On Not Being Needed: Building a Model of Community Partnership

Betsy StewartBlog


Amanda, a doctor on the Alabaster 2015 team, teaches students first aid skills in the clinic.

For five years, Alabaster Mobile Clinic has been taking small teams of seven or eight people to Endonyolasho, a rural and isolated community near the Tanzanian border. The community was first identified by our Kenyan nonprofit partner, Girl Child Network. To their knowledge, only one other non-Kenyan aid team had every gone to the community. They went once.

By committing to Endonyolasho over a number of years, Alabaster has had the privilege to partner with the community in strengthening their health. This has taken shape in a number of ways.

Relationships with local health workers -- who see the needs of the community throughout the year -- have helped to identify ways that a visiting team can be most effective, and teach us how to provide culturally-relevant care.

Investing in health education for school teachers and youth interested in science and medicine mean that more people take ownership for healthcare and have a vision for how to improve health throughout the community.

Partnering to establish a bricks and mortar clinic has made basic care available to the community on a more regular basis and can help to address needs throughout the year. It also communicates to the entire community the importance of health and the dignity of physical wellness.

This year – five visits in and one year after launching the clinic building – our team saw fewer patients than in past years during its two-day clinic. Because the community is becoming healthier and empowered to care for themselves, Alabaster’s presence during its summer visit is less crucial.

For now, we continue to partner with the community until the clinic is fully functional. Current initiatives include ensuring it has a sustainable source of clean water, as well as fencing to keep it safe and a motorbike to transport the healthcare worker from a neighboring community, who will now visit once a week. But we foresee that, eventually, we won’t be needed there anymore.

That’s the whole point.