Normally, paper and water create a soggy mess, but add origami to the mix and you get clean water flowing through the hearts of two sisters and 70 newly drilled wells in Africa, India, Mexico, Peru, and the U.S.
It all started after 5-year-old Katherine Adams began folding origami with her father after they dropped off her older sister at school.
When Katherine learned that millions of people go thirsty every day—and many girls can’t even go to school because they spend all day hauling water—she decided to put her paper-folding skills to good use.
With the help of her dad, she would try to raise money to build a well in Ethiopia by hosting an origami sale at a local Starbucks in Dallas, Texas. Her mom and 8-year-old sister, Isabelle, began to fold, along with other volunteers who asked to join the effort.
The girls set a $500 goal and got busy folding dozens of origami ornaments in the autumn of 2011. The ornaments sold out by the end of their first day at Starbucks and, just eight weeks later, the girls had raised over $10,000, enough to cover the cost of a new well to benefit the entire village.
Almost four years later, the sisters—now 9 and 11—are co-presidents of Paper for Water, an organization whose hundreds of paper-folding volunteers have helped raise over $650,000. The girls have been tapped as keynote speakers and have even been given what amounts to a lifetime achievement award from nonprofit Living Water International.
Globally, 783 million people lack access to clean water and more than a billion lack appropriate sanitation facilities, a problem the girls’ dad, Ken Adams, M.D., said would cost some $20 billion to solve. Sounds like a lot, but when you consider that people in the U.S. spend over $400 billion during holiday gift-giving season each year, his daughters see it as “definitely doable” to eradicate global thirst in their lifetime.
“If everyone in this world helps a little, it all adds up to a lot,” Isabelle told Good News Network. “Folding origami is an easy way for people of any age to help change the world.”
The Adams family has visited two of the wells made possible through Paper for Water —one in India a couple Christmases ago, and one this past Monday on a Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. Eager to meet as many of the families as possible who have benefited from Paper for Water’s work, the family is planning a 2017 world tour.
“It’s fun and it’s social and it’s a good way to use your brain to help other people,” Katherine said.
The simplest Paper for Water ornament takes an hour to make—and some can take more than five. One volunteer put over 22 hours into a single ornament, which will be on display at the girls’ exhibit at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, starting in September.
You can buy the ornaments online at their website.
Photos via Paper for Water, Facebook