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 a widowed 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 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 the tools he learned building a community in one of the most fractured parts of Kenya and became a more effective counter-insurgent and peacekeeper.
It Happened on the Way to War is a true story of sacrifice and courage, the melding of military and humanitarian service, and what America's role in the world could be.
"Fast-paced yet nuanced, honest, and profound, It Happened on the Way to War is an ideal selection for university summer reading lists."—Molly Corbett Broad, President, American Council on Education
"Riveting. A beautifully written memoir that reads like a novel and reveals fundamental truths about good, evil, and our common humanity."—Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone
"Every American should read this remarkable book by a remarkable man who fought as a Marine in Iraq while waging battle against poverty and violence in one of the world's largest slums. Beautifully written, Barcott's 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 a small group of committed individuals, acting with courage, can make an enormous difference."—Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War
"A tremendous story of the power of friendship, love, and the transforming grace of God."—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
"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
"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 at Harvard Medical School; co-founder, Partners In Health
"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, United States Army, author of Dereliction of Duty
"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
"Gritty, powerful and profound."—Lisa Mullins, Anchor, "The World"
"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 No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
"This fascinating book is likely to change the way you view the world, and the impact you can make in it."—Mia Farrow, actress
"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 . . . memoir Barcott's service to Kibera and his country is laudable."—Publishers Weekly