Every woman has an agenda. Every woman has direction. Every woman has a reason. But more often than not, it’s harder for some to find these things on their own.
This is where Women with a Cause (WWAC) steps in. This Denver non-profit’s mission is to empower women through financial literacy, providing them the education that leads to a well-paying, fulfilling career. WWAC is focused on bridging the common income and support gaps by providing a safety net while women achieve true self-sufficiency.
“Women come to us broken and abandoned,” says Founder and CEO of WWAC Susan Kiely. “But then they blossom, and when they leave us, they are empowered. They are no longer ‘victims’ that are dependent on men who mistreat them, extended families who belittle them and government aide. They become women who pay their taxes, empower their children and enjoy each new day.”
Inspired by a World Vision AIDS Day breakfast in 2006, Susan took her first trip to India in February 2006, and met with the CEO at Operation Mercy, India, and opened a training center for women now known as WWAC. The center first taught the women how to sew so they could support themselves and their families. It wasn’t until her husband’s retirement that she brought her work to Denver.
Susan grew up on the East Coast with a mother whose poor choices in men resulted in physical and sexual abuse for not only her but Susan as well.
“I understand what these women are experiencing because I have a childhood background full of dysfunction,” says Susan. “My extremely supportive husband, Leo, and I have been married for 49 years; thus I can tell them that there is healing. His proposal, ‘marry me, and I will make the money so you can save the world,’ has been the wind beneath my wings as I have helped those who are often left behind.”
But whether she realizes it or not, Susan is also that wind beneath so many women’s wings. At just 26-years-old, Ishamina Johnson is a mother of two and working to make her and her children’s lives just that much greater.
“I am proud to be a scholar of WWAC because it was a program that I had to work hard to get into and I had to prove to them that I was ready to work and change my life,” says Ishamina. “Now, I graduate from my transitional housing in six months, and I’m working towards a degree in human services, pre-social work from the community college of Denver. I also work part-time as a child care aide at a daycare.”
Ishamina is one of many who have benefitted from WWAC and shares her advice to anyone who may be feeling lost.
“Define your priorities. Put your faith and your kids first, and everything else will follow. Don’t be afraid to do something just because you or someone else tells you that you can’t,” says Ishamina. “Sometimes life is hard, but the hardships in our lives are necessary for growth.”
In the six years since launching in Denver, WWAC has helped over 20 women graduate and begin a career.
“Since ’06 I have been the ‘staff.’ Yet our program is women, not woman with a cause. We depend on volunteers and the generosity of others,” says Susan.
“Two years ago I hired a dynamic young woman, Shellby Jones, and I hope that in three years she can take over the daily operation of WWAC.”
“The minute Susan and I met, I knew I was looking at my next grand adventure,” says Shellby. “WWAC holds a special place in my heart. It is an organization focused on deep change, and it is impacting the lives of single moms and their children across the state.”
Shellby is currently the Senior Director of Operations a WWAC.
“Lives are being changed. Generational poverty is overcome, financial health is achieved and freedom from all assistance and reliance on others is alleviated,” says Shellby.
For more information on WWAC or to apply, please visit WomenWithACauseFoundation.org.