ECS founder Chingmak was working as a pastor in a church in Tuensang, during this time his wife and co-founder Phutoli would keep nudging his conscience to quit his pastoral work and do something constructive for his own community.
An incident that happened around this time reinforced Phutoli's suggestions. A woman had nothing at home to feed her baby. She left the baby at home to get rice. She had no money, so she went to catch some fish and sell it to buy rice. However, by the time she bought the rice and came back home, her baby had taken her last breath. She couldn't accept the fact that her baby was no more. "How could you die when your mother had gone to get food for you?" she kept crying.
This incident shook Chingmak and he started questioning everything. Why should someone have to go so far for a kilo of rice? We were a society that believed in sharing and caring. Still, nobody cared for her. Why couldn't the church arrange rice for her? Why not the neighbours? He felt that people had become immune to death. It was one funeral Chingmak found extremely difficult to perform as a pastor. Overwhelmed with the guilt he started questioning social dynamics and systems. Finally, he decided that there was a dire need to respond to what was happening around him.
In 1992, in response to the situation, Chingmak and Phutoli started Hope Centre, a rehabilitation home. The Eleutheros Christian Society (ECS) was established in 1993 with the objective of empowering the vulnerable and the oppressed marginal communities with a special focus on children and women in a bid to usher in a desired change and transformation.
Between 1993 and 1997, ECS’ major activities were focused on the problem of drug abuse and rehabilitation of the affected youth. People’s understanding of healthcare was almost non-existent. There were misconceptions about healthcare, and people preferred traditional practices over modern medicine.
People in the region used to think, if they have a goitre or any such underlying grave disease, there is nothing one can do about it. Chingmak realized that the battle would most likely be temporary if primary healthcare status was not improved. So he set up a primary healthcare facility for the community with support from Tata Trusts. This was gradually followed by many development projects which developed organically on a needs basis while working together with the community.
Over the past 27 years, ECS has worked collectively along with the people on a Communitisation model of equal participation and accountability in all their projects thereby building a sense of purpose and ownership among its communities. This has led to almost 3 decades of ushering a behaviour change in the region in all walks of life be it improving health indicators particularly among women and children, improving livelihood opportunities through sustainable livestock rearing and farming practices, empowering and educating the community on their rights and enhancing sanitary living conditions among the people of the region.
The concept of Communitisation was introduced in 2002-03 and after the enactment of the Nagaland Communitisation Act on public institutions and services the same year, the government in phases handed over ownership and management of education, health care, water supply, electricity, tourism, and biodiversity conservation to the communities. ECS was one of the pioneer organizations in Nagaland that worked on this model.
ECS is based in Eastern Nagaland and currently implements its projects in five districts of the state, namely Tuensang, Noklak, Kihpire, Mon, and Longleng.