This is What Reaching Isolated Communities Looks Like

Betsy StewartBlog

Alabaster team member and a local partner see a child for a checkup outside of the Endonyolasho Primary School at Alabaster's first clinic in the community, 2012

Alabaster started with a call to go to the furthest places. Kenya was certainly far from Alabaster’s base in the U.S., where Shannon, its founder, and most of its other leadership and team members are based.

But “far” meant more than the number of miles covered by plane. It was – and still is – about distance from the attention of society, and a gap in access to local healthcare resources.

So even after Shannon determined that Kenya would be its first country for outreach, connecting with the furthest communities required a process of discernment with local Kenyan partners. Girl Child Network, one of Alabaster’s original partners, had been investing in the school in Endonyolasho – a rural Maasai community with no medical care, no water, no electricity and no roads leading to it. Few westerners had ever visited, none had ever stayed the night. Even for many Kenyans, the community was unknown.

For Shannon, it sounded perfect.

In 2012, Shannon took Alabaster’s first team of five without having been there before or knowing what to expect. That adds layers of complexity when you plan medical clinics. How much clean water should they bring? What kinds of medicine would the community need? And where would the team sleep?

Alabaster's mobile pharmacy

That first year, the clinic was truly “mobile.” They set up outside of schoolrooms, using suitcases as make-shift pharmacies that held their medicines. Headlamps provided extra light when needed. At night, schoolrooms doubled as bedrooms, where the team laid out their sleeping bags and fumbled with mosquito nets.

But even more than learning how to run a clinic in a place like Endonyolasho, what Shannon and her team learned was that the community truly did need medical attention. Many school children had ringworm – an uncomfortable and highly contagious condition that’s easily treated with topical cream, and prevented through education.

Alabaster doctor checking the health of a woman brought to clinic in a wheelbarrow

And, in a story that’s been told many times in Alabaster’s short history, an old woman was brought in a wheelbarrow to the clinic, too feeble to walk herself. It was clear that the community valued the effort of Alabaster to come to them, and were more than willing to do their part to make sure their sick would receive care.

This is what confirmed to Shannon that Endonyolasho was the sort of place that Alabaster was meant for: a combination of need and dignity. Willingness to partner and an ability to meet halfway.


We're celebrating five years of visiting Kenya and building dignity, health and hope in rural Endonyolasho. Keep checking in for more of the story, which you have helped to make possible!