The folding party idea was born out of a goal set by our daughter, Isabelle. At our nonprofit organization, Paper for Water, we sell volunteer-made paper ornaments and donate 100% of the proceeds to building water wells in third-world countries. With only four months until Christmas in 2012, Isabelle told us she wanted Paper for Water to raise $50,000! At that time we had raised only $10,000. Responding as logically minded adults, we got out a piece of paper and showed her that we would have to fold 37,000 pieces of paper and that she would probably have to quit school to reach that goal. We were thinking she just needed a more realistic goal.
We had a handful of volunteers at the time, but with my daughter’s big goal, we needed a bigger volunteer pool. By week’s end we already had six new volunteers and we decided to try inviting some friends and relative strangers over to our house (with their children) to teach them how to fold paper and to assemble ornaments. What was originally scheduled to last one hour lasted almost three.
Isabelle and Katherine taught everyone how to fold. The kids laughed and folded while the adults talked and got to know each other. The kids took several breaks to go outside and jump on the trampoline, but then came back in and folded some more.
The folding party was such a success that we have had dozens since. We have taken the folding party on the road and have taught in church youth groups, art museum classrooms, corporate offices, schools on this continent and in India, Girl Scout troop conference grounds and anywhere people have been willing to congregate and learn a new craft or to hone their skills.
It has become apparent to us why these “folding parties” are so popular. Humans are by nature social creatures. At a “folding party” you cannot be on your phone and fold at the same time. To fold an ornament, you have to concentrate on the paper in front of you. With a bunch of people around the same table, conversation just occurs spontaneously. There is no pressure to lead or to keep things going. There are moments of silence while people work and concentrate and then there are moments of lively banter.
It is a great way to bond and learn about people and enjoy conversation with them. The parties led to a huge increase in volunteers. In fact, by the end of 2012 with the help of a matching donor and great volunteers, Paper for Water raised more than $100,000 for clean water.
So what makes a successful folding party? Don’t worry about having the right snacks or the right drinks. The reality is that having food and liquid at the table increases the chances that a spill can damage your work. Grab some coffee or tea to drink before or after but keep your table fairly clear. Have lots of great colored paper and make sure that at least one person in the group has successfully made what your group is planning to make and is willing and able to teach patiently.
See below for step-by-step instructions for making an origami heart. Attach it to cardstock for a great Valentine’s Day card. And thank you, Francis Ow, for letting us share your clever design.
Do you want to show your love this Valentine’s Day by helping those in need? Consider folding some origami for Paper for Water. We would love to have you as a volunteer!