Monday, May 02, 2011

Review of "It Happened on the Way to War" by Rye Barcott

I have had the privilege of knowing author, Rye Barcott, for about half of the time that he has been the guiding light behind the remarkable organization, Carolina for Kibera. From the beginning, he struck me as an unusually gifted and passionate young man - combining a warrior's intensity with a level of empathy and passion for making the world a better place that one seldom finds. "It Happened on the Way to War" tells the story of how he developed these sensibilities, chronicling the people and events that have shaped the man and the organization that he continues to lead.

It Happened on the Way to War website

When Barcott was an undergraduate Naval ROTC student at the University of North Carolina, he spent part of a summer in Kenya. That summer forever changed him and forever altered the Kibera slum that reached out and grabbed his heart. Rye joined forces with Nurse Tabitha Atieno Festo, and a hardscrabble community organizer, Salim Mohamed. Together, this unlikely trio built an NGO that would develop a new generation of leaders from within one of Africa's largest and poorest slums.

The author is transparent is sharing some of the early, well-meaning mistakes that he made in figuring out how to respond to the overwhelming picture of poverty and hopeless that presented itself to him in Kibera. During his ten year pilgrimage of co-leading the organization with his African counterparts, Barcott has demonstrated great vision, resourcefulness and great humility. This book is his story - but it is also the story of the resilience of the Kenyans he has come to think of as extensions of his own family.

The history of Westerners trying to reach out to offer a helping hand to those in the developing world is rife with tales of "unintended consequences." What makes Carolina for Kibera and Barcott's book such an inspiring tale is that along the way, he and his team have incorporated lessons learned from small mistakes, so that they have largely avoided recapitulating errors of naivete or inadvertently applying remnants of colonial mentality. It is a given that Barcott sees his Kenyan colleagues as the true heroes of the story. He humbly narrates his passage through his studies at UNC, his times as a United States Marines Corps officers, his years as a graduate student at Harvard, and now his role as an executive with Duke Energy. The constant throughout all of his ten years of peregrinations is his passion for helping the residents of Kibera to learn to stand on the own feet and to help each other to succeed - through the building of a clinic that bears Tabitha's name, micro-finance initiatives, educational programs and sports tournaments.

This book is a "must read" for all who want to devote themselves to making a difference in the world - and doing it the right way.

For more information on Carolina for Kibera, I encourage you to visit the website:

Carolina for Kibera

Buy the book as a gift for those in your circle of influence who will be inspired to go forth and make their own mark in the world - like the mark that continues to be made by Rye Barcott and his team at Carolina for Kibera.



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