Return to Ryan's Well 15 years later
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Thursday, May 8, 2014 5:30PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 8, 2014 7:12PM EDT
Fifteen years ago, a little boy from Kemptville traveled to a remote village in Uganda after raising money to build a well there. Next week, Ryan Hreljac will return as a young man to that same village, that same well to celebrate with the locals on how clean water has changed their lives. At six foot seven, there is nothing little about 22-year-old Ryan Hreljac anymore. But even as a kid, Ryan was thinking big, thinking how he could change the world.
"When I was 6,” says Ryan, “I was naive but also stubborn enough to think I could make a difference. I thought $70 would buy a well that was going to give everyone in the world clean water.”
In Grade 1, Ryan had learned how kids in Africa were getting sick, missing school with no clean water close by. The little boy with a big heart managed to raise $2000 and built his very first well, even visited it when he was 9. The story went viral. Oprah Winfrey invited him to come on her show. The charity, Ryan's Well, was born.
"Here we are still talking about it,” says Susan Hreljac, Ryan’s mother, “still making a difference and working with our partners to help them build brighter futures.”
Ryan's Well is now in six countries, bringing clean water to hundreds of thousands of people.
Mark Hreljac is Ryan's father and also working full-time now with Ryan’s Well Foundation, "As of June, we're going to be up over 875 wells, helping well over 800-thousand people.”
But it all started 15 years ago with that very first well in the Apac District in northern Uganda. That's where Ryan and his parents will travel next week with soccer balls and t-shirts to celebrate how the community has grown.
“I’m looking forward to it,” says Ryan, as he packs some belongings.
Ryan says his charity has grown too. It is no longer about one little boy with one big dream.
"It's become a story of other people, other kids who are ordinary but naive enough to think they can make a difference. It’s no longer my story.”