Ryan Hreljac: Clean Water for All

By Medek, Cheryl; Wright, Jennifer | Social Studies Review, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Ryan Hreljac: Clean Water for All


Medek, Cheryl, Wright, Jennifer, Social Studies Review


In January 1998, Ryan Hreljac was in the first grade at Holy Cross Catholic School in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada. His school was launching a campaign for Africa relief. In Africa, hundreds of thousands of children the each year from drinking contaminated water. Ryan learned from his teacher, Nancy Prest, about children who didn't have clean water. He also learned from Mrs. Prest that $70 pays for a well, so he decided to raise the money. At age six, he was able to raise $70 in four months by doing extra chores around the house. When Ryan was asked to present the money in person at WaterCan, a small nonprofit agency in Ottawa, Canada, that provides funds and monitors building wells, he learned that $70 would only buy a hand pump. The actual cost to drill a well was $2,000.

WaterCan's funds are matched two for one by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), so Ryan would need to raise $700 to build his well. Because of Ryan's determination to meet this need, and the support of his family, friends, and local community, he was able to raise the $700 by the time he was in the second grade. Ryan and his mother Susan attended a board meeting to hear Gizaw Shibru, the Director for Uganda at Canadian Physicians for Aid Relief (CPAR). Ryan asked if his well could be built near a school. Angola Primary School in the Otwal sub-county of Northern Uganda was selected. As Shibru spoke with Ryan, he explained that the process of building a well by hand would take 20 people and about ten or more days work. Shibru said that drilling equipment would allow them to make many more wells. The cost of the type of equipment that would work was $25,000. Susan informed the Ottawa Citizen, a newspaper that had interviewed Ryan recently, about the results of the meeting. The article was published the next day. As word got out, an Ottawa TV station called to interview Ryan. Newspapers across Canada reprinted the story. By November 1999, the $25,000 had been raised. With the help of many generous individuals and organizations such as WaterCan, CPAR, CIDA, and Free the Children, the money eventually grew to over $1 ,000,000 in support of people in Africa who need clean water. This was enough money to make 77 wells in places such as Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

Ryan's Well Foundation

Ryan's story has become an example of how one person can make a difference. Young people can be motivated to support positive change. Ryan's Well Foundation was established in March 2001 . Tangible results have taken place due to the "ripple effect" of Ryan's initial efforts. Ryan's ambitious dream was for all people in Africa to have clean drinking water. As a result of the kindness of others, 485,433 people now have access to clean water. Today, Ryan's Well Foundation has built 310 wells and supported sanitation, health, and hygiene services in 14 countries worldwide. Ryan's Well Foundation, through cooperative partnerships, provides clean water and related health care services to people in African countries and other developing nations. The United States has partnered with Ryan's Well Foundation through the H20 Africa Foundation. Ryan's remarkable story can be an inspiration for other youth because there is still more work to be accomplished.

For example, the Youth in Action Program is a creative and innovative global learning program that can help educate students about the need for clean water, and to encourage them to become active citizens in the world. Teachers have access to these resources to develop a program that suits the needs of their class. Before teaching about the Ryan's Well Foundation, it would be helpful to read the information on the following web sites:

http://www.ry answell .ca

Ryan's Well Foundation

http://www.ryanswell.ca/youth/youth1.html

Youth in Action

http://www.h2oafrica.org

H20 Africa Foundation

Water Supply

Three quarters of the world is water so it seems to be an endless resource available to all people, but in reality there is a limited amount of fresh drinking water.

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