By: Arielle Ford
Ryan Hreljac was in kindergarten when he learned that children in a Ugandan village had to walk many kilometers every day just for fresh drinking water. Dismayed, he set out to do enough chores to raise the $70 he figured it would take to drill a well for the village.
It turned out the well would cost more like $2,000 to drill — but Ryan was undaunted, and he raised close to $3,000 that year as his story made headlines.
Pictured above right at age 9 with his Ugandan penpal, Jimmy, Ryan was finally able to travel to the Ugandan village where his penpal lived and where one of his wells was being built. A film crew began documenting how Ryan’s wells improve living conditions for entire villages and free up precious time for youngsters to go to school, and his story even became a children’s book entitled Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together.
Ryan is now a six-foot-six 20-year-old student at the University of King’s College in Halifax on the east coast of Canada, where he studies international development and political science. Ryan also travels the world speaking about water issues and “the importance of making a difference no matter whom you are or how old you are.”
Any kid can follow his lead, says Ryan. “Kids can begin with anything from helping out around the house to starting their own project,” he adds. They’re real words of wisdom, coming from a man who considered himself, at age 6, just as responsible as anyone else for solving a problem affecting people a world away.
To date, the Ryan’s Well Foundation has built more than 700 wells that provide clean drinking water to more than 745,000 people in Africa as well as Haiti. The organization has also built more than 900 latrines to improve hygiene and sanitation in these communities.
Visit ryanswell.ca to learn more about Ryan Hreljac and how you or your kids can help his cause.