Pioneers Post
features
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  • user warning: UPDATE command denied to user '408302_semagad'@'10.187.244.35' for table 'cache_filter' query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>&ldquo;At the end of the day, there&rsquo;s no shortage of things to care about &ndash; don&rsquo;t think you have to go to a slum community half way round the world,&rdquo; says Rye Barcott, a former US Marine and co-founder of Kenyan-based NGO, Carolina for Kibera (CFK), as we talk at the staff lunch table at Matter&amp;Co.</p>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">That was his route &ndash; with a tour of duty in the Horn of Africa, Bosnia and Iraq in between &ndash; but there are countless other routes.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;Ask yourself: what is it in life that you give damn about, what matters to you? Then throw yourself into it, confront those fears. You don&rsquo;t have to wait for wealth or status to make an impact. You can do it, and you can do it now, whether you&rsquo;re a college student in Britain or the US &ndash; or you&rsquo;re a 34-year old widow with three kids, who&rsquo;s HIV-positive and living in one of the largest slums in the world.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Barcott is referring to Tabitha Atieno Festo &ndash; &ldquo;in many ways the heroine of my life&rdquo;, he says &ndash; an unemployed nurse he met on his initial trip to Nairobi&rsquo;s vast (and Africa&rsquo;s largest) slum, Kibera, when he was a university student in 2000. He was there to interview Kibera&rsquo;s youth about ethnic violence and its roots. Tabitha had tipped him off that local thugs were planning to attack him, which established a bond of trust between them. At the end of his first trip, he bumped into Tabitha again and she told him to listen to her story of hardship. She ended it by saying she was looking for 2,000 shillings ($26) to establish a business selling fruit and vegetables. Barcott gave her the money and didn&rsquo;t imagine he&rsquo;d see her again.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Barcott visited Kibera again the following year to look into setting up a sports-based organisation to reduce ethnic tensions. Again, by chance, he bumped into Tabitha in the sordid slum and she excitedly led him by the hand to a ramshackle compound with tin walls. On it was written &ldquo;Rye Medical Clinic&rdquo;. Tabitha had transformed his investment into a small, 24-hour health clinic that delivered babies and treated locals with infections and machete wounds.&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Ten years on, under the leadership of Tabitha (who died in 2004 from AIDS-related complications) and community organiser, Salim Mohamed, and the financial support of CFK and other organisations, the re-named Tabitha Clinic now employs local doctors and its dozens of staff and volunteers treat over 45,000 people a year. The centre also organises community-based projects for Kibera&rsquo;s youth, including a sports association, girls&rsquo; centre and a waste management programme.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Recalling that pivotal discussion with Tabitha, Barcott says: &ldquo;All I did was to give a small sum of money to someone who should have been able to access it otherwise. Tabitha had the plan and there was conviction in her voice. I was attracted to the dignity and strength of who she was.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">It&rsquo;s unsurprising then that CFK&rsquo;s motto is &#39;Talent is universal; opportunity is not&#39;. &ldquo;Tabitha would be the first person to emphasise that while her story is somewhat unique in Kibera, her situation is not,&rdquo; says Barcott. &ldquo;There are thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of Tabithas in Kenya, and there are hundreds of thousands of Tabithas around the world in informal settlements &ndash; where a sixth of the world&rsquo;s population live &ndash; like Kibera.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Barcott is passing through the UK to promote his book, <em>It happened on the way to war: a Marine&rsquo;s path to peace</em>, which chronicles his experiences of juggling careers as a social entrepreneur and a US Marine Intelligence officer. It&rsquo;s my first interview with someone who&rsquo;s served as a Marine and, as I expected, Barcott&rsquo;s handshake is rock solid. His eye contact is unrelenting, and he speaks articulately and confidently &ndash; and passionately.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Passionately about participatory development, which is what CFK is all about.&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;The heart and soul of why CFK has existed for 10 years and is sustainable is because it&rsquo;s not only directed by local community leaders, but there is a sense of ownership of the organisation within the community. It&rsquo;s not seen as a <em>muzungo</em> [white person] thing &ndash; it&rsquo;s <em>their</em> thing,&rdquo; says Barcott.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">In the acknowledgement section of his book, he writes: &ldquo;There are Tabithas and Salims in every struggling community, and there is no shortage of work to be done in Kibera. The future of fighting poverty and preventing violence lies in the hands of those who experience it everyday. That&rsquo;s the essence of participatory development. With long-term investment in local leadership, communities will transform themselves.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Having served in a military that continues to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, and which is more often associated with imperialism, de-development and destruction by most in the developing world, it seems odd hearing such words from this former Marine.&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">As the book&rsquo;s title suggests, a theme throughout Barcott&rsquo;s story is what he describes as &ldquo;the inherent contradictions of waging peace while fighting war.&rdquo; But Barcott asserts that his training as a Marine largely shaped his path to becoming a social entrepreneur in development work and equipped him with many important qualities.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;When I look at some of the things the Marines instilled in me,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;I go back to core values such as integrity, courage &ndash; less physical courage, more moral courage, of taking a stand and saying &lsquo;I don&rsquo;t agree with this&rsquo; when something&rsquo;s wrong. And there are some larger cultural attributes of the military and Marine Corps in particular. There&rsquo;s a particular phrase I&rsquo;m fond of which is &lsquo;improvise, adapt and overcome&rsquo; and we applied this a lot in Kibera: have a broad sense of the mission, be ready for the setbacks that come along and continue to manoeuvre towards that larger objective.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">There is a humorous instance in the book where Barcott sees an unlikely parallel between his military and development work experiences: &ldquo;At the heart of it,&rdquo; he writes, &ldquo;both fund-raising and interrogation were about persuasion, the art and skill of convincing people to do things they wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise do. There was an element of manipulation in both worlds that felt uncomfortable.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">But there are also fundamental differences required to make participatory development work, Barcott says.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Whether its working to overcome social and economic obstacles and injustice in deprived urban communities in the West or in the developing world, &ldquo;it needs to be driven by [the local people&rsquo;s] actual needs, and the only way to do that is the hard work of going out and actually listening and forming relationships,&rdquo; says Barcott. &ldquo;In the US, that skill of listening is not one of our strong suits. And that&rsquo;s particularly true of the military,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re typically there for short durations and the impetus is to get clear, measurable results very quickly and, in general, de-emphasise the role that relationships play in any meaningful social change.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">A number of social enterprises dedicated to sustainable development in developing countries often have, as businesses, a precarious element that can easily undermine the organisation&rsquo;s goals and viability &ndash; for instance, UK-based Zaytoun, which sells Palestinian fair trade olive oil, has to factor in the impediments and restrictions caused by Israel&rsquo;s occupation of Palestine, which could adversely affect production costs and product availability/supplier trust. Zaytoun&rsquo;s unique product and politically loyal clientele can cushion these issues to a degree. Similarly, Kibera is subject to ethnic fault lines, which routinely flare up in violent, deadly clashes that can undo CFK&rsquo;s work. I ask whether this threatens the organisation&rsquo;s potential and future growth, with Western donors re-thinking whether their money will be donated in vain.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;My response when folks push back &ndash; and it&rsquo;s very valid for them to do that &ndash; is that they&rsquo;ve got the timeframe wrong,&rdquo; says Barcott. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re thinking of it in our world of Blackberries and iPhones, with instant messages, of having a solution in a few months or even a few years when, at the end of the day, the systemic change can, and must, come from within. The best way to do this is by taking small amounts of resources and investing them directly into talented young people who eschew these old notions of tribalism and self-enrichment [ie corruption] that have contributed so substantially to the serious problems that Kenya faces and propel the violence in many cases.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;That&rsquo;s the optimist in me,&rdquo; Barcott says with a flash of laughter. &ldquo;And it&rsquo;s hard not to be. When you&rsquo;ve seen it first-hand, you see how remarkable people who don&rsquo;t have much opportunity can make transformative effects in their own lives and the lives in their communities with very scarce resources &ndash; sometimes as small as &pound;15.&rdquo;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">CFK is a pioneer of participatory development and is now supporting other local organisations to get off the ground in Kibera, using the knowledge and networks that they&rsquo;ve grown over the past decade. The organisation was hailed &nbsp;a &lsquo;Hero of Glocal Health&rsquo; by <em>Time</em> magazine and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2005, and in 2006 then Senator Obama and his wife, Michelle, visited the centre, their first stop in Nairobi.&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Barcott left the military after six years&rsquo; service and then earned a Master&rsquo;s degree in business and public administration from Harvard University as a Reynolds Social Entrepreneurialship Fellow. He lives with his wife and daughter in North Carolina. He remains, as he started, a volunteer with CFK.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Barcott now works for Duke Energy on their renewable energy business development. &ldquo;I went the company route because the most interesting solutions to the problems we face will be at these intersecting points between the private, non-profit and government sectors,&rdquo; says Barcott, &ldquo;and I&rsquo;d like to have a career that blends the best practices of those.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">So what&rsquo;s next for social entrepreneur in him, I ask.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&ldquo;Ideally I would like to be able to start a business in North Carolina that&rsquo;s related to energy and the environment in the next few years.&rdquo; Renewable energy&#39;s &quot;wide-ranging social and economic ramifications&quot;&nbsp; appeal to him.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Having already racked up a long and impressive list of experience, honours and awards, at just 32 years of age Barcott seems set to continue putting both talent and opportunity to remarkable, positive effect.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">We await the next instalment.</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\"><em>It happened on the way to war: a Marine&rsquo;s path to peace</em></div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1-4088-2431-3</div>\n<div>\n<div id=\"cke_pastebin\">&pound;12.99 (part of the proceeds go to CFK)</div>\n</div>\n', created = 1472519474, expire = 1472605874, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:52c9b08f0e828a2e808a6090ab40b6f9' in /mnt/stor2-wc1-dfw1/408302/www.socialenterpriselive.com/web/content/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
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  • user warning: UPDATE command denied to user '408302_semagad'@'10.187.244.35' for table 'cache_filter' query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><strong>&lsquo;Talent is universal; opportunity is not&rsquo;. Rye Barcott, a social entrepreneur and former US Marine, has made this adage the motto of Carolina for Kibera (CFK), a development organisation that he co-founded in Africa&rsquo;s largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. He dropped by Matter&amp;Co to share his story of how his donation of $26 to Tabitha, an HIV-positive widow with a plan and determination, has been transformed, 10 years on, into an organisation that provides medical treatment over 45,000 people each year.</strong></p>\n', created = 1472519474, expire = 1472605874, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:3069b179f9850b6f3a74b7b5dd810200' in /mnt/stor2-wc1-dfw1/408302/www.socialenterpriselive.com/web/content/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
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Soldier of good fortune

17 August 2011

‘Talent is universal; opportunity is not’. Rye Barcott, a social entrepreneur and former US Marine, has made this adage the motto of Carolina for Kibera (CFK), a development organisation that he co-founded in Africa’s largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. He dropped by Matter&Co to share his story of how his donation of $26 to Tabitha, an HIV-positive widow with a plan and determination, has been transformed, 10 years on, into an organisation that provides medical treatment over 45,000 people each year.

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