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A force of inspiration: Nadeeka Jayasinghe

By Nethmie Dehigama

 

During this severe economic crisis that Sri Lanka is going through, there are many stepping up to help the underprivileged. Nadeeka Jayasinghe is one such individual. A former critical care nurse, and currently the Head of the Department of Nursing at Horizon Campus, Nadeeka began her venture ‘Community Meal Share’ with the intention of assisting those with little to no access to cooked meals.

 

You were a former critical care nurse. Tell us a little bit about how you got into that role. Have you always wanted to be a nurse?

 

Since I was a child I wanted to be a journalist. I enjoy writing and investigating problems, especially those of social concerns. Then I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16. I was treated in Australia and I saw very different, empowered nurses who were involved in the decision-making process. They inspired me to pursue a nursing career. Being a critical care nurse was a stressful career, you also get to meet patients on the worst day of their life and this is really where you can make an impact in people’s lives.

 

Currently, you work as an educator and as the Head of the Department of Nursing at Horizon Campus. How has this experience been for you?

 

It’s been absolutely fulfilling. I chose to work at Horizon as they promote inclusivity in education for Sri Lankan youth. Their programmes target students from a range of economic and social backgrounds. This is precisely what the private sector must adopt when delivering education because this is where you get to witness real change. Furthermore, the management at Horizon encourages female employees to enter senior leadership positions whilst treating them with dignity and respect – they lead through example.

 

You are quite vocal about your experience with cancer as a child. How did that ordeal mould you into the woman you are today?

 

As a teenager you already have issues surrounding your body image, fitting in, and then of course it gets worse when you add peer pressure to that. I gained weight due to heavy usage of steroids during my treatment, I lost all my hair and I was bound to a wheelchair (as I had bone cancer in my left leg). But it also made me who I am today. NOTHING frightens me at all. I think we go through peaks and troughs in life for a reason and I’m grateful for the path that it led me to.

 

You were recently featured on Al Jazeera for your initiative called Community Meal Share. What is the aim of this programme?

 

Community Meal Share was founded with the aspiration to bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged communities in Sri Lanka. Thanks to our donors, we work alongside communities in Colombo, Kandy, Batticaloa, Mawanella, and Jaffna and our teams take warm, cooked meals into vulnerable communities to support them during this difficult time. We choose to deliver warm meals because we know that it has become a luxury for many Sri Lankans in the post-pandemic era. Not only do we provide meals, we also hope to bring a different set of values to the table during this period of much needed societal change. Our story also revolves around our own personal journeys where we keep having to re-learn the art of giving without expecting anything in return.

 

How can readers contribute to this initiative?

 

One way you could contribute is with your time – we are always looking for volunteers to help with the meal deliveries and the stationary kitchens. You can also donate dry rations to our culinary team. We also appreciate donations for the meals. If you would like to contribute, please email us at communitymealshare@gmail.com. You can also find us on Twitter @EathappySL.

 

You are a lady who has certainly been making her mark. In 10 years, what kind of impact would you like to have had on this island nation?

 

I would love to engage in initiatives that promote inclusivity. I feel that sometimes we exclude others, not by choice of course, it’s just that the system is created that way and it can be very toxic and hurtful to those on the receiving end. I hope in 10 years time we won’t see a need for a certain class or category of people to be addressed as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. This might mean that we have to become a little uncomfortable with our own perceptions and actions, but we really do need to work towards minimising the gap between the privileged and underprivileged in this country.

 

What is a piece of advice you would like to leave readers with, especially young career women?

 

I have been engaged in paid work since I was 21 years of age. There were periods when I needed time off because I was exhausted, but it was important for me to return to work as soon as I got back on my feet. My professional life shaped my personal life immensely. Finding role models are also vital in a younger woman’s career as these mentors will support you with the challenges you face. I would advise anyone reading this to find ‘your people’. It doesn’t always need to be women. I have three very close people who keep pushing me to be unafraid while constantly supporting me to be a better version of myself.

 

Lastly, what do you think the secret to happiness is?

 

To be happy you need to surround yourself with happy people. But realistically, we need to understand that while happiness might be the goal, we should learn to accept the journey too. Contentment is really what we need to strive for. I have a very small circle, a fulfilling career, a very supportive and kind partner, and progressive parents – they keep me happy, but most of all, they keep me content.

PHOTOS © NADEEKA JAYASINGHE