Ryan’s Well Foundation is a Canadian charitable organization providing effective and sustainable solutions to the water crisis in the poorest regions of the world’s developing countries.
The Foundation grew from the passion and courage of one 6-year-old boy, Ryan Hreljac. Ryan was inspired to take action as a grade one student when he learned of the devastating consequences for people without access to safe drinking water. He was remarkably determined as he succeeded in rallying his community to help him raise the funds needed to build one well in Uganda, Africa – one well that has changed everything. Now, more than 20 years later, Ryan’s Well Foundation is a team of people committed to providing access to safe water and sanitation as an essential way to improve lives in the developing world. We also educate people about the importance of accessing safe water and sanitation services, and look to motivate people of all ages to take action and effect positive change in the world.
Ryan’s Well Foundation, together with local partners, provides access to clean Water, Sanitation services, and Hygiene education to people most in need of WASH support. We educate and motivate people to share our passion and contribute to achieving positive change in the world.
Build clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) projects; Educate on the importance of access to safe water and sanitation; Motivate others to get involved and make a difference.
Build a more equitable world through clean water and sanitation, leaving each community we work with empowered and self-sufficient.
Access to safe and proximate sources of clean water is a basic necessity of life. Without water, there is no life. Unsafe drinking water may cause serious disease and even death, particularly among young children. We build wells, rainwater harvesting tanks, and natural spring water protection systems in regions of developing countries where consumption of contaminated water is the only option.
Our strong relationship with “on the ground” organizations with local knowledge and expertise ensures we address community identified needs and priorities. This approach supports engagement in the planning and implementation of projects, respecting local traditions, ideas, and beliefs. We provide funding to our partners to build clean water and sanitation sites, and help in the delivery of hygiene education.
We strategically and uniquely focus our work in the rural and most remote areas of the poorest countries in a concentrated region; this ensures that we are leaving no communities behind. We work in a small number of countries in close proximity to one another, such as the case in East and West Africa. This approach allows us to work more efficiently — cost-effectively building water and sanitation projects, facilitating collaboration with regional and local partners, and the monitoring of our impact.
Clean water is one element of a comprehensive approach that also includes safe and accessible sanitation sites and school- and community-based education on essential hygiene practices. This three element model – clean water; sanitation; hygiene – optimizes health and well-being outcomes in our targeted communities.
Mobilized and engaged communities are vital to ensuring sustainability and long-term results. Village and school-based committees are established and trained to manage and maintain their clean water sources and sanitation sites. This includes training of well maintenance technicians and the development of expertise to deliver ongoing hygiene education initiatives.
Here at Ryan’s Well, we like to believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. By telling Ryan’s story, and empowering engagement and action, we create opportunities to contribute to the work that we do.
One day in January 1998, I was sitting in my Grade One 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 walked for hours in Africa and sometimes it was 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 would 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 Ryan’s Well Foundation.
I attended University of King’s College in Halifax on the east coast of Canada and graduated in 2014 with a Double Major in International Development and Political Science. I returned to the Foundation as a Project Manager and I am now the Executive Director. I speak around the world on water issues and the importance of making a difference no matter who you are or how old you are.
My work would not have happened 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 is that, in order to make a positive change in the world, you need to find something you are passionate about and then you need to take steps to act. For me, the issue is water and sanitation.
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.