Watch the Interview
Paper for Water: Gifts that Give
Intro Video: Become a Volunteer
Paper for Water’s primary mission is to bring water and the Word to the Thirsty one piece of paper at a time. The mission
was born out of the desire that two little girls had to help other girls worldwide who do not get to go to school because they spend their days hauling water. Isabelle and Katherine also learned that a child dies every 15 seconds from unclean water and they wanted to make a change. KEIKI INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION is a 501c3 Foundation which is the parent organization of Paper for Water. Paper for Water’s primary function is to raise money to fund water wells world-wide. Paper for Water is committed to teaching children in developed countries about the world water crisis. Paper for Water is working to help children in developing countries gain access to clean water and sanitation. Paper for Water seeks to empower the youth in developed countries with skills in leadership, philanthropy, and entrepreneurship. It also wants to improve their understanding, compassion, empathy, and to broaden their knowledge of the world around them.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. It’s where your vision as a leader fuses with the synergy of your team. The team we are interviewing today has amazing synergy. I have been to their house, and it’s a creative zone. We changed time zones. We went to the creative zone, and it’s amazing. We have Ken and Deborah Adams and two of their three daughters, Katherine and Isabelle. Trinity is somewhere else today, but she’s with us in spirit. The project is called Paper for Water. I was touched by this the minute I walked into the house. We’ve had Bob Hopkins as our guest. It’s one of the stories in his book Philanthropy Misunderstood. I’d like to ask the Adams to talk about themselves. Introduce yourselves and talk about how this project got started. Welcome.
Katherine Adams: My name is Katherine Adams, and I’m 14 years old.
Isabelle Adams: My name is Isabelle Adams, and I’m 16 years old.
Deborah Adams: I’m Deborah Adams, and I’m their mom.
Katherine: Paper for Water started eight years ago. It’s a nonprofit where we make origami, and all the proceeds go to water projects.
Isabelle: We started Paper for Water when we were five and eight years old. We learned that a child died from unclean water every eight seconds, and children our age didn’t get to go to school. We thought that was horribly unfair and thought we could do something to make a difference. In the past eight years, we have been able to raise over $2 million to fund over 200 water projects in 20 different countries.
Hugh: Wow. That’s amazing. Keep going.
Ken Adams: I’m Ken Adams. I am Isabelle and Katherine’s father and Deborah’s husband. Deborah and I have been in this mode of philanthropy and fundraising probably since we got married. It’s an extension of what we were doing. It’s a continuation of our desire to help others.
Hugh: Deborah, do you want to add anything?
Deborah: I think it’s important for people to know that this did not start off on the scale that it’s at today. It started off as a very small project. It was going to be for one month with the goal of simply raising between $500-$1,000. This has just been something that has gradually built over time. We talk about how if you just show up every day and you do something, you just have to be consistent and keep showing up, then it continues to build. If you’re doing something that is worth doing, then people will want to follow you. Every person needs water no matter who you are, where you live. I think that is the reason why it’s been so important for so many people.
Hugh: Show us some of the paper. Who thought of origami?
Katherine: My dad is half Japanese. When I was four, he started teaching me how to fold origami. This is our third project. Before Paper for Water, he had worked with Isabelle and me to do two other art projects. Origami was something that we both enjoyed doing. We thought why not do something we love while helping other people?
Hugh: How old were you when you started?
Isabelle: We were five and eight.
Hugh: This isn’t just sitting down and folding for a couple of minutes. This is pretty complex, isn’t it?
Isabelle: Most of our ornaments take between an hour and two hours to make.
Hugh: Every single thing that you make is handmade, right?
Isabelle: Yes. No two ornaments are the same.
Katherine: You can use the same paper, but ultimately, they are all unique.
Hugh: You don’t fold all the paper yourselves, don’t you?
Isabelle: No, we have hundreds of volunteers who help us.
Hugh: Do all they come to your house?
Katherine: It started like that, where we would have tons of people come to our house, but our house is not big enough to host everyone. We use our church once a month. Weekly, we usually have a smaller group meet at our house, and we have volunteers fold at their home.
Hugh: I see in front of you some samples. I’d like to see some different ones. Show us something in front of you. I was at your house, and everything I saw was amazing. Give us an example.
Isabelle: This is one of our ornaments that we make. It’s a very holiday-themed paper. Most of our ornaments are designed as Christmas tree ornaments. We use a lot of holiday-themed paper. However, here’s another one. They can also be used as table decorations or decorations on a bookshelf.
Hugh: Hold that up again. That is amazing. Is that one piece of paper or several?
Isabelle: It’s 30 sheets of paper.
Hugh: What makes it stay together?
Katherine: That’s what’s cool about origami. There is no glue involved. Funny that we held up the one that used glue. This is a better example. This takes about an hour. It’s 30 sheets of paper. It doesn’t have any glue.
Hugh: What was the first thing you did? Somebody buys it and all that money goes to the water project?
Isabelle: Yes. We started off in our local Starbucks. We approached the manager and asked, “Hey, can we sell your ornaments in your store?” He said, “Sure. You can set up a display.” We had a rack hanging on a wall with a couple ornaments. We did that for about a month. Then we were more focused on selling them to people who we knew. I think at that point, we started going to different craft fairs. It grew from something at Starbucks.
Katherine: One of our volunteers made this next one out of a couple hundred sheets of paper. It can range in complexity, sheets of paper. It can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be.
Hugh: Do people buy these from all over the country?
Isabelle: All over the world actually.
Hugh: How do they get them?
Isabelle: We mail them to them.
Hugh: It must get tricky to package them.
Katherine: We do have a system, but it’s tricky.
Isabelle: We use tons of packing peanuts. Pretty much every packing product imaginable.
Hugh: That star in front of you, Isabelle. If I wanted to buy that one, how would I buy that?
Isabelle: Visit our website, PaperforWater.org. We have ornaments available year-round at our store there. If you were here in the DFW area, and if it was a normal year, not in the middle of a pandemic, we would also be going to tons of local craft fairs and gift markets that you could purchase ornaments at. We also have them in a couple of stores here in the DFW area on and off throughout the year.
Hugh: When someone buys that, all of the money goes to your projects.
Isabelle: Yes. We have specific donors who fund overhead costs.
Hugh: We were on a project on Saturday together: the Youth Philanthropy Conference. You were leaders at that conference. We had a young fellow who worked with you. I wanted to pick up on what Isabelle said. This family is in Dallas, Texas. Your reach is worldwide. But we had someone, was it Will?
Hugh: How did you get started with Luke and his group? This isn’t easy to do. You have really tight quality control. How does someone learn to fold at that level?
Katherine: Luke actually already knew how to fold before he came to us. I feel like that’s actually the ideal situation. When you have someone who already knows how to fold, loves folding, before they come to volunteer for us. Of course, we teach people all the time, but it is always better if you know how to fold beforehand. He really took initiative and started the club at his school. In situations like that, it’s usually them taking the initiative to teach others.
Isabelle: For new folders, our YouTube channel has tons of simple origami videos that we have created with our volunteers. You can learn anything from how to fold a pair of paper sunglasses to an origami lotus flower. We have tons of super fun crafts. Actually, on Friday, we are going to be uploading a Fourth of July craft video where you can learn how to make this star as well as several other fun crafts.
Katherine: This is individual pinwheels together, and this one is a star. If you visit, please subscribe because we are so close to being able to monetize our channel.
Hugh: You are getting some traction on YouTube, so we’d like to encourage people to search “Paper for Water” on YouTube. Their website is PaperforWater.org. It is a 501(c)3 charity. The money they raise when people purchase these creative folding arts, it’s both art and craft for me because it’s very artistic. If someone wanted to learn and volunteer, how long does it take them to develop enough proficiency so they can meet the quality standards they have?
Isabelle: It depends on the person.
Karen: Sometimes we do something where one person will fold it in half, and the person will do the next step. If you want to help, you just have to fold a piece of paper in half. It’s as simple as you want it to be.
Isabelle: But we also have volunteers who can be very talented. We take all skill levels pretty much.
Hugh: That’s good. Isabelle and Katherine, and your mom and dad are behind the camera hiding, you’ve all started this as a family project. What has this meant to your family to have something you can do together that has such wonderful impact on people’s lives?
Isabelle: It’s brought us a lot closer, given the fact that we spend so much time together now. It’s cool to be working together. We have the opportunity to go to some amazing events as a family. We even traveled around the world for eight months visiting some of our water projects we helped fund. That was an amazing experience.
Hugh: Whoa. Eight months. That’s a long trip. Let’s unpack that. That sounds amazing. Tell us where you went and what are a couple of the stories from those places?
Isabelle: We spent three months in South America, three months in Africa, and two months in Europe and Asia. We visited water projects in several countries. It was amazing getting to see firsthand the people that we’ve helped change their lives. Seeing kids who used to be sick now happy and in school was amazing.
Katherine: We have endless stories.
Hugh: Give us a specific story. How about the mechanics? How does your money help improve the water?
Katherine: I’ll tell a story first. We were in Ethiopia. We had been visiting water projects for a couple days. You go out there a lot. Before the well, they had been hauling water up through a hole in the ground. Then they had taken cloth and strained out these green worms. But they couldn’t get the larvae out of the water. This woman had lost three children. She was saying how hard it had been before the clean water. Then she talked about how now that they have a water project, all her kids are happy and healthy and can go to school because they are not hauling the water. It was an amazing story. It transformed the whole community.
Hugh: They couldn’t go to school because they were hauling water?
Katherine: Yes. Usually the women and children are who haul water. They can walk up to seven miles in the dry season. It depends if they have a river or a stream or just a hole nearby that they can get water from. Sometimes they have to walk very far distances.
Isabelle: Sometimes they are unable to attend school because they are sick, or for girls, they don’t have adequate sanitation facilities like a toilet. All of these things impact school attendance for kids.
Hugh: What kind of reception did you get when you went to this place? People know you’re coming, but what conversations do you have with the people? You’re impacting their quality of life with this one thing, but this one thing is a big thing.
Katherine: When you asked that question, the first thing I thought about was we went to India. It was prior to our eight-month trip. One of the schools we went to, we pulled up, and they had so many marigolds, a flower. They were all over the ground. They had these leis of them for us. Everyone was dancing. They had prepared food. It was a celebration. It was a party. It’s that kind of joy. Everyone was so happy. Most of them didn’t speak English. They were coming up to us to try to tell us stuff. Everywhere we go, everyone is so happy and so grateful.
Isabelle: There have been communities we went to, such as one in Peru. While they had a water project that we went to see, everyone was constantly asking, “Can we have another well? Now that we have this project, our community is growing, and we will have too many people for this one water project to support.” Or, “I have a friend in another village who needs a well.” It is drastically improving their way of life, but there is still so much that they need.
Hugh: You build a well for a community. Everyone has access to that well?
Isabelle: Yes, it varies from community to community. A lot of the ones we install are at schools or hospitals. But no matter where the project is, the entire community has access to it.
Hugh: There is different factors for installing a well: where you are, what the local government restrictions are, and other factors. From start to finish, you get some funding. How much does one cost? What is the range? This is not insignificant. How much time does it take from start to finish to get the well active?
Katherine: Over the years, the price range has definitely changed. It used to be closer to $5,000 to $25,000. Now it’s-
Isabelle: More expensive. However, the projects that we are doing are often a lot more complicated. We don’t always just install the simple hand pump. We do that in some communities. But for a lot of places, it’s a well with some sort of pump, maybe a solar panel pump. It’s connected to handwashing stations or a latrine in a water distribution center. It’s far more than just a well. Some of these projects can cost upwards of $20,000 or more because there’s more infrastructure that goes into them. It means they can reach more people though.
Hugh: That story you mentioned was in Africa?
Hugh: You were in Peru, Asia. Give us another example. You’re enabling people to do other things, not to die, because they have no choice. We whine about stuff here, not realizing there are people who live under horrendous conditions without even a simple thing like turning on a faucet and having water to drink. People do some work to build the well. People have their time freed up. They are not spending most of their day fetching water. They have it closer by. They are not sick. They are able to be productive. There are a lot of things that come out of this. What’s another story?
Isabelle: Something I just thought of, you mentioned jobs to build the well. They do employ all local people to install all of the water projects. In addition to that, each project creates one or more permanent jobs because the community votes a member of the community to become more or less the water caretaker. Their job is to make sure that the well isn’t damaged and that people aren’t vandalizing it and that animals don’t come too close. Each community pays a very small amount of money to go into this communal fund that will pay for any broken parts if something breaks. It also pays a small salary for this water caretaker because they are the ones who learn how the well works. If something does break, they have money and expertise so that it can be fixed. They don’t have to go without clean water again.
Hugh: That was a long trip. It was eight months all at one time?
Hugh: That is an amazing commitment. How long ago was that?
Katherine: We left in December 2016. This was about three years ago now. It doesn’t seem like that long.
Hugh: You went to the other hemisphere, and it was warm.
Isabelle: For a while, yes. By the time we got there, some of it was the winter because we were gone during our summer when we were in Africa, so it was winter there.
Katherine: We planned the first part of it so by the time we got down to Antarctica, it was summer.
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Bob Hopkins: I have an extra $500. I don’t want to make any ornaments. I give you the $500. What happens to it? I assume you’re organized through a nonprofit organization status. Tell me about how that happened.
Isabelle: That’s a long question. Right now, we have focused a lot on sanitation projects worldwide. Those consist of handwashing stations and latrines, which are going to be instrumental in helping these communities combat COVID-19. We are also working on a project here in the U.S. on the Navajo reservation with our partner Dig Deep. They are helping to bring a short-term quick solution to some of these families that do not have access to running water right now. They are unable to wash their hands. We are providing about 275-gallon tanks to these homes that can be filled by water trucks. This is a short-term solution to the problem there. That is what we’re working on right now. If you were to donate $500, it would most likely go to either providing water tanks to families here in the U.S. or to building handwashing stations in communities around the world.
Bob Hopkins: How are you organized as a nonprofit?
Isabelle: We became an official nonprofit in 2012. We have a board of directors. We meet regularly. None of us have a salary. We are still volunteers. We do have two paid staff members who help with volunteer coordination. One of them is working on an annual report for us. They do things like that. The people who contact us go through them.
Deborah: We have a brand-new person who is fabulous. She has been doing leadership training for our Changemakers Council. If anyone is interested in joining that, that information is on our website. There is an application process. Those kids meet every two weeks and are learning leadership skills and philanthropy and nonprofits. They all commit a lot of hours to help us out. That’s wonderful.
Hugh: Changemakers is a project of Paper for Water?
Katherine: We started that last year. It’s grown quite a bit.
Isabelle: It functions as a youth board almost. They help us out with a lot of ideas. They help us with fundraising and spreading the word about Paper for Water.
Deborah: They speak at events.
Katherine: They were instrumental on our Texas Giving Day last year.
Hugh: What is the target age for that?
Katherine: Our youngest is 12.
Deborah: The youngest we’ve had on is 10 when he started.
Isabelle: Middle school and high school.
Hugh: Do the three of you have titles in the company that you run?
Katherine: Isabelle and I are co-CEOs. Deborah is on the board, but she had a title at one point.
Hugh: The buck stops here. Jeffrey, do you have an observation you’d like to share?
Jeffrey Fulgham: I’ll just say quickly this is cool to see. I know some people who have been involved with water projects around the world. This is so incredibly important. I’m just really impressed that young people, which I am a long ways away from, are excited about doing this kind of thing. I just think about how what your ages are now and how much you’re going to accomplish in serving people and changing lives in the next decades. I can’t even get my head around it.
Deborah: Thank you for the kind comments. One thing we learned early on is that any time a young person learned about the water crisis, they immediately wanted to help. We believe that all people deep down desire to change the world and impact another person. Everyone wants to help. The problem that we see for young people is overscheduling. If they have the time to help, they want to help. Providing that space and the schedule for kids to do something for others is a natural for kids.
Hugh: Jeffrey is in Richmond, Virginia, and Bob is in Dallas. They have been leaders of nonprofits and funding professionals. I’ve learned in my short time. Deborah, when I met you, I’d known Bob for one day, who connected us. My life has changed. I have learned a lot about philanthropy, as has everyone with Bob. It’s the love of humankind. Philos and anthropy, two words from the Greek. I had trouble spelling it before, and it opened up a whole new world. In many years of serving churches, I worked with choirs at your age, Katherine and Isabelle, and we went on trips, Mexico, Central America, giving away music and work. It impacted us more than it did other people. There is this reverse polarity that you get more out of the giving, and it satisfies you in a different way. Talk about the impact it’s had on your family and your vision for life.
Isabelle: It does impact you almost more than the people you’re helping although in this case, water is pretty important. It might be about the same.
Katherine: I’ve always said when you give, you get a lot back, and sometimes you get more than you gave. That’s definitely been the case.
Isabelle: We’ve gotten so much out of this. We have learned more than we would have from anything else. The things we learned, they don’t teach you in school. We’ve met some incredible people. We’ve gotten some cool stuff.
Katherine: We’ve gotten a trampoline that we’ve used for years. A telescope. That was a cool one.
Deborah: A Disney cruise. From their grandparents who are also volunteers.
Katherine: It’s been amazing. So fulfilling.
Isabelle: We’ve gotten so much out of it.
Deborah: For our entire family, especially myself, my faith has grown so much because we have seen God show up so many times in such a big way. I don’t think we would have seen that not doing this, living the normal life. What’s interesting about that is before this started, I was in Bible study, and I’d been praying that my kids would have an experience that was so powerful that they would always know that God was real. We have had that experience for over eight years. It’s a miracle every day. It’s incredible. We could tell you stories for the next two hours on these incredible miracles that we’ve seen. I think for me, that’s the most important thing that’s happened from doing this project.
Hugh: Wow. I think of the scripture, “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” It’s the reciprocity of giving that comes back multiplied. It multiplies as other people model it. We are a nation of whiners. We complain about what we don’t have. When we went on a mission trip, we learned that we were fortunate, and we had nothing to complain about. The enthusiasm that people welcomed us with. I’m thinking of little churches in Mexico. We did a concert, and they brought their tape recorders. As we were packing up, they were going back to the hills, and they were playing ourselves as they were leaving. In that way, we made an impact. You are making a permanent impact on people’s lives and health. Bob has another question.
Bob: Hello there again. You said you sold your house or your cars and took eight months off, which is a huge decision to make. What do you mean they took eight months off? You take a risk, and God is in your life. If you didn’t have God in your life, you wouldn’t have taken that risk. You had to have faith that you were going to be okay. Most people are so comfortable in what was that they forget there is a challenge out there to take a risk and do something different. Could you talk about taking this risk in a serious way? Would you encourage others to do the same kind of thing? What did you have to think about?
Deborah: That’s a great question. It was maybe two or three days before we left on the trip. In our Sunday School class, someone said, “Aren’t you worried about getting really sick and not having a hospital or your kids getting kidnapped?” I said, “Absolutely.” We know how real the risks were. We have information because of a prior experience that Ken was involved in Haiti where bad things happened to some people. The State Department was involved. People were in prison, and no one was going to help them. There were hundreds of Americans in prisons around the world, and no one is helping you. There is too much to take on; there aren’t enough people. The risks are real. The key thing is that you have got to feel called to go to take that risk. If you feel called, and I felt for all of us, it was crystal clear that we need to go do this. I felt safe every day of the eight months. I never felt endangered no matter where we were. We were in some places with rioting, and we had police escorts in some places. There was a lot of craziness going on in the world. I never felt endangered. I always felt safe. I don’t know about the girls.
Isabelle: I’m slightly disagreeing. There were only a few times I felt unsafe. For the most part, it was fine. There is a lot of hype in the media about how dangerous the rest of the world is. It is.
Katherine: It’s also dangerous here.
Isabelle: We have such a high murder rate. You could get hurt somewhere else.
Deborah: At the mall, at a movie theater, at a concert. I mean, it’s so crazy here. We were at a wedding right before we left, and someone said, “I can’t believe you’re going to leave this country. Aren’t you worried someone will shoot or kill you?” Every time we go anywhere here. That changed things also for us mentally, just how unsafe you can feel here sometimes.
Bob, to your question, we’ve taken some risks as an organization that were really scary for us but really worth taking. I want the girls to elaborate on this as far as the project we did at the Galleria.
Isabelle: We were approached by the Galleria Dallas, which is a mall here. They asked us if we could do some sort of origami installation. They were vague.
Katherine: Very vague.
Isabelle: We met with the PR director. She had some ideas. She said, “How about we go look at the space that we want this in?” She took us to the ice-skating rink. It’s about four stories. She said, “This is where we want your installation to go.”
Katherine: We’d never done anything larger than a Christmas tree.
Isabelle: This is four stories of empty space that we needed to fill. We had no idea what the heck we were doing.
Katherine: I was negative on this. This is not what we should be doing. I do not feel like this is something-
Isabelle: I was the only one excited about it.
Deborah: We are sitting there in a two-hour meeting, looking at the space. We are all excited during the two hours. That space was so big and overwhelming. We had to just say no right now and not waste another minute of their time. I didn’t say anything. Katherine didn’t say anything. Isabelle said, “This is going to be the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Isabelle: I could picture this incredible installation that we could do. We just didn’t know how to get there.
Katherine: All I thought about was stressful late nights and mania.
Isabelle: But we had some help.
Deborah: Let me tell that story. The next morning, I’m at my Bible study. The lecture leader has no idea we have been presented this opportunity. There are 700 people in the audience. She says, “If you never get out of your comfort zone, you never need God to show up.” I thought, Well, yep, and we need him to show up really big. That day after school, we went to our local paper company, Clampitt Paper, wonderful supporters. We go in to see what’s possible. What kind of paper, how big can we go. We walk in, and the owner is right there. He says, “What’s going on?” I tell him the whole story. We had no idea how to do this. We need someone who can help us do a large-scale installation to do it pro bono. He says, “You’re not going to believe it. I am meeting with those people tomorrow at 8:30. I will tell them all about Paper for Water and tee them up for you.” That was Thursday morning. By Friday afternoon, the girls had spoken to them, and they were on board. Thank God. We really had no clue what we were doing.
Isabelle: They figured out how to hang 4,000 origami butterflies from the ceiling. They helped us fabricate the cabling and the structural support. We had so many volunteers who helped us. This is cool, too. The timing was perfect. It was around the end of the school year when we had a bunch of high school volunteers desperate for volunteer hours.
Katherine: We had so many people help us with that project.
Isabelle: It was the coolest thing we have ever done.
Katherine: The end product was incredible.
Hugh: It’s in this famous book of Bob’s on page four.
Isabelle: There are pictures on our website and Facebook, too.
Hugh: That’s too much there to be coincidence. As a recovering Scottish Presbyterian, this is a Calvinist predestination theology that continues to show up over and over. People are looking at this. You have wildly successful projects. It’s bonded your family. You’ve raised a lot of money. There’s been some times that have been pretty hard, I’m guessing. Anyone’s who had success has also wanted to give up at times because it’s too hard. Talk about how you got over those humps as you were gaining traction.
Katherine: It’s hard when you can’t go to that birthday party or can’t hang out with your friends because you have an event. I wanted to continue playing soccer when my team moved to club, but I couldn’t fit it into the schedule. Tons of instances like that when you have to miss out on something you really wanted to go to. The thing that keeps you going is thinking about the impact that you have. Do you want to spend two hours doing this super fun thing, ultimately not saving anyone’s life or impacting anyone? It’s a lot of hard choices.
Isabelle: As we’ve gotten older, it’s gotten easier. It was rough when we were little. Now that we’re older and have freedom, and we’re better at managing our time, it’s gotten easier balancing having friends and doing Paper for Water. There are still some hard times. As Katherine said, it is just about prioritizing what you really want to do because in the end, you’re making a huge difference in someone’s life. That’s what keeps us going every day.
Deborah: In the beginning, we didn’t have any part-time help. We didn’t have the hundreds of volunteers we have now. We didn’t have the Changemaker Council. We have so much more support. For me personally, that’s part of the journey that this has put me on. I didn’t want to ask people for help. You want to do things all on your own. You don’t want to ask. Once I had that awakening that I had to ask because staying up until 1 or 2am during the crunch time, you feel like every year you have a newborn because you’re so exhausted. Once we started to realize that, we had to ask more people. We got more sleep, and it was more enjoyable. Letting it go and knowing I’m not God, He’s got this. We have so many stories where He had gone out before us and paved the way and put people and things in place before we even got there. Allowing others to carry this with you has really made a big difference in how much more rested we are and how much more enjoyable it is during those tough times of the year, which mainly is September-December, which is crazy. I don’t know what it will be like with COVID; maybe it will be a big rest, but usually every day there is an event or a speaking engagement or a gift fair or a fundraiser. It has been wonderful to have our Changemakers because they speak instead. They run the fundraisers. They do so much.
Isabelle: It’s a lot more fun now. It used to be that we had to do all of the events. There is a lot of monotony. Now we do more fun stuff, which I think has been really nice.
Hugh: A huge leadership skill is learning how to delegate. Deborah, that is a pivot in thinking we are asking for help to realize we are inviting others to share their passion and encourage others to participate with us to create more good. I bet you see a lot of joy in their lives. What’s the COVID-19 Navajo project?
Isabelle: The Navajo nation is being hit extremely hard by the pandemic because they have an extreme lack of basic resources. A third of the people on the reservation don’t have running water in their homes. Many don’t have electricity. There is limited access to health care. These people are being infected and have no ways to prevent the spread and be treated. That’s why it’s so important for us to be working on this project with Dig Deep. Not only are they being hit extremely hard, but also a lot of people don’t even know about it. It’s not in the media a lot. It’s a forgotten issue. It’s super important for people to learn about it and go do something with that information. We’ve been working on the reservation for four or five years now. It’s insane that there is this level of poverty in our own backyard. A lot of times, people think you have to fly somewhere to see a developing country. No, you just have to drive a few hours. It’s almost as though you’re in the middle of South America or Africa. It’s crazy. It’s really important that we remember these people, especially right now, and do our very best to help them in any way we can.
Hugh: Wise words. Your wisdom greatly exceeds your years.
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What do you want people to challenge them with as we leave this wonderful interview?
Katherine: I feel like it’s really difficult to just start anything. People see a big problem, and they don’t know where to begin. But I feel like if you just start out, start small. We started as a one-month project. If you start small but are consistent and keep at it, nothing happens overnight, but you can make a huge impact if you are consistent and show up.
Isabelle: It’s important to say starting a project like this is not for everyone. I fully recognize that. But that’s why other people start projects. If you see something that you want to help change, don’t feel pressured to do it on your own. There are so many amazing organizations tackling almost every issue imaginable. Find one of those incredible organizations and get involved with them. Use their structure and infrastructure to make a difference in someone’s life. You don’t have to start your own project.
Deborah: I think that those are great words of wisdom. In our country of America, people think that success in helping is something huge, something big, something that requires $1 million or a national media spotlight. It just doesn’t. I love this about what Bob teaches. You can do something every day to impact another person. You can hold the door, smile at them, give when you can. Paying attention and looking, you’ll see plenty of ways you can help without surrendering your entire home to store origami and your entire schedule. If you feel called to do that, go for it. It is a big commitment, and it is a sacrifice. But it’s all completely worth it. You can help every day in a simple way.
Hugh: An hour has flown by. This is fascinating. Thank you.