Naga Republic News
Noted social worker from Nagaland Dr Chingmak Chang, who runs the Tuensang district based NGO called Eleutheros Christian Society (ECS), was the recipient of the prestigious A. Kevichusa Citizenship Award.
The award, which recognizes the ideals of a good citizen, has been instituted by the Kevichusa Foundation, a charitable foundation of the family of A. Kevichusa, who was himself an illustrious Naga citizen.
Rev Dr Chingmak Chang speaking at the award event held at Dimapur on November 24
Described as a ‘living treasure of Nagaland’ for his incredible work at the grass roots, Chingmak Chang received a citation, an engraved medallion and cash prize of 3 lakh rupees during an event on November 24 at Dimapur which also coincided with the Chalie Kevichusa Memorial Lecture.
Chingmak hails from Tuensang and belongs to the Chang tribe. He is married to Phutoli, whom he met while pursuing theology in Pune and they together run the award winning Eleutheros Christian Society. Eleutheros in Greek means, to free someone from poverty. Since its founding in 1993, ECS has done some incredible work with drug addicts, AIDS patients, women, education and basic rights.
Chingmak explained that while working as a pastor in a church in Tuensang, his wife would cajole him to quit his pastoral work and do something constructive for his own community. Chingmak recalled, “Phutoli kept nudging my conscience to do something more meaningful for the community.”
An incident that happened around this time reinforced Phutoli’s suggestions. According to the story, 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 had 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 digest 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 me. I 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?’ I felt that people had become immune to death.”
It was one funeral Chingmak found extremely difficult to perform as a pastor. He was overwhelmed with 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.
The work of Chingmak Chang and Eleutheros Christian Society
A child’s funeral that Chingmak Chang had to conduct as a pastor, led him to take up pioneering social work in healthcare, education and livelihoods in the eastern districts of Nagaland, despite a hostile environment
Successfully involved church in overcoming stigma attached to HIV / AIDS infections and in rehabilitating those affected
Implements a successful public-private healthcare model with active community participation
Surgery camps conducted twice a year improve the quality of life of hundreds of patients
Revived the traditional morung schools that taught youth life skills, paving way to more students opting for higher education, besides a new education bill that was passed by the government in 2002
While sharing his thoughts after receiving the A. Kevichusa Citizenship Award, Chingmak gave some interesting insight into how the Church and bureaucracy, contrary to popular impression of them as insensitive and corrupt, was actually very supportive of the work done by the ECS. He also revealed that they never gave bribes to get projects or aid.
It may be mentioned that Chingmak is respected for his integrity, especially his financial transparency. According to a report in the media, when asked about his fundraising methods, he said, “If you are honest and open with money, it will somehow follow you. You don’t have to go after it, it will come after you.”
The days of initial struggle have borne fruit with due recognition from both private and government sectors. Chingmak is a recipient of the Governor’s Medal given in 2003. Even the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited ECS in recognition of its work.
Earlier in the year, ECS was awarded a Rs 5 crore HCL Grant in the thematic category for health in recognition for making meaningful and lasting positive impact in the lives of the marginalized and beating competition from 3600 other NGOs.
“The chronicle of Chingmak Chang, a preacher-turned-reformer and his wife Phutoli, is a story of grit and determination. It offers hope not only for the communities of the remote parts of Nagaland, but for anyone who has the desire to work for the lost, the last and the least”, states a report in the mainstream media.
With inputs from IANS & Agencies