Dr. Carroll Behrhorst

ALDEA Founder

“The point of (our work) is to seek measures that create and activate a community, rather than leave it passive and waiting. Real change requires patience and commitment.”

Dr. Carroll Behrhorst graduated from Washington University Medical School. After private practice in the United States, he went to Guatemala where he established a many faceted medical program to serve the rural Kaqchikel Maya of the Guatemala Highlands.

In 1962, Dr. Behrhorst founded the Behrhorst Clinic and Hospital, a health and development center, in Chimaltenango. The Clinic also served as the headquarters and training school for a comprehensive community health care program that reached tens of thousands of Kaqchikel Maya. Dr. Behrhorst’s approach combining health and community development was selected in 1975 by the World Health Organization as a model for effective community development programs. The program’s concept of helping people on their own terms has proved its worth for decades.

Carroll Behrhorst died in Chimaltenango in May 1990 and was carried on the shoulders of the Kaqchikel to a long-chosen burial site in Chimazat, the birthplace of his wife, Alicia Nicolás de Behrhorst.

“Carroll Behrhorst was a healer of many extreme schisms: between the science of medicine and the art of medicine; between medicine and health; between professionals and people; between people’s dependency and people’s self-reliance; between passive community participation and active community involvement; between science and faith; between sympathy and empathy, and many others.”

- Halfdan Mahler
Director General Emeritus of the World Health Organization

Dr. Behrhorst’s Philosophy

Health has many facets–economic, social, political and cultural–which differ from community to community. Any of these may surface when an understanding of a health problem is being considered.

It is less than adequate to depend on outreach programs and service schemes if their guiding policy is not an empowering process. This means making use of physical, economic, social, political and cultural capacities in addressing problems.

Great allotments of time, paper, food and jet fuel have been expended in development efforts, often with little lasting effect. Clean water and malaria control may help diminish disease but do not in themselves furnish the tools and procedures for building a health promoting society. Genuine development requires creative, participatory processes that encourage self-reliance and a balanced sharing of available resources. Again, the fundamental goal is empowering the poor.

Progress takes time. Programs formulated by those seeking quick, measurable results seldom live up to expectations. Real change requires patience and commitment.