Rye Barcott

It happened on the way to war: A Marine’s Path to Peace

Rye Barcott

Rye Barcott encourages people to make a difference and spread peace. Photo by Kathryn Funderburk.

War and peace are two words that many people don’t associate or use together in the same sentence.  It was on the way to war a former U.S. Marine decided to make a difference and fight for peace.

Last Thursday in Dina’s Place, Rye Barcott, author of “It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace,” shared his story of change with Winthrop students.

“Change can only happen if it is driven from within,” Barcott said. “I joined the military because I wanted to make a difference.”

From the moment Barcott started his undergraduate degree, he knew he wanted to go into the military. While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he took classes that would prepare him for military services. Barcott took several Anthropology courses.

“There is only so much you can understand from a book. You have to put yourself in the environment,” Barcott said.

Barcott talked to one of his professors and she reached out to a contact she had in Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.  He then set out to Kibera to do research and learn about the people that lived there.

“I rented a 10-by-10 shack for $13 a month,” Barcott said. “I became completely overwhelmed by the defecation.”

Kibera is a slum with over 100,000 people living in man-made tin shake while human defecation fills the streets.

There are as many as 13 people living in one shack.

While in Kibera, Barcott desperately wanted to make a difference but didn’t know where to start.

“I didn’t know where to begin other than fall back on the first advice. Which is listen and be as authentic as possible,” Barcott said.

He then set out and talked to the local people, but some questioned his motives, such as Salim Mohamed, who is credited as a co-founder of Carolina For Kibera (CFK).

Barcott recalled Mohamed saying, “Mista, what the hell are you doing here? You are going to do research here but what are you going to do for the local community?”

These words did not sit well with Barcott. He realized that most people in the community didn’t know about non-government organizations (NGOs) or felt that they didn’t connect to the community.

“Talent is universal, but opportunities are not,” Barcott said.

After spending six weeks in Kibera, Barcott returned to the U.S. to complete six weeks of training in officer training school for the U.S. Marines.

“My military work was always first,” Barcott said.

Barcott ended up completing officer training school at the bottom of his class.

After completing his officer training, he returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to complete his undergraduate degree.

“During my senior year of college, I was experiencing dual culture shock from officer training school and Kibera,” Barcott said. “At times I felt like my head was split in two.”

With the people of Kibera on Barcott’s mind, he decided to set out and make a difference.

While in the U.S., he raised money to start his own NGO. It was not easy at first, but he eventually came up with enough money to start what is now Carolina for Kibera.

To get the full essence and understanding of Barcott’s story of how he found peace, you will just have to read his book.

“It happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace” can be found in the Winthrop Bookstore.

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