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Paper For Water, sisters Katherine and Isabelle Adams, Photography courtesy of Sarah Anna Hansen

Paper For Water’s Isabelle and Katherine Adams

Q&A with the teenaged co-CEOs of the nonprofit Paper For Water

As Paper For Water celebrates its 10th-anniversary, we take a look back at our 2018 sit-down with co-founders Isabelle, then 14, and Katherine, then 11, to learn more about the nonprofit. After the interview, you’ll find details on their new book signing and 10-year celebration.

Isabelle and Katherine Adams are two Dallas sisters with heart. When they were 8 and 5 years olds, respectively, and discovered that millions of people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, they created the nonprofit organization Paper For Water, selling their gorgeous, one-of-a-kind origami pieces and using the proceeds to install clean water systems both here in the U.S. and abroad, now in more than 20 countries.

Two-on-One with the Paper For Water founders

DFWChild: Tell me about Paper For Water’s primary mission.
Isabelle Adams: I think our main goal is to provide not only clean water to the thirsty around the world but to provide a way for people to help others here in the U.S. There are 1.6 million people in the U.S. who lack access to safe water or just water in general. That’s something we are trying to educate people on.

Paper For Water origami ornament, Bascetta Pinks and PurplesC: Where did you learn to create origami?
Katherine Adams: Our dad is half Japanese and was born in Japan. He grew up folding origami, and when I was 4, he taught me how to fold. It was just a fun craft to do with Dad, so we put it to good use.

C: You are co-CEOs of Paper For Water. What does that entail and what are your job duties?
IA: We are basically the face of the organization. We go to events, speak, do social media posts, write thank-you letters, train volunteers, go to gift fairs. We really do pretty much whatever we can because obviously we can’t do the taxes and things like that. And we do a lot of origami!

C: What are the latest accomplishments for Paper For Water?
IA: Getting into Neiman Marcus has been huge. We have funded over 150 water projects in 14 different countries. Here in the U.S., we were able to personally travel out to the Navajo reservation and help install a water system there.

C: What would you say to other kids who have a passion but feel that they are too young to make a difference?
KA: You are never too old or too young to make a difference, but you just have to start. You can dream all you want, but you have to take the initial action.
IA: The world water crisis is a huge, billion-dollar problem. But we just decided we were going to start and help a few people. It gradually got bigger because we didn’t give up. I think a lot of times people get overwhelmed with the immensity of a problem and never start. If the need seems huge, and it might be, just start anyway, and you never know what might happen.

C: What are your goals for 2018?
KA: We are trying to expand our youth network, and we want to get more church groups and small groups involved.
IA: I think our goal is to create a curriculum so a youth group leader or a troop leader can go on our website and find instructions on how to start his or her own Paper For Water club. It will teach them how to fold, how to market the ornaments and how to sell them.


How to Help

Paper For Water origami ornaments are sold online for $40 and up, and available in-store at Talulah & Hess in Dallas and at the spa at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas. Join the Well of the Month Club to give recurring donations (as little as $10 per month) and help fund projects year-round. You can also find out about upcoming ornament-making events, or inquire about personalized decorations via their website and social media on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  Want to learn how to do origami yourselves? Visit their YouTube channels for free tutorials.

New Book & 10-Year Celebration

Paper For Water book, One Piece of Paper at a TimeNow in celebration of 10 years, the sisters published their new book One Piece of Paper at a Time, which gives a behind-the-scenes perspective into the organization’s transformation and how proceeds from their origami sales and supportive donations have helped them in their aim to end the global water crisis. The girls will be signing their books at the 10th-anniversary Remember Celebration at the Paper For Waters offices on Saturday, October 16. Timed tickets from 11am–4pm are available for $60, or you can watch virtually for free on YouTube.

This article was originally published January 2018.


Top photo courtesy of Sarah Anna Hansen; other photos courtesy of paperforwater.org