Sashika Baunchand is the founder of a successful nonprofit for girls. She’s a wife and a mother of three. And she’s a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving as first counselor in the Zachary Ward Relief Society presidency in the Denham Springs Louisiana Stake.
But before all of that could happen, she had to lose her job.
In 2008, Baunchand was laid off from her position as a local radio station DJ when the U.S. recession hit. The first person she called was her former stake president, Val Riggs — who had previously told her he wouldn’t move home to Utah until she was married in the temple.
President Riggs, Baunchand wrote in a February 2022 Liahona article, was glad to hear she was no longer with the radio station. Her ministering sister reacted similarly to the news.
“Why were they excited that I had lost my job?” Baunchand wrote. “Because whenever they would talk to me, they could hear my struggle. I had one foot in the Church and one foot in the world. Losing my job turned into a great blessing. It helped me get both feet in the Church.”
It was also the catalyst to think more seriously about starting an organization for girls. In 2013, Baunchand launched Outstanding Mature Girlz, a nonprofit focused on providing health awareness and mentorship to young women in the Greater Baton Rouge area and throughout Louisiana.
Specifically, the nonprofit educates girls from sixth to 12th grade about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. It also supports them in humanitarian leadership, self-sufficiency, self-worth, courage, wellness and other health-related fields.
The organization hosted its first annual Youth HIV Awareness Conference in 2013 and saw about 50 participants, Baunchand said in an interview.
Today, the nonprofit has eight chapters across Louisiana with over 200 participants.
Girls don’t have to be Church members to join the organization, but Baunchand said she’s modeled many of the nonprofit’s values and operational processes after the Church’s Young Women program. Chapters pray before each meeting, and Baunchand said she shares scriptures and general conference talks with the girls. She even invited them all to the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple open house in 2019 after its renovations were completed.
“They feel inspired by that [faith] and they feel connected to that,” Baunchand said.
Seeking spiritual fulfillment
Baunchand was born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and moved to Louisiana with her family as a child.
It was there that her family was introduced to and joined the Church. But as Baunchand grew up and life became more complicated, her family stopped attending their meetings.
Baunchand went on to DJ at a local radio station, where she was “just gliding through life.” She knew she wanted more for herself and began seeking spiritual fulfillment from the Church she’d joined as a child.
During that time, she lost her job, met her husband at a Gladys Knight concert and — as predicted by her former stake president — was married in the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple in 2009.
Baunchand stayed busy by volunteering in schools and otherwise working within the community. Those experiences helped her realize she wanted to start the nonprofit she’d been thinking about since her radio DJ days.
OMG’s first conference in 2013 included breakout sessions on mental health, self-esteem and making responsible choices.
Baunchand said she wove in Church values to the various presentations.
“The majority of the girls are not members of the Church, but I know if I follow this guideline, because it works for us, [that] it will be able to help others that are not part of the Church,” she said.
Sharing her testimony
Today, the nonprofit provides mentorship, teaches life skills and gives community service. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome even presented OMG with a certificate of commendation when the organization was featured on the TODAY show with Hoda and Jenna, and Wells Fargo donated $10,000.
Baunchand said she prepares herself and her family for the questions they receive about the Church while they’re working in the community.
She takes every opportunity she can to share her testimony of Jesus Christ, she added.
“That’s my purpose in [running]... my organization,” Baunchand said.