In 2011, sisters Katherine and Isabelle Adams, then 5 and 8, learned that millions of people don’t have access to clean drinking water, and that girls their age have to haul water instead of going to school. They decided to raise $500 selling handmade origami ornaments and use that money to help fund a well in Ethiopia. Today, Paper For Water has raised more than $1 million for 150 water projects in 14 countries and has caught the eye of retailers; the origami creations will be sold in Neiman Marcus stores this holiday season. “We’ve been able to do so much that regular kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to do,” says Isabelle, 14.
Based in Dallas, Paper For Water has become a family affair: The girls and their parents work full-time, although none have taken salaries; 100 percent of profits go to drill wells. In 2017, they took an eight-month trip around the world — the girls say their parents and all the volunteers inspire them, but there’s nothing quite like visiting the wells, Isabelle says. “We meet the kids and see their smiling faces.”