Girls Turn Origami Art into Clean Water for Those in Need


Paper for Water, the international ministry started by elementary students from NorthPark Presbyterian Church in Dallas, has received a Birthday Offering grant from Presbyterian Women (PW). This grant allows the girls to continue to bring clean water to those who have none. The primary mission of Paper For Water is to bring water and the Word to the Thirsty, one piece of paper at a time.

The Birthday Offering is a PW offering to celebrate the blessings in the lives of Presbyterian Women. The offering funds projects, such as agricultural development, community organization, economic justice, and more. The $100,000 grant for Paper For Water is just the latest chapter in the amazing story of how two girls took a simple idea and turned it into a global initiative.

It all began in 2011, when sisters Isabelle and Katherine Adams, who were ages 8 and 5, learned that girls their age in third world countries often did not attend school because they were hauling water for their families all day. They also learned that a child died every 15 seconds from unclean water. The girls came up with a simple plan to help. They would make origami Christmas ornaments, sell them, and then donate the money to clean water projects.

Isabelle and Katherine had learned the centuries-old art of origami from their physician father, Ken Adams, who has Japanese ancestry. Ken’s father was a long-time Presbyterian minister in Grace Presbytery. Isabelle and Katherine decided to take their personal connection to family and church and use it to help ease the suffering of others. An evening at a local Starbucks brought in $700 for their paper ornaments, and the project took off from there. Friends, family, classmates, and fellow church members were inspired to join the effort. They helped the sisters make and sell paper ornaments to raise funds, which led to the creation of Paper For Water.

Fast forward to 2016 and Paper for Water has raised more than $850,000 and has helped fund more than 110 water projects in Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico, Ethiopia, Uganda, Peru, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, India, and a Navajo Indian Reservation in Smith Lake, New Mexico. Isabelle and Katherine have learned that because sanitation and hygiene are taught with the installation of their well insertions, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the incidence of Ebola has been next to zero in those communities.

Isabelle and Katherine visited India during Christmas 2013 to see some of the wells they helped put into orphanages, schools, and villages. They went to the US Embassy in Delhi and met with Ambassador Nancy Powell and Deputy Director Kathryn Stevens. They also met with a member of the Indian Parliament, P.L. Punia. They also taught  the local children how to make paper ornaments in hopes that someday these children can pay it forward to the next village or orphanage without clean water.

Brent Barry, pastor at NorthPark Presbyterian Church, has seen the family’s dedication to helping others firsthand.

“Whether on Sunday mornings at our church, at one of their origami folding parties, or at an event trying to raise awareness about the lack of clean drinking water in our world, God’s grace and love seem to flow through them very transparently.”

Paper for Water has received international attention and Isabelle and Katherine have been recognized for their efforts. They were inducted in the Caring Institute Hall of Fame in 2014 the same weekend as President Clinton, Former Representative Gabby Giffords, Jane Seymour, and Muhammad Ali.  They were the kick off speakers for the 2012 UN Women’s New York City Chapter Sustainability Conference, and they were the opening speakers for the Texas Lyceum conference on the State of Philanthropy 2013.  They also received the “Each Moment Matters Award” by the Presbyterian Communities and Services Foundation.

Paper For Water has created partnerships with Living Water International and most recently, with DigDeep, an organization striving to bring clean water to more than 370 Navajo living in New Mexico who have no direct access to water. Paper For Water is trying to help DigDeep raise funds to install ground containment units so each of these homes can have access to clean water. The girls have already met with the organizers of DigDeep and St. Bonaventure Indian Mission.

“We think we’ll be able to get several hundred more people access to clean drinking water on the Smith Lake Reservation in Thoreau, New Mexico,” Ken Adams said.

At five years old, Paper For Water is now an Adams family affair. In addition to Isabelle and Katherine, there is the work of six-year-old little sister, Trinity, who was 1 year old when Paper For Water was founded. The three girls and their parents, Ken and Deborah, balance their work with Paper For Water with taking time to be a family and staying active at their church. They will celebrate Paper For Water’s five-year anniversary November 3. Beginning in December 2016, Paper For Water will take eight months and travel the world to visit as many of the water projects as they can.

“We’re super excited about this and the girls will be v-blogging on a weekly basis on their YouTube Channel,” Ken said.

Over the last several years, the family has made a lasting impression on those they meet.

“They have been a tremendous gift to our congregation and to me personally,” Pastor Brent Barry said. “The compassion, love, and devotion that Isabelle, Katherine and the whole family have shown to those without clean water in our world make me want to be a better person and a better pastor. This is a family that does not just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Thanks be to God for Ken, Deborah, Isabelle, Katherine, and Trinity Adams.”

Visit these sites for more information;

Paper For Water website:

Paper for Water YouTube Channel:

Follow Paper For Water on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instgram