“Lots to Do”: Reflections on Organizing 50+ Years of History

By Patricia Krause, ALDEA Advisor

Patricia Krause was first introduced to ALDEA’s work in Chimaltenango in 1970 when she and her husband Paul chaperoned Lutheran teenagers for a summer of volunteer work at the Behrhorst “hospitalito.” She served as U.S. Coordinator for ALDEA (then known as Behrhorst Partners for Development or BPD) from 1984-2000, then became chair of the BPD board until her 2006 retirement. In 2020 she became a founding member of the ALDEA Advisors and led the process of organizing the ALDEA archives, including the interactive history timeline at ALDEAGuatemala.org/our-history/.

Have you ever impulsively volunteered to do something and then wondered why you said, “Yes”? Did your head spin as you realized that you had possibly bitten off more than you could chew?  

That was my reaction to the enormity of the assignment to assess and organize our Behrhorst archives, the scope of Behrhorst beginnings and careful documentation of our stages and phases from the 1960s until today. 

“Pat, you’ll know what to do.” Where had I heard that before? Of course, it was Dr. Behrhorst’s repeated affirmation of his confidence in me, especially the early years of my coordinating U.S. support for the work in Chimaltenango. Now, I was hearing his voice once again! 

The first thing I did was ask for help. Current ALDEA board members, especially Gordon Starkebaum, joined me in the process. We dug into past files and resources books, brochures, videos, photos, and newsletters. We created the website timeline as our bare bones, a story brief enough for an elevator speech, but also able to be built on, expanded through linked-in resources.  

“Lots to Do” became the narrative of the archived materials. Again, back to Dr. Behrhorst. His mantra was, “There’s lots to do.” Often that would be followed by the invitation, “We need your help.”

I must say that the weeks and months of engagement in the archiving project made it so clear to me once more that Doc was a visionary whose compassion, creativity, and determination opened the doors for many of us, Guatemalans and gringos alike, to participate in the empowerment process.   

Archiving the efforts through the decades revealed to me again that I wasn’t the only one who Doc believed in when he said, “Pat, you’ll know what to do.” Doc had a way of trusting people to say “yes” to life’s opportunities. A lot has been accomplished as a result.

Doc set in motion a phenomenon that would undoubtedly astound him. He himself was able to experience the work in its glory, but also in its darkest, bleakest times. Especially after his death in 1990, there was a big question mark: “So now is that it? Is Behrhorst’s work finished?”   

Indeed, it continued, through the Chimaltenango Hospitalito and Clinic owned and operated by Guatemalans; through a revitalized village health promoter program after its near decimation during the Violence; through many partner programs which Doc and others helped create; through the ripple effect of many U.S. medical students and volunteers impacted through firsthand Behrhorst-Guatemala experiences; and, thankfully, through ALDEA.

ALDEA today is a blossoming of the seeds planted by Doc and others dedicated to the health, well-being and empowerment of the indigenous of Guatemala. We have been entrusted with a legacy. And, yes, there is still “Lots to Do.”