From his time in the Marines to his service and work in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Rye Barcott is no stranger to resistance or taking risks.
Monday night, Barcott spoke at LaGrange College in the Callaway Auditorium to hundreds of students, staff and community members about resistance faced in life and how to challenge it with great risk and great service.
Faced with the task of learning firsthand about ethnic conflict, Barcott journeyed to Kenya in 2000 where he spent six weeks. As audiences listened, he spoke of the people he met and the mutual impact they shared.
Barcott specifically spoke on the theme of resistance and his experience coming home from Kibera dealing with what he called “dual culture shock.” Upon coming home and joining the marines, Barcott told of his personal struggles.
“Something happen to me,” he said. “I encountered some tremendous external resistance and a little bit of internal resistance because I was having to transition between these two worlds that were really different from each other.”
After seeking advice from his mother, Barcott said by writing about those experiences, he started to process and discover what they really meant.
“Its not the uncertainty that counts, its how you deal with it,” he said.
During the writing stage, Barcott had a man named Salim Mohamed on his mind. Mohamedon inspired Barcott to start a non-profit organization led and ran by the Kibera locals. Through sports, specifically soccer, the organization would engage with the youth. This organization is Carolina for Kibera.
In what would be another path of resistance for Barcott, he needed $10,000 for the start-up and still needed to permission to take an unpaid three-month leave from the Marines.
“What in life worth anything is easy?” he asked.
Barcott stressed the importance of facing your challenges head on and willingness to take risks.
During his three-month return, Barcott said he learned about the “ethos of accountability and respect to others” and the importance of a concept he called participatory development.
Barcott brought it back full circle to finally understanding how to hold these two words together that he struggled heavily with earlier; the common theme being of service.
“Service makes you better… when you start focusing on others, you, yourself, become better,” he said.
Barcott challenged the crowd with his closing statement,
“Take risks in the service of others.”
Music Major at LaGrange College, Angela Hutchins, 20, was one the many students touched by Barcott’s story.
“I personally thought that it was really inspiring,” Hutchins said. “It’s great to hear about someone who goes out into the world and knows what he wants to do and really makes a difference … and actually be able to see that through and stick with it despite how difficult it is.”
Barcott wrote a book on his story titled, “It happened on the way to war: A marines path to peace,” which has been chosen as the book for LaGrange College freshman read of 2014-15 school year.
His organization supports a clinic, a center for young girls, a sports association and an education program servicing thousands in Kibera.
Barcott earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds a master’s degree in business and public administration from Harvard University.
He has been named “Hero Of Global Health” by Time magazine and was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Press Forum in 2011.