By Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post, February 16, 2010
Melly Kinnard, left, chaired the Junior League luncheon at which Susan Kiely, right, spoke. Photo by Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post
In 2005, Susan Kiely attended a World Vision AIDS Day conference that painted a very grim picture of the economic plight of women in developing nations. She could have just sighed and dismissed all thoughts from her mind.
But the images lingered, and it wasn’t long before the wife of MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely made something happen. After much research and the support of her husband and a band of well-connected friends, Susan traveled to India for the first in a series of meetings that would lead to the establishment of work centers where women living in abject poverty in rural towns would be taught to sew. They would make beautiful silk jackets that Susan’s Women with a Cause Foundation would sell in America and other world markets.
There were bumps and turns along the way, but in the end, the project succeeded and the women, who otherwise may have been destined for a life of prostitution or slavery, were able to support themselves in a way they never dreamed possible. A couple of years later, the program was expanded to Thailand, where hundreds of formerly impoverished women make purses and other accessories.
Susan recently turned the jacket sales over to the Dalit Freedom Network.
Last week, at a luncheon for sustaining members of the Junior League of Denver, Susan revealed that Women with a Cause is about to begin its first United States initiative — a plan that will address both homelessness and the nursing shortage. A formal annoucement will come March 9 at a reception held at Beta, a club in Lower Downtown. For details, or to RSVP, call 303-675-2011 or visit www.womenwithacause.com.
In a nutshell, the initiative will focus on homeless mothers, helping them enroll in nursing school and complete their degrees. They will receive housing assistance and childcare, and be eligible for student healthcare at one of the partner schools: Front Range and Arapahoe community colleges and the University of Colorado School of Nursing.
Mentors will be at their disposal, and women accepted into the program will be asked to give back by performing community service in the healthcare arena, such as at a hospital or hospice.
“It’s a win-win situation on so many levels,” Susan told the gathering at Cherry Hills Country Club.
Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314 or firstname.lastname@example.org; also, GetItWrite on Twitter