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Lessons and Learnings from 2022

365 days ago, I would have laughed if you had said that we would have what it takes to provide approximately 5,000 meals a week. Community Meal Share Trust has not only served meals to the nation but also provided ample lessons on life, perseverance, mental health and healing. So before it’s too early into 2023, here I am collecting my thoughts and breaking down the top 10 lessons on how the worst of 2022 brought out the best in us.


Lesson 10: Responsibility.


We are responsible for each other’s social, mental and financial welfare. Of course, this is a very socialist way of thinking, but I’d like to argue that this lack of thinking got us here in the first place. On the footnote of our donation receipts, we wrote, “we are all in this together” this means that through thick and thin, with fuel and no fuel, with food and no food, with cooking gas and no cooking gas, we still have the capacity to take care of each other.


Distributing tea at a fuel queue
Taking care of each other is our responsibility

Lesson 9: Leadership.


When we started CMS Trust, we honestly had no idea what we were doing. There weren’t many grassroots food aid charities to guide us, but we knew it was important to start NOW. Gyan and I took out a whopping Rs 6,000 of our own funds (LOL) and thought we’d give this a go. So here we are 10 months later with an overall meal count of 180,000 meals served. It’s okay to assume a leadership role, even when you don’t know where to start. You learn and lead along the way, and I love that we were never frightened of the task ahead.


Lesson 8: Impact.


Don’t ever think that you’re too small to make an impact. We often feel that impact is measured by quantity. Yes, a meal count of 180,000 meals makes me do a little joyful dance, but the impact can also be measured qualitatively through hope and resilience. There is something special about providing your time and energy to make an impact during a year of continuous heartache and pain.


Lesson 7: Reflection


As ICU nurses, we were often taught to reflect on our clinical work, to understand where we succeeded and what could have improved a little to make our patients’ breath a little easier. Reflection is ever so important when we are living through disasters. Our reflection is the element that makes us choose the least harmful option in an uncertain environment. I also feel that reflection also gives us that thing called “wisdom”, which I used to think was only for 80-year-olds.


Lesson 6: Stillness.


People keep asking me why an Australian is still here at a time when most Sri Lankans are trying their hardest to leave the country. I honestly have no idea myself. Often, when disaster strikes, our primary response is to fight or flight. Being still takes enormous energy to sit still and allow the processes to fall into place. When we have the urge to run, sitting still is important. When you enter the realm of goodness, the Gods and the universe will always have your back. I also feel that opportunity has always followed me everywhere I go. I’m telling you, the universe won’t let you down if you keep trusting the process.


Lesson 5: Friendship and Trust


An introvert’s life is, of course, a very wholesome but isolated one. But to make CMS Trust work, I needed to reconnect with my closest confidantes to move forward. My 2 other trustees, Gyan and Faz, of course, support me in anything I do, but as a control freak, of course, there were moments to “let go”, which I wasn’t quite ready for. I also reached out to Amy, one of my closest trustworthy friends, to kickstart the meal preps. Along the way, Seni (my Twitter BFF) and Farrah (we trained for Ironman together, and it got cancelled this year - phew!) came to help us as our admin angels.


Lesson 4: Judgement


Of course, there were times when I’d judge people for throwing money on expensive wine and nice dinners when the rest of the country was suffering. I think it’s key to understand that when you judge, it comes from a place of needing to feel better about yourself. Yes, we’re feeding hungry mouths, but it’s also okay for people to enjoy life. Both can coexist in the same space and in the same country. God knows we’re all suffering. Some hide it better than others.


Lesson 3: Gratitude


Yes, I have a gratitude journal, and yes, Oprah Winfrey made me do it! I am grateful for living through Cancer, COVID and a recession, for landing an amazing job(s) and also grateful that my trustees and I found the strength and the power to reach out to the most vulnerable groups in society during this gut-wrenching year. My mental health took a turn this year (which I will write about in a minute), but I remember sitting in bed every night thanking the higher powers for the seed planted in us.



A bike and boxes of rations and food for delivery
Amidst the fuel crisis, my bike was a constant companion in 2022

Lesson 2: Pause


July 2022 was just a month from hell. I swear my breaking point was here. We provided nearly 5000 meals a week with minimal fuel in the country. Luckily, our school meals were carried out by teaching staff and parents, but our community meals and hospital meals were impacted. Having no fuel meant that I had to ride to work - approximately 16km (one way). Anyone who knows me knows I love accepting challenges, so I rode to work for one month, sunburnt and exhausted, traumatised by the fuel queues and devastation on the streets. Each night I was wrecked, despite stretching for hours. Wrecked enough to want to not really think about July 2022.


Lesson 1: Mental Health, Vulnerability and Healing


2022 has been the year from hell. Despite my constant positive outlook on life, I think we still had far more losses than wins. Seven months after starting CMS, I had waves of depression. I blame the environment, the uncertainty, the exhaustion, family deaths, isolation and the constant heartaches that surrounded us. I hope you made it to the end of this write-up because I cannot stress to you the importance of seeking help at the right time. I’m fortunate to have people around me that directed me to the correct resources, but I know that the wins you see on people’s social media may not always be the reality. My mind is relatively clearer now, but I am ever so cognizant of the impermanence of this mind of ours and the toll this year took on some of the best of us.


I’m looking forward to 2023. While I hope that 2023 brings in much-needed hope and prosperity for our country, I hope it also teaches me to know when to stop striving for perfection and excellence.


Nadeeka Jayasinghe

Co-Founder & Head of Operations

Community Meal Share Trust

 

Community Meal Share Trust is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to share meals with underprivileged communities in Sri Lanka. To learn how you can support or volunteer write to us at communitymealshare@gmail.com

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