Exiled Guatemalan who started Florida refugee nonprofit dies

MIAMI — An exile from Guatemala's past civil war who co-founded a Florida organization mentoring Indian refugee children and connecting pregnant women to doctors has died at 53.

Policarpia Gaspar's family says she battled leukemia for three years.

Gaspar started the Guatemalan Maya-Center with a priest and drove pregnant women to doctor visits to help interpret medical orders. The Lake Worth, Florida, nonprofit now serves 1,000 families monthly.

Known as Polly, Gaspar and her husband also began a Saturday mentoring program to help refugee children with little academic background and limited English, speaking Guatemala's indigenous languages.

A daughter of peasant farmers, Gaspar and her family fled Guatemala in 1980, when the government destroyed villages attempting to root out guerrillas. Thousands of Guatemalans settled in Florida.

Gaspar died last week and was buried Wednesday.

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