Ex-Marine to share journey of service, peace

Feb. 19, 2014

During a stay in a Kenyan slum, a 20-year-old future Marine who was preparing for war discovered a way to nurture peace.

Rye Barcott was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000 when he traveled to Kenya to spend half of his summer in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. He wanted to learn firsthand about ethnic conflict, something he knew he would face during his deployment.

What he discovered while living in Kibera changed his life – and the lives of thousands of others.

Barcott joined forces with a community volunteer and a nurse to form Carolina for Kibera. Today, the non-governmental organization supports a clinic, a center for young girls, a sports association and an education program reaching tens of thousands of people in Kibera.

The young humanitarian, social entrepreneur and author will deliver the Waights G. Henry Jr. Lecture at 7:30 p.m. March 3 at Callaway Auditorium.

Barcott's book "It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace" has been chosen as the freshman read for the 2014-15 academic year.

Dr. Sarah Beth Mallory, Associate Provost for General Education and Global Engagement, recommended Barcott after hearing the 35-year-old speak at a conference last summer.

"He captivated an audience of more than 8,000 people with his story of participatory development to relieve the suffering and violence in a Nairobi slum," she said. "Rye's compelling story about his college study-abroad experience where he partnered with local Kenyans to develop an amazing service project and then organized the funding arm when he returned to his campus will resonate with our students who often wonder what they can do to make a difference in the world."

Dr. Mallory said Barcott's concept of participatory development is important for students to understand.

"Rather than the service organization deciding what is needed and sending in supplies and/or volunteers to 'do for' those in need, participatory development allows those in need to take the lead in decisions, with supplies/volunteers equipped to 'do with' those they intend to serve," she said.

Underlying Barcott's story of his work in Nairobi is his five years as a Marine, serving in Iraq, Bosnia and the Horn of Africa, Dr. Mallory said.

"His military service to his country helped form his growing understanding of the various paths to peace or to hatred and continued violence. These are issues with which our students also struggle."

Barcott has master's degrees in business and public administration from Harvard University, where he was a Reynolds Social Entrepreneurship Fellow. He has been named a "Hero of Global Health" by Time magazine and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011. 

President Barack Obama appointed him to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2012 as a  representative of the veteran community.

Dr. Mallory called Barcott an inspiring speaker and role model for young people around the world.

"Overall, Rye is a young man whose record of authentic, impressive service to others and global understanding were part of his college experience," she said. "That is a goal we have for all of our students."

The Waights G. Henry Jr. Lecture series was established in 1990 by a gift from Joseph L. Lanier Sr., former chairman of the Board of Trustees of LaGrange College, in memory of the 20th president of the institution. Previous Henry speakers include Edwin Newman, Scott Carpenter and Jean-Michel Cousteau. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information about Barcott's visit and the Henry Lecture, contact Michele Raphoon by calling (706) 880-8429.

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