Spreading courage and giving them wings to uplift and fly

Shayna Qualls, founder/CEO of Wings of Courage, Nashville, Tenn. (courtesy photo)

Upon meeting Shayna Qualls, it was clear that she was different and stood out from the others in a positive way. She is the founder/CEO of the Nashville based ‘Wings of Courage’ nonprofit organization.

It’s no secret that Tennessee is consistently rated in the top 10 most dangerous states for domestic violence (DV) related homicides. Shayna shared how this had affected her life (and still does).

“I’ve made it my mission to fulfill God’s purpose in my life,” Qualls said. “Helping others is part of my own healing process. Wings of Courage will provide a safe place for healing, resources, and education for all victims of domestic violence.

I specifically remember my mother waking me up one night during an incident when I was 11. As the tears fell from her face onto my pajamas, she made me promise her and to myself that “I would never let a man treat me like her husbands and boyfriends treated her.”

Tragically in April of 2004 her mother committed suicide three weeks shy of her high school graduation. After her abuser repeatedly broke the order of protection she filed against him, she went back to him on their wedding anniversary. She decided three weeks later that suicide was her only way out. In her letter to her family she explained how her abuser made her feel hopeless like her life was worth nothing to him and that she could never possess what it would take to actually make him happy.

“I was only 17 at the time, so I didn’t fully understand the mental and spiritual effects of domestic violence,” said Qualls. “All I knew was that my mother was gone and that she left me because of him. I spent my early adulthood just trying to find myself and trying to manage life without the love of my mother.”

Her sister was violently murdered at the age of 22. She had been in and out of a toxic cycle of abuse by her boyfriend. Even though she finally left and tried to start her life over, she was never able to escape.

“I knew then that it was time to do something,” she said. “It was time to take a stand and fight back. I wasn’t going to allow domestic violence to take from my life any longer. I feel in my heart if my mother and my sister would have had a safe place to find healing through God’s love, specifically in a trauma informed environment for victims of domestic violence that they would still be alive today.

“Domestic violence knows no race, gender, economic status or zip code. We are targeting all victims of domestic violence, including: men, women, children, lesbians, gays, bis, and transgenders (LGBTs), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applicants, and absolutely everyone that we have the resources to provide for.”

When asked why she named the organization Wings of Courage, she replied: “Butterflies symbolize the transformation process and the courage to fly beautifully away as a new creation. My mother was a huge fan of butterflies and so was my sister. My sister tattooed the name of her abuser on her arm. When she left him, she had it covered up with a tattoo of a butterfly. Sadly, when she was murdered, she was so badly beaten that it was her butterfly tattoo that helped in the process of identifying her body after she died. That tattoo left a mark in my heart. The name is symbolic of the courage and transformation it takes to heal for all victims and survivors. When someone abuses you it doesn’t have anything to do with what you did, but everything to do with who they are.”

If you are interested in helping by donating, volunteering or your organization would like to be labeled a ‘safe place’ for victims to receive a ‘flight bag,’ call 615-904-4505. They also have an Amazon Wish List under ‘Wings of Courage.’

You can visit their Facebook page at <www.facebook.com/wingsofcourageministrie> or check out their website at <www.wingsofcourage.org>.