Kids & Family

How Teenage Sisters Used Their Hobby to Raise $1.5 Million

The money is going to provide clean water for other kids. How you can help.


Isabelle and Katherine Adams were living normal lives like normal girls in Dallas, TX, when they learned something that would change their lives and the lives of countless other people:

  • A child dies every 15 seconds from unclean water around the world
  • Many girls in developing countries don't go to school because they're force to spend their days hauling clean water for their families

The girls' passion to change those statistics started small. They decided to turn their love for the Japanese paper-folding craft of origami into a fundraising effort, making origami Christmas ornaments and exchanging them for donations. That was 2012. Fast forward: over the past seven years, these two teens have raised 1.5 million dollars for clean water efforts worldwide, through their non-profit foundation Paper For Water.

Katherine, little sister Trinity, and Isabelle at a donated well at a hospital in Kenya. Paper For Water Facebook page

Isabelle, 15, and Katherine, 13 are co-CEOs of Paper For Water with their mother Deborah helping them manage the organization, which focuses on funding water wells. Their first well was built in Ethiopia and funds a whole community, including a school and health center. So far Paper For Water has helped fund over 190 water projects in 20 countries.

The sisters' story was featured in an episode of Nexxgen, which was shown to students in 300,000 U.S. classrooms this year:

Their message is that you don't have to start big to make a difference. "You just have to start with an idea, something that you love or some problem you want to change," said Katherine.

There are lots of ways you can help the girls make a difference, and provide clean water for children around the world (click on the bullet point for a link):

Volunteers help fold origami, or organize origami-folding parties at places like schools and churches Paper For Water Facebook page

"There's no possible way we could do Paper For Water without volunteers," said Isabelle. "There's just not enough hours in the day. We wouldn't be able to fold as many ornaments." as they need to keep each of their donation gifts hand-made.

Donations of certain amounts get you a gift of an origami ornament. Paper For Water Facebook page

How can you start something good?
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