Sister Lenore Gibb: a miracle for Consuelo!
Published on November 3, 2018, in the newspaper Hoy
By Herminio Alberti León
It's 8 o'clock in the morning... Píndaro and Herminio pick up two of their friends photographers: Juan de los Santos ―who is currently recovering from achalasia, a medical condition that causes the esophagus to remain closed―, and Kutty Reyes... Together they will live one of the most rewarding experiences...
The previous day, Herminio had received “The Miracle of Consuelo", a compendium of the PhD thesis of Dr. Lenore Elmúdesi de Bancalari, who, with pride and gratitude, stated in her document that she expects the results of her research to be of relevance for national and international institutions, and for society in general...
“And, what do you think about it?" ―asks Píndaro―…"When someone leaves a legacy as valuable as this one, you have to go to the source where it came from, and... that's why we're going to Consuelo!”
After 45 minutes traveling east, while turning towards Hato Mayor a sign surprises them: ‘Welcome to Batey Consuelo’... About five blocks into the town, some buildings display signs that read: ‘Escuela Divina Providencia’ [Divine Providence School]... Entering, on their left a trailer of a telephone company tells them that technology has already set foot there... On the right, a Dominican flag welcomes them and allows them to see a bust that reads: Sor Ana Nolan...
A few meters ahead, they were welcomed with a smile and an invitation to sit in comfortable mahogany rocking chairs, these are the preamble of one of the most rewarding moments of their lives... It’s Sister Lenore Gibb!... “On a September 3, 1958, I was invited by my superior to come from Canada to this country... Sister Ana Nolan and Sister Susana came along with me to Yamasá... After three years, we had already formed about 70 students and our congregation is still there”, says Sister Lenore.
However, the ordinance to settle in a place called ‘Batey Consuelo’ would be the beginning of the sixty most spiritually fruitful years of their lives... “At the beginning, we found three groups: the cocolos, the Dominicans, and the Haitians,” she says. It was very difficult ... No Dominican teacher could stand teaching more than a year here... Frequent fights with chains, stones, and knives were the order of the day... Then, we set a challenge for ourselves: to create harmony among the three groups that lived there!... For this, two fundamental things helped us: sports, and music!”
“When we reached 700 students, Sister Ana Nolan ―who was a Bulldozer―, went directly to three government institutions: Public Works, to get the plans and the budget; the State Sugar Council, to get the land; and to the Ministry of Education... In the first two, the doors were opened for them immediately, but in the latter they were questioned: ‘Where will you put that palace you want to build?’... ‘In the sugar mill Consuelo’―she answered―... The reaction: ‘No, no, no ... That has to be built in the capital, in San Pedro, or at least on the highway but not in a batey... Well... We could put a type of arbor structure with open air and sunlight’... Sor Nolan's strong response came swiftly: ‘I believe that the children from those bateyes deserve the same consideration and the same respect as any other Dominican child’... And... She got the school!”
“Once, in light of a teacher’s complaint about a fight between a Dominican and a cocolo, I suggested to the boys to go under a tree and settle their differences... After a while, both came back and said: ‘we became friends’... And how did you do it? ―I asked― ... ‘Holding hands and promising each other to never fight again!’... The next day, the father of the cocolo came to me and said: ‘Sister, what you are teaching us is that, deep inside, we are one’... As a result of that incident, a teacher descendant of cocolos ―the great Miguel Phipps― who found out about the details, wrote ‘Consuelo Mío’, a piece which later, with the music of Jesús Manzanillo, would become the Hymn of Consuelo.”
While Sister Lenore was walking with us through the town and showing us the workshops, the building of the Cultural Center ―which still waits for donations in order to be completed―, the Nursing Home for the Elderly, and the little house where this dream was born, the people revered her with an impressive respect, while our friend Juan de los Santos expressed that his ailments seemed as if they were almost disappearing as he listened in awe to her words... “The result of our effort is that all the teachers of the School District 0506 came from groups of graduates of this educational model that we implement, and they also educate the parents of the community, guiding them on how to treat their boys, their families... We have 7 elementary schools with 4,245 students, 5 high schools with 2,744 students, 13 schools in the bateyes with 1,184 students, 4 private schools with 538 students... This gives us an amazing total of 8,711 current students, of the Consuelo Educational Model! "
“Sister Lenore, where did the support for this project originate from? ―asks Píndaro―, to what she responds without hesitation and full of gratitude: “Don Gustavo Tavares! ... A sponsor, friend, benefactor... A man who had the intention of doing something for public education throughout the country and who, with his commitment, started EDUCA... With this educational project, we want to sow the seed that will always remind us that a teacher is the right arm of progress and happiness in the country. And that we should treat students with justice and affection, but we must demand the best from them!”
And Píndaro adds: “The miracle of Consuelo must be emulated and perpetuated in time!"