Far too often we gather at fund/awareness raising events that involve dining in massive rooms that are filled with round tables and the usual fare, followed by information about said cause, a tip to the valet and then no further attention to the effort presented. So why do organizations continue to hold these affairs? Perhaps because every now and again a person as compassionate, dedicated and determined as Susan Kiely, Founder and CEO of Women With A Cause (WWAC) attends, and indeed, takes action.
From the WWAC website, Kiely speaks of her inspiration:
“In December of 2005 I had the opportunity to attend the World Vision AIDS Day Breakfast in New York. As I sat and listened to the plight of women in the Third World, I knew in my heart that I wanted to do something to help these women who could not help themselves. Knowing many of my friends would like to help, I gathered a team in January of 2006, but it wasn't until August of 2009 that Women With A Cause was created.”
Kiely may dream of doing good for other women in the world, but she is not a dreamer. She is a woman that understands business and runs a tight ship. “We have no payroll. Everyone is a volunteer, the rent for the office is donated and individuals pay their own expenses on fact-finding and work trips.”
Perhaps one of the wisest tactics Kiely applies is partnering with existing organizations that have proven track records. “I always like to partner with NGOs. They understand the culture.” She flashes her warm smile and laughs, “I know my talents. We all can learn from others. I ask for help whenever I can.”
Having partnered with Operation Mercy Charitable Company (www.omccindia.org
) WWAC has opened two sewing centers in India to provide income for poverty stricken Dalits (Untouchables) and lower caste women and their families, helped fund a modern school for children in Hyderabad, India, created micro-loans for women entrepreneurs, and guided American women on educational trips that gave them the chance to work directly with their Indian sisters.
WWAC, in addition to continuing their efforts in India, has now reached out to the women of Ghana and Ethiopia. As in India, Kiely has searched and found partners who live within these women’s communities. The understanding of the local cultures and the constant presence of WWAC enable programs to successfully continue and grow.
Kiely reaches out locally as well through the WE Initiative 2011 - Women: Educate, Empower, Elevate, with the goal of providing successful career paths in nursing and health care for homeless mother in the U.S. “I see the homeless problem right here in Denver where I volunteer at the soup kitchen. It’s estimated that there will be a 23-27% needed increase in the health field in the coming years. So, I went to Regis University and told them that I needed a partner. They provide ten places for homeless mother and female veterans to study and become self sufficient while serving others through the medical field.
“We interview and test them and if they’re qualified, they receive an eight-week course that covers stress/fiscal responsibility/study skills/parenting and time management.” The students also are partnered with a tutor and a nurse mentor to keep them on track while trying to juggle the demands of single parenting and school.” WWAC also understand the power of community. “We create community, by having parties, babysitting for each other, or just getting together to chat and support each other.”
Kiely is expert at giving others the tools to get the job done. She believes that it’s her job, to “rally the forces from home.” Her next ‘rally’ will be the Play it Forward Talent ShowcaseheldFriday, February 18 at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. “At 6 p.m. ten of Denver’s top restaurants will offer food tastings by women chefs, with open beer and wine bars. At 8 p.m. we’ll honor two unsung volunteers from the community and then we’ll present the Talent Showcase.” Auditions have been held on-line and the six finalists will perform. Those in attendance will be the final judges. The winners will receive 1st: $3,000/2nd: $1500/3rd: $500 to donate to their favorite charity or to pay for their college educations.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Skiing with my family and then going home and sitting with them around the fireplace and playing games.
What is your greatest fear? That I may hurt another’s feelings
What is the trait you most admire in others? Humility
What is your greatest extravagance? Allowing my husband to spoil me!
What is your greatest trait? Tenacity
When and where were you happiest? When our family went to Cabo to celebrate our 40th anniversary.
Who are your favorite public figures? Mother Teresa
Who are your real-life heroes? Rev. Willie Barrows (A civil right’s activist who was best friends with Rosa Parks) and Marta Gabre-Tsadick and Deme Tekle-Wold (founders of Project Mercy in Yetabon, Ethiopia)
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being married 40 years and raising two great children
Where would you like to live? Wherever my husband is!
What is your most treasured possession? My pictures and my charm bracelet full of 40 yrs of charms from my husband
What do you most value in your friends? They love me in spite of my faults
What is it that you most dislike? People who yell over others
What is your greatest regret? I have no regrets because we learn from our mistakes
What is your motto? Judge not..lest you be judged
What book can you recommend? Just finished Cutting For Stone. Delightful!
Seen any good movies lately? Not really
When you have your own time, what do you enjoy doing? Reading
If you had one wish, what would it be? That all the world’s population could have enough food.