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Rockford couple on mission to help women in Third World

Tuesday, November 16, 2010  
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By Matt Williams
Posted Nov 16, 2010 @ 11:42 PM
Last update Nov 16, 2010 @ 11:43 PM

Jim and Pam Keeling were far from finished with their work when the local campaign for Pennies for Peace ended in 2009.

After raising more than $100,000 to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the couple are on a mission to raise awareness of the lives of women in impoverished countries.

"Building schools was just one small piece of a much bigger initiative,” Jim said.

With the help of Rockford College students and faculty, the Keelings are starting a "Half the Sky” initiative, based on the best-selling book by husband-and-wife Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

The book highlights the struggles faced by women in Third World countries: lack of access to education, sex trafficking, maternal mortality, violence, lack of access to business capital and employment opportunities.

"If we want to have a safe and vibrant world, one of the most important issues being faced is the education and economic empowerment of impoverished girls and women in the Third World,” Jim said.

The group will reach out to book clubs, schools and nonprofits to get as many people involved with the movement before a lecture by WuDunn on March 15 at Rockford College.

Money will be raised for "microfinance” funds that will help women become self-sufficient through startup loans. "We listen for what people really need and help them do it for themselves,” he said.
Rockford College students have started a Microfinance Club to help raise the money.

"It has about 70 members now, and they will raise money to disperse the grants,” said Chuck Brown, director of communications at the college. "Our students are really walking the talk on these issues.”

Also a part of the effort, the World Bicycle Relief group will stop Thursday in Rockford. The group builds and donates bicycles to Third World countries to improve mobility and productivity.

For more information on Half the Sky, call Keeling, 815-490-4900.

Reach staff writer Matt Williams at or 815-987-1389.

This story appeared at on November 16, 2010.

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