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It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace by [Barcott, Rye]
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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description

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.

Amazon Exclusive: Steven Pressfield Reviews It Happened on the Way to War

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Barcott, cofounder of the nongovernmental organization Carolina for Kibera (CFK), recounts the demands of serving as a Marine Corps officer while running a nascent nonprofit in this overwrought memoir. In 2000, as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, the author traveled to Kenya's notorious slum Kibera, in Nairobi, to study ethnic violence. The experience brought his "terribly privileged" background into relief, and Barcott—along with Tabitha Atieno Festo, a nurse, and Salim Mohammed, a community organizer—launched a nonprofit to ferry resources to local leaders in the hopes that they could directly promote development and prevent violence. A year later, with CFK barely launched, Barcott was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and began an exhausting "balancing act" as he struggled to maintain oversight of CFK while deploying to Bosnia, Djibouti, and Iraq. The author's account of his military service is strained and riddled with inconsistencies: despite his desire "to lead Marines in combat," he angled for an intelligence billet; despite believing the Iraq war was "unjust,"' he volunteered to deploy. Barcott's service to Kibera and his country is laudable, but his memoir promises more insight and candor than it delivers. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2128 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 29, 2011)
  • Publication Date: March 29, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QO9656
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,171 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rye Barcott went to Kenya looking for answers to ethnic violence. What he found was a slum teeming with garbage, vermin, and .... talented people looking for opportunities. Anyone who has ever sought the answer to poverty, or a formula to promote development and empowerment, or pathways to peace, should read this book. Through warm friendships with people living in the slum, he was able to assist in the building of a community organization that serves thousands of children.

We, the reader, get a front page seat in this process, and also get a rare glimpse at what life is like living in brutal poverty, in a place where life is "nasty, brutish and short" and opportunities are desperately sought and grabbed like a lifeline when they appear.
But most inspiring is hearing the nuts and bolts of how an idealistic college student, and American Marine, was able to make this journey. Readers will never look at young adults the same way - like Rye, we are able to create amazing change if we have the courage and fortitude to work for it. Tabitha and Salim, the main characters in this story, become real to us, and show us how to transform our world.

If you have ever thirsted to get out of your comfort zone and enter a place usually forbidden to travelers and foreigners, read this book, and experience life in Kibera.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must preface with the disclaimer that I know Rye as a classmate and friend, had the privilege of being a small part of his journey, an advanced reader for the book, and have many parallels to his story (intimately familiar with developing countries having grown up there; war, dictatorship and a near-death experience shaped who I am; volunteered in a desperately poor part of the world; lead two lives in non-profit and startups). We co-wrote recently in the Harvard Business School newspaper, Amazon won't let me put a link here but you can google up "making a real difference harbus".

So take my words with sincerity -- I am somewhat overwhelmed but mostly inspired with Rye's ideas, perseverance and sacrifice. Rye completely overturns any stereotypes for me; here is an individual deeply grounded in a sense of duty and honor to humanity, who fought in Iraq, started a non-profit in Kenya serving a million people, and been a scholar at some of the finest universities in the world. Rye is indeed larger than life and he is making a large dent in the universe.

But the story is much bigger than him. Carolina for Kibera (CFK), the organization in Kenya, is truly a testament to what a small group of committed individuals can do. CFK is operating in one of the biggest slums in the world, in conditions that sap energy and require utmost dedication. It is fraught with problems that are perpetuated by the ignorance and passivity of our society. But it also showcases the best of humanity - a $26 loan was just what was needed so an entire community could find in itself the capacity to change. There are many more individuals in the slum who now have a chance to dream and fly. And there are millions like them in the world that just need a helping hand so they can lift themselves.
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Format: Hardcover
Rye Barcott's account of Iraq and his role as a Marine Corps captain is incredible. He lived "two lives" in parallel -- one as a military force in an unpopular war, and two as a youth leader trying to influence peaceful change in Nairobi, Kenya. His honesty and candor is refreshing; his leadership is rare. I hope that others can see how our country can influence positive change, support youth leaders and use our "force" in creative ways. Kibera is a place that represents much of the world today as a "mega slum city," and Rye's raw account of his first days and return days to Kibera help the reader understand the challenges, the spirit of the people, and how instrumental empowering local youth leaders is to "sustainable" change. All too often, large NGOs throw dollars at a local effort without the patience, and true integration with local leaders. Here, the concept of "participatory development" is illustrated in an optimistic, generation-changing, impactful way. The book and Rye's experience is unforgettable. Enjoy. (A great read for youth, teachers, business and government leaders.)
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Format: Hardcover
I would say the jacket praise overstates Barcott's case. The book doesn't come to any strong conclusions. I'm not sure the omission is stylistic. I think it's at least partly because Barcott is not done wrapping his head around the questions he raises.

This book is mostly an observation of Barcott's personal development over ten years of growing a successful international NGO from scratch. I'd be most likely to recommend it to an international development type.

The book starts with a string of quips that seem meant only to remind the reader that RYE BARCOTT SERVED IN THE MARINES. My first thought was, "Great, it's one of those." Thankfully, that stuff drops off after the first chapter.

Barcott means to establish a dilemma between military thinking and principles of humanitarian development:

"At that moment it hit me. "Vita vya takataka!" I exclaimed. That was what we were doing. It wasn't a cleanup. It was a "war on trash." ...Salim rolled his eyes. He wasn't thrilled with the use of the word war, and he was right. It was counterproductive to our higher aim of preventing violence. I was too embedded in Marine culture to even acknowledge the most egregious cases of my excessively military language (p. 169)."

However, he provides few specific examples to show how military culture is reinforced or maintained. The most revealing:

"I scaled the rope, slapped the wood beam, and sounded off with the word that accompanied our group exercises--"KILL."
It was a silly ritual, and saying it felt odd at first. But I took it for what it was. It was part of the acculturation into a service rooted in violence...
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