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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 facelater 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 washonored by Time magazine as a "Hero of Global Health." CFK's greatest lesson may be that with the right kind of support, people in desperate places will take charge of their lives and create breathtaking change. Engaged in two seemingly contradictory forms of public service at the same time, Barcott continued his leadership in CFK while serving as a human intelligence officer in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. Struggling with the intense stress of leading Marines in dangerous places, he took thetools 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 War is 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.
Steven Pressfield is the author of the hugely successful historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith in 2000. He lives in California.
I had never heard of Kibera before I read Rye Barcott's extraordinary memoir, It Happened On the Way to War. Kibera is the mega-slum of Nairobi, Kenya. A little over ten years ago, when he was still an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, Mr. Barcott founded, with his friends Tabitha Atieno Festo and Salim Mohamed, "Carolina for Kibera," a grass-roots organization that would grow to include sports programs, a medical clinic, and a number of other locally mounted and locally maintained initiatives including the periodic (and now famous) "Wars on Garbage."
Rye and his co-founders started Carolina For Kibera with twenty-six dollars, the same figure as the price of this book. What CFK has become in the intervening decade (and who Rye Barcott has become) is recounted in this fascinating and deeply personal memoir. As a Marine captain in Iraq, Bosnia and the Horn of Africa, Rye Barcott still kept up his work in Kibera. He kept it up while leading Marines in combat in Fallujah, and later, attending graduate school at Harvard and being named to the inaugural class of TED Fellows. Quite a guy.
It Happened On the Way to War brings echoes of Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father and James Webb's Fields of Fire in that it introduces us to a new generation of leaders—tested, committed and intellectually resourceful (one thinks also of Nathaniel Fick and Eric Greitens), who will bring, we hope, a kind of muscular compassion to the global problems that have vexed my generation and the president’s so severely. If our leaders applied the lessons of this book to our foreign policy, we wouldn’t need any more "surges." This young Marine captain’s riveting and masterfully-written story demonstrates how much a small group of committed individuals with vision and heart can accomplish, working together in some of the world’s most dangerous trouble spots. Captain Barcott's odyssey from Kibera to Fallujah to Harvard and back to Kibera is clearly only prologue to a career that we will hear much more from in the future. Remember the name Rye Barcott. And read It Happened On the Way to War.
Most of us want to make a difference in the world around us.
In his writing, Barcott connects very well with the reader, who comes away feeling as if he/she knows the "characters" in this story as well as Rye does.
Great story on how following one's instincts and believing in the capabilities of people can make a difference.
This is a wonderful book. The novel version, Matterhorn, was easier for me to read and a lot more compelling when the soldiers had faces and individual personalities. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Biondina
A beautiful coming of age tale told candidly by an extraordinarily admirable young man, a former marine devoted to the empowerment of the desperately poor residents of Nairobi's... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Marcia A. Angle
It started in a way that I didn't really care for, but soon I couldn't put it down. By the end I was so grateful for the experience of having read it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Seen On Radio
A very interesting, quite well-written autobiography. Not a "page-turner" like a good historical novel, but very well done for a first time author who is obviously a... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Noble C
Good story and well written. Glad I read it. Made me more aware of such awful circumstances in slum areas. Also enlightened me about what our soldiers have endured in war zones.Published 2 months ago by Paul H. Bellingham
Since I believe in the bottom to top approach for all welfare, etc. programs, I found this confirming. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jo E. Offer