Meet Toshonna Ross- Founder & Executive Director of Courageous Women Association, a Nonprofit Organization based in Oakland, California.
Being an entrepreneur who leads by her heart in all that she does, Toshonna is passionate about serving others and living her life in service of knowing this is what God’s will and plan is for her.
However, all wasn’t well from the very beginning. She grew up in a single-parent household with a mother who was abusive only because she was abused too and did not know how to navigate the life of trauma during times when being a victim was a very big taboo. And yet, as a child of abuse, although withdrawn, she engulfed herself in her own world of singing, songwriting, drawing and working towards her passion for business.
Talking about her share of trials and tribulations she says- “The life I lived before leading up to my own venture was a life of hiding and denial. I was constantly on the run and hiding from an abusive husband who almost ended my life. I was even in denial from the constant dreams and what I would consider, calling from God of the urgency to gather other women around who had undergone the same sufferings as I, to share and provide the support that would help them in healing and having a sense of self-worth. I knew I had to show women how to begin living again beyond trauma and this is what drove me to start my own thing.”
Her nonprofit organization, Courageous Women Association provides support services, economic resources, transitional housing, and empowerment to women and children victims and survivors of domestic violence, homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration, sexual assault, and other crippling life experiences. It is built upon uplifting and empowering people from all walks of life, reminding them of their worth and importance in the world and equipping them with the knowledge, tools, skills, and inner ability to evoke positive change in their environments and their lives. “It has been a complete 180-degree change for me. Since the founding of my nonprofit in 2008, there is nothing more I want to do in my life than to serve others through this work,” she says.
The challenges she faced in the initial years had been due to the lack of funding and resources to expand. She would sacrifice her own paychecks working full-time jobs outside of her nonprofit, to pay for the programs her nonprofit would provide to women. At present too, she faces similar challenges but the love and support she has received from people around the world have been amazing.
“The responses we receive from our consumers have been extremely rewarding for us. We have been recognized in the news with honours of Congressional certificate from Congresswoman Barbara Boxer, CBS5 News Jefferson Award Winner, Oakland Mayoral Proclamation and Winner of the Target Storytellers @ Watermark Conference for Women. It feels wonderful!” she says.
As she looks back to contemplate how far she has come, she realizes that it is only in the middle of a tornado or a hurricane where one can find perfect peace. We must think about it- what surrounds a storm is chaos, but in the heart of a storm is actual perfect peace. She asks women to consider their own lives at times when there may be moments of chaos. We must learn to peel back the layers that cause conflicts and chaos as one would peel back the layers of a banana, for example, to get to the heart or core of their being in order to find their inner peace.
“When you can get to the heart or core of yourself, you can truly create lifelong changes for the better; changes that balance and bring healing to your health and well-being,” she says.