Three Unlikely Friends and the Birth of Carolina for Kibera
In the summer of 2000, Rye Barcott, Salim Mohamed, and Tabitha Festo met each other for the first time. Unlikely friends, this University of North Carolina undergrad, community organizer, and widowed nurse and mother of three all shared one desire: to spark change within Kibera.
Salim Mohamed co-founded and served as the Executive Director of CFK for eight years. He was involved in the development of MYSA, the largest youth sports program in Africa, at the age of 16. The British Council twice employed Salim as a consultant to help launch youth sports programs in Ghana and Nigeria. In 2002, he was nominated to serve on the Diversity for Peace Advisory Board with Nobel Peace Laureates Oscar Arias Sanchez, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and Norman Borlaug. He also serves as an advisor to the Global Education Fund, a program based in the U.S. and Kenya that provides educational scholarships for young women in Kenya and the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Centre in Kibera. Salim has been a facilitator for gatherings of young leaders organized by YES! since 2005. A TED Africa Fellow, Salim graduated from the University of Manchester with a Master’s Degree in Management and Implementation of Development Projects in 2010, and served as Ashoka’s East Africa Regional Representative until 2014. Now, he is currently an advisor to CFK and another organization in Kenya.
Tabitha Atieno Festo
Originally from Nyakatch village in Nyanza District of Western Kenya, Tabitha graduated from high school in Kisii District and became a certified nurse at Masaba Hospital. A widow and mother of four, she worked for years as a caretaker and nurse out of her home in Kibera. In 1998, after her position was terminated due to downsizing, Tabitha resorted to living in an abandoned vegetable stand in Toi Market on the outskirts of Kibera to support herself and her family. In July 2000, Tabitha, still jobless, approached Rye Barcott and requested money to start selling vegetables. Rye gave her the money, the equivalent of about US$26, and returned to America the next day. Tabitha sold vegetables in the Eastleigh District of Nairobi and accumulated daily savings in a local women’s micro-finance group. After six months, with over $130 in savings, Tabitha decided to follow her life-long dream of opening a medical clinic. She named her clinic Rye Medical Clinic and gave it the motto, “Sacrificing in Success.” The clinic has moved twice from its first location in a four-room sheet metal building, finding a permanent home in 2004. Under Tabitha’s guidance and management, services and staff expanded to include a laboratory and a home-based care program for people living with HIV/AIDS. Specializing in maternal health, the clinic became one of the few in Kibera to offer in-patient and out-patient primary care services to residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After Tabitha’s untimely death in December 2004, the clinic was renamed in her honor. In March 2009, after over two years of fundraising and construction, CFK celebrated the official opening of the new Tabitha Medical Clinic. A model for sustainable development in slums around the world, the new clinic unites both eco-friendly design and advanced medical services, continuing Tabitha’s dream of providing affordable, quality care for all Kiberans.
Rye Barcott co-founded CFK while he was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He compares the experience co-founding an NGO with military service in his first book, It Happened on the Way to War, which was acclaimed as a “wild ride” by Bono and “tremendous” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Reader’s Digest named it as one of the best non-fiction titles of the year in 2011, and many high schools and colleges have adopted it as summer reading. A TED Fellow, Rye speaks frequently to students and continues to volunteer with CFK by serving on its Board. He has also served on the Boards of NDI, World Learning, and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.