In 2000, Rye Barcott spent part of the summer living in ten-by-ten-foot shacks in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. He was a twenty-year-old college student heading into the Marines, and he sought to better understand ethnic violence—something he would likely face in uniform. Barcott learned Swahili and listened to young people talk about how they survived amidst poverty he had never imagined existed. He stumbled into friendship with a widowed nurse, Tabitha Atieno Festo, and a tough community organizer, Salim Mohamed.
It Happened on the Way to War is the gripping story of this unlikely trio’s journey to build a nongovernmental organization in a volatile place and help develop a new generation of leaders from within. Their organization, Carolina for Kibera (CFK), is now a pioneer of the movement called participatory development, drawing recognition fromTime magazine as a “Hero of Global Health” and interest from Melinda Gates, President Barack Obama, and other dignitaries, who have visited to see its best practices.
Barcott continued his leadership in CFK while serving as a Marine in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. Engaged in two forms of public service at once, he fought in wars while waging peace. Grappling with the intense stress of leading Marines in dangerous places, he took the tools he learned building community in one of the most fractured parts of Kenya and became a more effective counterinsurgent.
This is a true story of sacrifice and courage, failure and triumph, 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 co-founded the non-governmental organization Carolina For Kibera to prevent violence and empower youth through participatory development while he was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. He then earned master’s degrees in business and public administration from Harvard University, where he was a Reynolds Social Entrepreneurship Fellow. A World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, he lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter and works at Duke Energy. It Happened on the Way to War, published by Bloomsbury, is his first book.