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A child dies every 15 seconds due to unclean water. Paper for Water’s mission was born out of two little girl’s desire to help young girls worldwide who do not get to attend school because they spend their days hauling potable water for their families. Isabelle and Katherine Adams, ages 17 and 14, with the help of their parents, starting this amazing organization and over the last eight years, have raised more than $2 million, funding over 200 clean water projects in more than 20 countries. They have been featured speakers at events such as the UN Women’s NYC Conference amongst many other philanthropic and environmental conferences. Tune in to hear their remarkable story, inspiration, and contagious hope for bettering the world.

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Ron:

Welcome to the show from Dallas, Texas, the co-CEOs of Paper for Water, Isabelle and Catherine Adams. And I’m happy to have join us, their very proud father, Dr. Ken Adams, and just feel free to jump in anytime is Ken, welcome to the show.

Ken:

Thank you.

Ron:

You’re welcome. Hi, girls. You’ve grown a lot since last time that I saw you. But let me start by acknowledging you Dr. Adams and your wife, Deborah for your parenting skills evidenced by your remarkable daughters and you know, the world is a better place because of you. And hopefully you will write a book to teach other parents on how to raise world changers, like you guys are doing.

Hey, now, Isabelle, and Katherine, take us back more than eight years ago to Paper for Water… ground zero. And what I want to know is did just one of you wake up one morning and say to the other, let’s go dig a well in Ethiopia. So whose idea was it? And how did you get started?

 

Adams:

Oh, when I was five, my dad taught me how to fold origami. And it was just a fun craft that we did together. And we had a lot of fun. I mean, it was a really cool thing. And we had done two projects before where we had made a craft and took donations and then all the money had been donated to a charitable cause. So we figured why not do it again. But with origami, and it was definitely a joint idea. We started it together for sure. There’s no way I could have made it without her. But it started out as a one month project and has snowballed since then.

 

Ron:

So well, where did you actually get the idea that people needed water? Where did that come from?

 

Adams:

Yes. So like Kevin mentioned, we had done two projects before paper for water. And when we got the idea of using origami to raise money, we wanted to donate to a new project, something we hadn’t done before. And so we were doing some research and clean water came up as a huge need for people all over the world. And so we did a little bit more research on our own. And actually a good friend of ours had just gotten back from a well drilling trip with Living Water International, which is an organization that we partner with, still to this day. And so she came over and told us all about the trip and showed us pictures and talked to us about the world water crisis. And we realized that that was something that we really wanted to help change.

 

Ron:

So my next question is for people who don’t know what origami is. Tell us about that.

 

Adams:

So origami is the art of paper folding, which originated in Japan. So this is actually one of the ornaments that we make. It’s a modular ornamentation. 30 sheets of square pieces of paper and takes about an hour to fold and assemble.

 

Ron:

Wow, I hope you get paid by the hour; that looks very, very complicated. Because no, actually you should be paid by the artistic work, because that really looks like a masterpiece.

 

Adams:

So thank you. And yeah, we try and make them really fun colors. Oftentimes, each one is unique for sure. But sometimes we’ll do themed ornaments, or if a specific company wants their company colors or something like that, we do a lot of different things.

 

Ron:

Or weddings, as well, as a disclaimer, my wife and I have bought a number of your origamis that we have them around our house as well. You also have volunteers that helped you make these as well. And you’ve taught the art of origami. And you are paying that forward, right?

 

Adams:

We have hundreds of volunteers. Yes.

 

Ron:

So in your project paper for water, how do you find these locations in these remote villages around the world that need water? How do you find them?

 

Adams:

So we actually partner with Living Water International; we’ve been working with them since the very beginning of Paper for Water. And they’re the one to actually drill the water projects. And they’re an amazing organization. And in all of the countries where they work, the staff is actually local people, so people who are born and raised in that country. And so they really know the people and they know where the greatest needs are. And so they’ll partner with local governments and local churches and schools to really find out where the greatest need is. And a lot of the times they’ll install a well at a school or a community center so that they can maximize the reach of each project.

 

Ron:

So they know how to prioritize these when I guess, villages in crisis, with people dying for lack of clean water, they know how to go in and prioritize these so that they can save lives. I’m just thrilled to know two young girls like you that are making a difference all around the world just right here from Dallas, Texas. So but I know in 2016, you traveled around the world? Did you get to visit some of these countries and see some of these projects where you have helped provide clean water?

 

Adams:

Yes, that was a huge part of our trip; we visited water projects in Peru and then a bunch in Africa.

 

Ron:

So what’s it like to meet the people that have been impacted by and lives saved by their access to clean water, knowing that you helped make that possible?

 

Adams:

It’s really just, you feel really good. It’s really just an incredible experience to see, you know, all the late nights and early mornings and all the hard work folding origami, you know, really pay off and see all the kids who are in school and who are receiving the education because they aren’t hauling water all day.

And I mean, you get to see families too, that are not dying because of waterborne diseases. And we’ve actually, we’ve gotten to talk with some people who they had lost children to waterborne diseases, and they now have a well and the rest of the children are happy and healthy. And it’s just it’s really an amazing experience. I don’t think there’s nothing else like it to see every bit of hard work, you know, truly pay off in an incredible way.

Ron:

Well, I know I’ve heard you say too, that a lot of times where they build a well they build a build a school because the kids had not been able to go to school because they spend their day going to get fresh water for their families. And so I know that this is even much greater than just digging the well.

 

Adams:

It is, it will completely transform a community because not only are they providing clean water, but they’re also providing sanitation and hygiene training. And it can completely change a community and how everyone is healthy now and they also help build latrines, which is really important.

We actually visited a hospital where a water project was installed and before it, you had to bring your own water to the hospital. So I can’t imagine what cleaning the rooms or keeping anything sanitary would be like, but I mean, just the basics of clean water makes such a huge impact.

 

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my inspiring interview!