Motivational Stories

Ryan Hreljac

When he was in kindergarten, Ryan Hreljac heard that children in a Ugandan village had to walk many kilometres every day for fresh drinking water, and set out  to raise the $70 he believed it would take to drill a well for the village by doing chores. But, as it was soon discovered, the well would cost approximately $2,000 to drill. Undeterred, Ryan continued and raised close to $3,000 that year.

In his words

My story is really very simple. One day in January 1998, I was sitting in my first grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Prest, explained that people were sick and some were even dying because they didn’t have clean water. She told us that some people in Africa walked for hours just to get dirty water.

All I had to do was take 10 steps from my classroom to get to the drinking fountain and I had clean water. Before that day in school, I figured everyone lived like me. When I found out this wasn’t the case, I decided I had to do something about it. So, I went home and begged my mom and dad to help. After a few days, they told me I could do extra chores to earn the $70 I thought it would cost to build a well. I thought that’s all it would take to solve the world’s water problem. I worked for four months to earn my first $70. Then I learned that it was actually going to cost $2,000 to build a well in a place like Uganda. I also learned that the problem was way bigger than I realized.

I started speaking to service clubs, school classes, to anyone who would listen to my story so that I could raise money for my first well at Angolo Primary School in Uganda. That’s how my little Grade One project became the Ryan’s Well Foundation.

I’m now a third year student at the University of King’s College in Halifax on the east coast of Canada. I’m studying international development and political science, but remain involved with the Foundation as a speaker and Board member. I speak around the world on water issues and on the importance of making a difference no matter who you are or how old you are.

My work would not happen without the support of my family and friends. My Ugandan pen pal, Jimmy Akana, who I met on my first trip to Uganda, is now a member of our family. Jimmy is an inspiration because he works hard and has a positive outlook. He always has a great big smile.

My advice to anyone who wants to make a positive change in the world is to find something you’re passionate about and then you need to take the steps to act. For me, the issue is water and sanitation.

And today

Ryan is now a 6’6″ 20-year-old, and The Ryan’s Well Foundation has raised more than $1 million and built 319 wells that provide clean drinking water to 485,433 people in 14 countries.

Actor Matt Damon and his non-profit organization Africa H2O recently committed $200,000 to The Ryan’s Well Foundation through a matching funds initiative. “It will help bring clean water to thousands more people and help us achieve what many thought was impossible,” says Ryan of Damon’s support.

“Water is essential to all life. I hope my story is a reminder that we can all make a difference—it applies to each and every one of us.”

Around the world many live without ever having access to water, while those who do are seeing their sources either dry up or polluted to the extent that they are unusable.