In January 2022, the Board of ALDEA’s sister organization in Guatemala, ABPD, elected Jonathan Maupin as President. Jonathan previously served as ALDEA Vice President and is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. His election follows the term end of Patricia O’Connor, who was the ABPD President for three years.
I have a deep personal connection to both ALDEA and ABPD through my grandfather, Dr. Carroll Behrhorst, who founded the Behrhorst Clinic in Chimaltenango in the 1960s. Having come to Guatemala as a medical doctor, he soon recognized that genuine change needs to come through a process of empowering communities to identify and address their own health needs.
As a U.S.-based funding organization, ALDEA has supported programming built on this philosophy for nearly 60 years. As ALDEA’s sister organization, ABPD was established in 2006 and is recognized locally as continuing the Behrhorst legacy, which provides a lot of legitimacy and trust in rural communities. As a medical anthropologist focused on community health and Maya studies, being involved with ABPD allows me to apply my professional knowledge to continuing the work my grandfather started, and I am honored to serve in the role of President.
This a crucial time for ABPD. Navigating the pandemic over the past two years has been incredibly difficult. Our work in communities has had to stop and restart at various points due to travel restrictions and safety concerns. Our staff have been challenged to develop new ways to engage with community members and continue implementing programs with little in-person contact. In 2021 we suffered the loss of Josué Maldonado, who ran our New Masculinities program.
We also recognize that COVID-19 has reshaped communities throughout Guatemala and has had an enormous impact on rural populations. More than 850,000 Guatemalans have suffered from COVID-19, and over 18,000 have lost their lives. We know that hunger and acute malnutrition rates increased in 2020 as a result of employment loss and inability to travel, but the long-term health impacts of these economic events remain unclear. While the factors that contributed to malnutrition and poor health prior to COVID-19 still exist, and in many cases are worse, there are new challenges that need to be addressed. For example, schools in Guatemala were physically closed for nearly two years, meaning a loss of education and opportunities, and further exacerbating the gaps between urban and rural populations. Climate change is increasingly impacting agricultural yields and fueling natural disasters, and COVID-19 variants continue to pose a threat.
ABPD and ALDEA are now beginning the process of developing our next strategic plan, and my goal is to take advantage of this opportunity to critically evaluate our program and identify best practices for moving forward in a new, constantly changing landscape while maintaining the core philosophy that has guided this work for over 50 years.