Ryan’s Well

Ideas and Issues International Personal Writings

Ottawa        I saw an email from Tides, sent along as part of my board duties, that mentioned a donor supported grant to a group called Ryan’s Well that seemed to work in a number of countries dealing with the right and access to potable water.  The note said they were in Canada, so I mentioned to Jesse Rafert and Prachee Sinha, we should track them down and see if they were anywhere near Ottawa.   It turned out Ryan’s Well Foundation was only about 34-40 miles away, so Judy Duncan, ACORN Canada’s Head Organizer, and I were fortunate enough to get to visit with Pat Markovich, the new executive director, and hear about Ryan’s Well.

    And, what a story we got to hear!  

    Ryan is Ryan Hreljac, an exceptional young man who listened carefully in his 1st grade class 10 years ago and heard the teacher say that there were children getting sick and dying because they did not have clean water to drink.  He also heard the teacher say that for $70 you could do something about that.    Ryan went home to his parents after school that day and asked for $70 that he could take to school.  His parents said it wasn’t as simple as that.  Young Ryan seems to have said they had to something because children just couldn’t be allowed to die.  His parents, who I also find quite the heroes of this tale, then worked out a plan for 6-year old Ryan to do exact chores to raise the $70.  Three months later, he had done so.  He took the money into school and found out that, “oh, yeah, but that just gets the pump,” and it seemed that a well cost $2000!  Ryan was not dissuaded, and one thing led to another, the press got hold of the story, and donations started coming in to help get Ryan’s well so he could help a village in Uganda get water.

    When he was nine he visited the village in Africa to see his well.  He met his pen-pal, Jimmy, there on that trip.  Terrible things happened near the border of Uganda and Jimmy’s family was killed several years ago, and he was left and lost at 12 in the bush.  Ryan’s parents adopted Jimmy and brought him to Canada as well.   The newsletter shows pictures of both Ryan and Jimmy, both of whom continue to speak all over Canada and elsewhere and spread the word about clean water.  Several years ago they registered as a charity and became the Ryan’s Well Foundation.  

    Pat told us that she had calculated that in the 10 years RWF had raised about $2.5 million, which is quite an amazing feat, especially given this story of a young boy’s conviction leading to such a contribution.  The newsletter she left seemed to say that 500,000 people have begun drinking clean water thanks to these wells.  

    Never believe that there is a limit to any of our ability to change the world and to do so for the better.  Ryan and his well are great evidence of what is still possible.