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He Was 6 When He Achieved His Dream of Taking Clean Water to Africa, and Today He Runs His Own Foundation

Water is fundamental to life. However, according to the Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2000–2017 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, 1 in 3 people in the world lacks drinking water, sanitation services, and appropriate hand-washing facilities. Unfortunately, this is not news since low-income countries have always endured this reality. But luckily, there are also agents of change like Ryan Hreljac, who at only 6 years old, decided to face the issue. Since then, he’s been working for those in need of clean water and in 2001 he founded the Ryan’s Well Foundation, which provides clean water and sanitary solutions to developing countries.

Bright Side encourages you to learn about this inspiring story that proves there’s no age limit to changing the world if you have the will, make the effort, and love your neighbors.

First steps

It all started one day in 1998, when Ryan, a first-grade student at the time, was moved by what one of his teachers, Mrs. Prest, said in class that people have to walk for hours only to get clean water." When he went back home, the boy spoke to his parents and determined it was time to get down to work and change that reality.

He started doing housework, for which his parents paid him $70 on a quarterly basis. Ryan would donate this money to organizations that implemented hygienic solutions to the regions most affected by a lack of water. After some time, he approached WaterCan, only to find out that the money he had saved wasn’t enough — just building a water well costs nearly $2,000.

One dream, one community

Far from throwing in the towel, Ryan didn’t give up. Aware that he wouldn’t be able to collect this amount only with his parents’ help, he resolved to involve more people in his project. Friends, acquaintances, and organizations in his community all embraced the cause. Thanks to their financial help, he managed to reach his goal the next year.

The first well

He went back to WaterCan with the money and spoke to Gizaw Shibru, the organization’s director. Together, they decided where they should build the well: the Angolo primary school in the city of Otal, Uganda. It was built in 1999.

The birth of Ryan’s Well Foundation

Little Ryan could’ve settled with donating that one well to Otal, but his ambition was very great, so he decided to keep on going and established a foundation that would be dedicated to finding ways to develop access to clean water.

As of today, the Ryan’s Well Foundation has built more than 1,200 water projects in different developing countries thanks to the efforts of a multidisciplinary team.

To Uganda and beyond!

The foundation not only provides sanitary, clean water solutions that make it suitable for human consumption, but it also seeks to educate and raise awareness of the value of water and good hygiene in developing countries. For this reason, the foundation’s team has made efforts to reach and carry out actions and projects in nations such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Setting an example

When he carried out his first charitable act, he was just a boy like any other: he played video games with his friends and had no real worries. But there was something that made him feel uncomfortable living his normal life while knowing how scarce this vital resource was to so many people.

With a promising career in the humanitarian-development industry, the head of the Ryan’s Well Foundation encourages those who are interested in his ideals to take action on the matter and work toward the common good, as unattainable as it may seem. “Expand your comfort zone, raise your hand, you never know the impact it may have!” he said.

What do you think of Ryan’s project? Did you know his story already? What other efforts do you think can be carried out so that more people have access to clean water? We’re interested in your opinion! Share it with us in the comments!