Board Treasurer Francis Kibet is Throwing Starfish Back into the Ocean 

Written by Wyatt Foster with insights from Francis Kibet and UNC APPLES Service-Learning students Olivia Pettis, Ellie Hornthal, and Alex Phillips 

If 100,000 starfish were washed up on the beach, would you take the time to throw one back into the ocean? What difference would it make? Wouldn’t 99,999 still be in trouble? Or would you take the chance and throw as many as your scarred hands could and time allowed? Francis Kibet would. “This is the story that drives me,” he shared. “Every individual can make a difference, even if that difference is only felt by one person.”

Discovering CFK Africa

Kibet has been involved with CFK Africa since 2013. An employee of Duke Energy, he learned of the organization through a staff book club when they read It Happened on the Way to War by CFK Africa co-founder Rye Barcott.  

“I’m thinking to myself, this guy is talking about Kenya. I’m from Kenya,” said Kibet. “After the meeting was over, I said, hey, let’s talk a little bit more about this thing called CFK.”   

After the book club meeting, Barcott and Kibet spoke about CFK Africa’s mission. In the coming years, Kibet became a strong ally and active participant in the organization. 

Kibet came to the United States in 2005 to complete his Master of Business Administration at Eastern New Mexico University after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi. But before his move, Kibet experienced first-hand the struggles of living in an informal settlement in Kenya, where he lived for a year and a half. 

“About six of us lived in a small ten by ten-foot room,” said Kibet. “There is no bedroom. It is just one bed with all these people trying to survive.” 

CFK Africa Board Directors Francis Kibet (right) and James Ndiang’ui (left) at CFK Africa’s Youth Friendly Services Center in Kibera.

A Commitment to Service

Kibet’s personal experience living with the challenges presented in informal settlements and commitment to giving back became his primary motivator for his more than a decade of work with CFK Africa.  

“I understand having to get water at 2 a.m. because the electricity goes off after three and you cannot get it until the following night,” Kibet said. “So, you have to get the tap water based on electricity available only for two hours. I understand the pain of being there.”  

In 2019, six years after meeting Rye Barcott, Kibet joined CFK Africa’s Board of Directors as Treasurer. In his role, he is responsible for ensuring the proper management of the organization’s funding and resources to support its programs and initiatives. Years later, he is still inspired by CFK Africa’s mission to provide an equal opportunity for success.

“At CFK Africa, we believe in one thing, that talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” Kibet said. “When you go to Kibera, for example, you have all these strong men and women being able to do things, but they do not have the opportunity to do it.” 

Collaborative Solutions

Kibet hopes that CFK Africa’s participatory development model will spread across the continent. This model is unique, as it involves collaboration with the leaders of these communities to create sustainable solutions to the unique challenges that they face. “Rather than coming in and making changes, CFK Africa says, ‘You live here— what do you need? How can we help?’ It’s not a handout— it’s a hand up” Kibet explained. 

While CFK Africa has faced challenges that come with working in informal settlements, it has remained a refuge for many during difficult times of political unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were there. We were available when the world was burning around them,” Kibet said. 

When asked how his perspective on Kenya has changed since moving to the US and working with CFK Africa, he shared his continued motivation for service. “I lived there,” he said. “I grew up there… You see it [poverty] every day. Being able to do something about it— that is the difference.”  

Francis Kibet threw a starfish back into the ocean. He did it because he cares about his community. He did it because he had lived in an informal settlement. He did it because he still cares about making a difference. 

Support CFK Africa’s work to provide opportunities for the talented residents of informal settlements by making a tax-deductible donation.   

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