Making a Difference
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
With all the bad things happening in the world today, it’s hard to have hope and believe that we can make a difference, make a change for the better. It may be even harder to actually make that belief a reality, contributing towards a positive impact. Zainab Rafeek, a future attorney currently reading for her Attorney-atLaw Sri Lankan bar exams is ready for the challenge and through the Capsaicinaz LM Foundation, the recently founded NGO by her, she is already making a positive impact.
Sparked from a young dream
“Since a very young age, I’ve always wanted to help people. I remember that as I was a young student, I often shared that my goal was to find a cure for cancer,” Zainab shared, speaking with Teen Inc. She continued to pursue that goal into adulthood, which led her to pursue a career in medicine. With her ambitions, Zainab worked hard, even qualifying to pursue higher education in medicine. This certainly raises an interesting question, why did Zainab veer away from that path and choose to stay in Sri Lanka, pursuing a law degree? “Sometimes you have to follow your gut instinct,” she shared, when asked. “I got into medical college and had the opportunity to study in USA and Pakistan, but something told me that I should stay in Sri Lanka. I can’t really explain it to be honest.”
Capsaicinaz LM Foundation
If it weren’t for Zainab’s decision to stay in Sri Lanka, the Capsaicinaz LM Foundation (CLM) would never have existed. With no cure for cancer yet, Zainab’s ambitions to heal the sick, turned into a vision to comfort and uplift those who are afflicted. It is for that purpose that the Capsaicinaz LM Foundation was founded on 23 November 2020. The name is a derivative of the word capsaicin, a substance abundantly found in chilli peppers that has showed signs of therapeutic benefits for those who are suffering from cancer. “It’s funny how your childhood dreams often shape your future as an individual,” Zainab said. “Those dreams might take some time to come to fruition, but they do happen.” The organisation began with Zainab’s friends, whom she has met along her path in life, joining together for this common purpose. Beginning operations from last year, her actions have slowly gathered more people under the umbrella of CLM. Passionate volunteers who shared the common goal of, “bear the pain and tears of others.”
However, cancer isn’t the only ailment in the minds of CLM Foundation. “We have since branched out in this very short period of time to focus on becoming a platform for cancer, heart diseases, mental health, wellbeing and nutrition in Sri Lanka,” she shared. With that purpose in mind, CLM Foundation has branched out, dividing its group of experts into various teams in order to focus on each branch more effectively.
Having come up with the idea to form the CLM Foundation amidst the lockdown, Sri Lanka’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the recently established organisation from achieving some noteworthy feats, spreading awareness through online platforms. “Being a youth-led organisation, I’m really happy about the major achievements we have made in such a short time, despite the pandemic,” shared Zainab. “We were able to hold a number of campaigns to spread awareness of various issues online, sometimes collaborating with specialists and leaders of the medical profession.” Such instances include, the mental health sessions conducted with Clinical Psychologists such as Uwasara A. Weerakoon and Psychological Counsellors such as Rasini Bandara, panel discussions held about mental health with a number of panellists, showcasing stories of families who’ve witnessed a member of the family battle cancer, even bringing some forward to share their story in the spotlight.
More to come
Although CLM has definitely made its mark, Zainab agrees that CLM still hasn’t reached its full stride just yet. “We’re only getting started,” she said, sharing with us many of the potentially future projects planned to be held in the future. “Sadly, many of our plans have to be put on hold because of the ongoing pandemic,” she added. “But, we will continue holding workshops on mental health, and do our level best in conducting a variety of other projects, collaborating with a number of esteemed organisations such as the Indira Cancer Trust and the Rotaract Clubs of Sri Lanka. “We are also planning to hold a fundraiser event to donate essential medical equipment for cancer and heart disease patients and working on a project to help campaign for reforms in the Mental Health Act in Sri Lanka, working with a number of professionals,” she added.
A team united
The team at CLM is dedicated towards their goal and certainly have a lot of passion moving forward. This is easily reflected through Raidha Rizvi’s words. She has been with Zainab every step of the way through CLM’s journey so far. “As Vice Chairperson of the CLM Foundation, I can confidently say that, with Zainab’s passionate leadership and the drive of our entire team here at CLM to succeed in the fight for change, our goals will resonate across the generational spectrum with those who see, as we do, that society is long overdue to take charge of our overall wellbeing, both mental and physical, and strive to bring about a world in which mental illness is treated with the same respect and gravity that most physical illnesses are accorded,” she commented whilst sharing her thoughts.
Taking it further
Needless to say, Zainab has ambitious goals for the Capsaicinaz LM Foundation. Backed by a passionate team to support her, the youth led organisation is ready to step forward and act as a force for good, for the people of Sri Lanka and possibly beyond.