Chandan Sharma – Cause: Sharing Shores

In a region famous for food, Chandan Sharma and the organization she founded have added their own spice to our rich gumbo.

At first glance, the cultures of Louisiana and India might seem very different. But look closer, and you’ll discover that residents of both places have rich histories, strong family connections and, of course, unique culinary traditions.

Chandan Sharma understands these bonds more than most. A native of Mumbai who moved to the United States as a young doctor, Sharma embraced her new home while keeping a firm hold on the heritage of the world she left behind.

After leaving her medical practice in 1997, Sharma took some time off to be with her ailing father back in India and to compile her family history—including beloved recipes..

“One day in March of 2003, I came to a fork in my life,” she says. “I had to make a decision whether to go back to practicing medicine or to write a cookbook, which I had always wanted to do.”

Sharma decided to pursue her latent passion, and she assembled a group of women to work together on the project. The goal was to create a community cookbook that would represent the various cuisines of India, with proceeds going to charity—specifically, the local Battered Women’s Program. The team established a nonprofit organization called Sharing Shores, its name illustrating a sense of connection between the members’ native land and their new home.

Sharma was involved in every aspect of the book’s production, from gathering and testing recipes and meeting with printers to fundraising and marketing. Three years after she first voiced her idea, the aptly named Saffron to Sassafras was in her hands.

But Sharing Shores’ outreach hasn’t stopped with that publication. Serving as president of the organization for seven years, Sharma led the group as it participated in cooking events for charities throughout the Capital Region, raising and donating more than $130,000 to a variety of causes.

The group’s work has been recognized both locally and nationally, with accolades including the Women Helping Women award from the Women’s Council of Greater Baton Rouge and the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award. Perhaps most meaningfully, in 2011 the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center named Sharing Shores its Community Partner of the Year.

“Meeting and hearing the stories of people who are survivors of domestic violence and other abuse is a very touching experience,” Sharma says. “If we can support those who need to start afresh, that is a cause I wholeheartedly support.”

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How is your cause making a difference?
We have donated over $130,000 to charity. The Capital Area’s Battered Women’s Program is our main charity.

What do you hope to achieve?
Sharing Shores has left its mark on Baton Rouge. We will continue to do good in the community.

How would you like to inspire others?
In Hinduism it is said, Do your duty and do not be attached to the fruit of your action. Do your best and leave the rest to the Almighty.

What is something our readers may not know about your cause?
Membership in our organization is not just for women of Indian origin.