our history

For more than fifty years, ALDEA has partnered with indigenous Guatemalans to strengthen communities and enhance the health and well-being of families. Please read on to learn more about the profound and lasting legacy of Dr. Carroll Behrhorst in Guatemala.

1959: Dr. Carroll Behrhorst travels to Guatemala as a Lutheran medical missionary and is stationed in Antigua, Guatemala.

1962: Dr. Behrhorst founds a vitally needed medical program in the department of Chimaltenango Guatemala for the Kaqchikel Maya, the Behrhorst Clinic and “Hospitalito,” it will grow into a creative center for health and development activities, pioneering an array of village-based interventions.

1967: The Behrhorst Clinic Foundation, Inc. incorporates in the U.S. to provide financial support for health and development projects in Guatemala inspired by Dr. Behrhorst’s vision.

1975: Behrhorst’s Chimaltenango program is cited by the World Health Organization as one of ten models worldwide for effective work among the rural poor.

1976: Chimaltenango is the epicenter of a devastating earthquake which destroys half of the Clinic infrastructure. The quake-proof Hospitalito serves as a center of emergency care for hundreds of people.

1980: Guatemalan leadership and ownership of the Chimaltenango program assured through the incorporation of the Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation.


Open war between the army and various leftist guerrilla factions fighting for power escalates. Behrhorst maintains neutrality to be able to continue to provide basic health care. Even so, over two-thirds of Behrhorst-trained health promoters disappear or are killed. Medical staff at the Behrhorst Clinic are also murdered or declared missing, while Dr. Behrhorst receives death threats and is forced to flee the country. The violence disrupts health care work and health conditions worsen. Guatemala suffers as a country of “widows and orphans.”

Dr. Behrhorst moves with his family to New Orleans and begins teaching in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University while making frequent trips to Guatemala.

1986: First Behrhorst Study Tour travels to Guatemala to visit rural villages and meet Behrhorst leaders.

1990: Dr. Behrhorst dies of natural causes in May while working at the clinic.

1993: A NEW DAWN IN GUATEMALA: TOWARD A WORLDWIDE HEALTH VISION, edited by Richard Luecke, is published, documenting the Behrhorst story and its impact around the world.

1995: As the Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation approaches its goal of becoming a self-sustaining program, the U.S.-based Behrhorst Clinic Foundation, Inc. becomes Behrhorst Partners for Development (BPD), expanding its mission to support many important Guatemalan programs.

1997: BPD continues to grant project funds to the Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation and runs a special 30th anniversary campaign for a Birthing Center at the Hospitalito.

2001: Together with the Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation, BPD launches a rural health program to decrease child and maternal mortality in villages in the municipality of San Martin Jilotepeque. Working with communities, local government and other non-profit organizations, they address the root causes of infant and maternal mortality, gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses.

2004: BPD installs its first potable water system in the community of Los Jometes, San Martín Jilotepeque.

2005: The Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation becomes a provider for SIAS, the rural health program of Guatemala’s Ministry of Health, for the municipalities of Acatenango and Yepocapa. BPD refocuses its work in San Martin Jilotepeque to complement, rather than duplicate, the SIAS services there.

2006: BPD and the Carroll Behrhorst Guatemalan Development Foundation end their formal partnership, with the local leaders of the Foundation taking full ownership and management of the Clinic and Hospitalito. The now independent Behrhorst Clinic continues to provide direct medical care in Chimaltenango, while BPD focuses on health and development work in the villages. BPD establishes a formal Guatemalan “sister” organization, ABPD (Asociación Bienestar Progresso Desarrollo), to do the work on the ground in Guatemala, including continued development work in San Martin Jilotepeque and expanding to the municipality of Patzún.

2012: BPD and ABPD adopt a new strategic focus and plan. They commit to applying their low-cost, well-tested health interventions to one overarching goal: the significant reduction of chronic childhood malnutrition in partner villages within Santa Apolonia and Patzún

2015: Behrhorst Partners for Development officially changes its name to ALDEA: Advancing Local Development through Empowerment and Action.

2017: ALDEA celebrates its 50th anniversary with reunion events in Guatemala and the release of It Takes a Village, a documentary about ALDEA’s work produced by the Visionaries Public Television Series.

2018: ALDEA and ABPD engage in an appreciative inquiry process with their Mayan community partners to develop a new five-year joint strategic plan, emphasizing that the process of working together to address chronic childhood malnutrition enables community members to improve their capacity for taking on further development challenges in the future. Partnerships with the municipalities of Tecpán and Comalapa begin.