Vail Valley woman gives boost to women |

Vail Valley woman gives boost to women

Karin Weber
Vail Daily community correspondent
Vail, C Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –“Women hold up half the sky.” Mao Zedong may have said it, but Pam Smith believes it with all her heart. Smith lives in Edwards and moves easily between the disparate worlds of Hong Kong and Cordillera.

For as long as she can remember, Smith has been interested in global issues. Thanks to her husband Rick’s business career, she has lived overseas for many years. And, as a mother of two daughters and a lifelong volunteer, she found herself drawn to women’s issues and the plight of women around the world.

When the family moved to Hong Kong, Smith was invited to join an organization called “The Thinking Women’s Forum.” The group was ethnically and nationally diverse. Learning about issues wasn’t enough for Smith and two of her friends, however. They wanted to take action and bring about changes that could benefit women and girls in Hong Kong.

In 2002, Smith and her friends decided to establish a women’s foundation, which coincided nicely with a new awareness among the women in Hong Kong about “the power of the purse.” For the first time, these women began to exercise some control over philanthropy.

By researching global initiatives designed to help women, Smith and her group began with research and pulled together a diverse team of people committed to change. They also attracted a significant stream of funding and established collaborative community efforts.

They also realized that in order to establish credibility, they needed to provide definitive and accurate research on the current status of women and girls. Over a two-year period, Smith and her friends funded a team of researchers from local universities. The researchers found education, health and sexuality were top issues.

Next, they asked the community for feedback, which led to the establishment of three priorities: leadership, poverty and the nurturing of girls. The foundation then established outreach programs.

In contrast to the early years, when the foundation was solely funded by its founders, the foundation today is financially self-sufficient and has five full-time employees. Its slogan is “Research, collaborate, change.”

As a result of their experience, Smith and the other founders believe that research is fundamental to making any case for social change. College interns from both the U.S. and Hong Kong help to implement the outreach programs.

Smith next plans to create an endowment to sustain the organization’s activities. She also intends to continue collaborating with other organizations and the government. She finds the government of Hong Kong receptive.

Karin Weber lives in Edwards and became an optimistic after moving to Vail in 1989. She holds two masters degrees and has written two books.

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