It often feels like the news is filled with stories of corruption, environmental disaster and rising political tensions, but what about all the good news? Occasionally, it is comforting to hear uplifting news, so we would like to highlight the work and philosophy of Elevating Christian Ministries (ECM), an organization based in Victor, New York, that has been fighting hunger in Haiti since 2016. To go over their mission and priorities, we spoke with James Cammilleri Jr., the co-founder of (ECM).
As many people know, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October 2016, which caused them to lose their crops, gardens, animals, and thousands of homes. But even before this crisis shook the island nation of Haiti and took the lives of 603 people, over 80 percent of the Haitian population were living below the poverty line.
Fast-forward to today, where Haitians continue to face critical food shortages in 2019. Between April and June of this year, more than five million Haitians were not able to put food on the table — that is about half of the total population. The prevalence of acute malnutrition among children under five years of age remains high, and far above the World Health Organization’s emergency levels in several locations. Haiti is especially vulnerable in the face of climate change, and as two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector for their livelihood, food scarcity is becoming an even greater threat.
How has ECM Helped?
Luckily, ECM was founded in 2016 in response to the ongoing food shortage crisis in Haiti. In 2015, the founders, Sarah and James Cammilleri were on their first trip to Haiti to help build a school. The school they built originally housed 100 children and a small church and has grown to almost 500 children and a campus. As James Cammilleri explained: “It was during that first trip that the we learned that the schools in the area only had enough funds to feed the children every other day.” At the end of their trip, James asked the pastor what they needed most, and he said, “I need help feeding children.”
It was as a result of their trip to Haiti that ECM was founded, and Sarah and James Cammilleri relied on their faith to inform their next steps: “Haiti, I believe, is us truly activating our faith by saying yes to God. Whatever door God opens up, Sarah and I want to walk through.” This was based on the belief that those with the agency to help, and want to help, should help. It was from this idea that the desire to have charity and sustainability walk hand in hand came to life.
As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is the principle upon which ECM is based, providing local communities with the tools, education and facilities to be able to sustain their growth and become a self-reliant community. ECM’s mission is to be a Light for Jesus by breaking the cycle of poverty with income-generating projects. There’s a saying in Haiti, “hungry bellies, have no ears.” When a child is hungry, they are unable to learn. At ECM, James Cammilleri Jr. believes that every child deserves a meal and a chance to reach their potential.