifesto as it is a work of autobiography."—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried