My sister Katherine and I had a unique childhood.
Many of my earliest memories consist of volunteering at a food pantry with my friends from church, helping my mom host parties for a nearby nursing home, and building raised beds in our community garden with my dad.
For our family, giving back was an essential part of our lives.
When my dad taught Katherine and me how to fold origami, we decided to do something special with it.
After folding about 50 origami pieces, we took our wares to our local Starbucks in the Dallas area and set up shop.
We were not trying to make money for ourselves; rather, we had decided everything we earned would be donated to fund a water project in Ethiopia.
The Conception of Paper for Water
Just a few weeks before we began taking donations for our origami, my sister and I had learned about the water crisis in Ethiopia.
For a 5- and 8-year-old, the problems that girls just like us were facing seemed incredibly unfair. We learned a child died every 15 seconds from drinking dirty water, and that some kids had to walk up to seven miles a day to get water for their families.
It was these stark facts among many others that convinced us clean water was the most important cause we could possibly support.
On Nov. 3, 2011, we received our first donation.
That was more than a decade ago.
Since then, our little project has grown into a full-scale organization called Paper for Water.
It has thousands of donors and volunteers all over the world, has raised more than $3.5 million, and brought clean water to hundreds of thousands of people in 20 countries, including the USA. As our organization has grown, so has our mission.
You Too Can Make a Difference
Clean water is still the focal point of everything we do at Paper for Water. But we’ve realized that in helping the thirsty around the world, we have the opportunity to bring something of incredible value to people right here.
One of the biggest things I have learned from a lifetime of volunteering is that helping others is one of the best things you can do. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. So often, children especially are not encouraged to volunteer. Many organizations don’t accept volunteers under a certain age. But we know that you are never too old or too young to make a difference.
As we start 2023, many of you will have made New Year’s resolutions.
What if instead of making promises to ourselves, we made a resolution that could better both our lives and those of others’, too?
This year, I encourage you to get involved in your community on a deeper level. Find a project or charity you’re passionate about and try to volunteer at least once a month.
Tell yourself that every day you’re going to do at least one act of kindness for another person.
In a world with so many seemingly insurmountable issues, sometimes all it takes is a small action over time to make a big difference in the world.
To learn more about Paper for Water, or to get involved, visit www.PaperForWater.org.