Hometown Hero: Dania Polanco-Hiraldo

Hometown Hero: Polanco-Hiraldo
Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 9:03 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There is a small town in the Dominican Republic called El Burro, which translated, means "the donkey.''

Dania Polanco-Hiraldo admits that she is stubbornly committed to her work there.

"I would say God and my family are the first priority,'' she said. "And then, this project is the second priority.''

The respiratory therapist, who has family in El Burro, is trying to have a health clinic built there to provide what is now basically non-existent medical care to its people.

It's a community of about 200 families, but thousands of people live in surrounding towns.

"The closest facility is 23 minutes away, and the bigger hospital is in the city, which is about 55 minutes away,'' said Hiraldo. "Most of the time, they don't have any health checks. They don't go to the dentist, they don't go to the doctor.''

Construction started last year, but only continues when free labor and donated materials are available.

So, in between two jobs and raising three children, Hiraldo has become the major force behind the effort, doing whatever she can, whenever she can.

"I did a car wash through the church I go to,'' she said. "And I sold butterbraid, which is like a pastry. And, I'm asking people to donate anything they can; clothes, medical supplies, money.''

She has been working on the project for three years, but became re-committed in March.

Hiraldo traveled to El Burro to bury her grandmother. While she was there, her grandfather became seriously ill.

"They put him in the vehicle, took him to the hospital, and on the way to the hospital, he passed away,'' said Hiraldo, whose grandfather died eight days after her grandmother. "This really attached me and pushed me forward to knock on every door, because I know if it happened to my grandfather, it can happen to somebody else, and it's something that can be prevented.''

This WTOC Hometown Hero has collected some donated medical supplies and has an active gofundme page to chip away at the $76,000 of material that will be needed.

While there is no deadline for completion, Hiraldo imagines what it will feel like to get this project done.

"It's going to feel,'' she says, "like there is a God that is always there for us.''

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