How One Child Changed The World

Ryan.JimmyMy story is really very simple,”, says Ryan Hreljac.  “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.”

Ryan came home from school and excitedly told his parents, Mark and Susan, “I need $70 for a well in Africa!”

“That’s nice, Ryan,” his  distracted mother replied while caring for his younger brother.

Over dinner, Ryan tried again. “Ryan, $70 is a lot of money,” Susan said. “We can’t afford that.”

The next evening Ryan brought the subject up again. “You don’t understand,” as his eyes filled with tears,  “Children are dying because they don’t have clean water!”

Susan exchanged a glance with Mark and finally said, “If you’re really serious about raising $70, you can do extra chores around the house.”  They figured he would quickly forget this project.

Over the next four months Ryan earned enough from vacuuming the house, cleaning the yard, and doing work for his grandparents to save $70.

“When the money was finally contributed to a local group called WaterCan’s, Ryan and his parents learned that the $70 would actually just buy a handpump…it took $2000 to drill a well.

When Ryan found out, he said, “I’ll just do more chores, then.”

That night Susan and Mark sat in bed discussing what to do. “He’s come so far,” Mark said. “We can’t just tell him, ‘Ryan, you tried, but you can’t really make a difference.'”

Susan talked to a friend and soon the local newspaper  ran the story, calling it “Making a Difference: Ryan’s Well.”

To make a long story short, Ryan, got the necessary money through donations.

This would be a great story if it ended there.  But it doesn’t.  More and bigger projects followed.  Ryan developed a pen pal relationship with a boy, Jimmy Akana, in Uganda. Eventually Ryan and his parents traveled to the village where the well was built.   Today Jimmy is a part of the Hreljac family.

In the past 15 years “Ryan’s Well” has become a foundation and raised over 2 million dollars, completed 749 wells, 992 latrines, bringing clean water and sanitation to almost 800,000 people in tiny villages in 16 developing countries.

You can read about Ryan’s Well and the good work they are doing on their web page: 

Today Ryan is a fourth year student at the University of Kings College in Halifax.  He says, “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.” 

I don’t know the Herljac’s religious affiliation, if any.  But I know this.  They care about people. And the raised a son with a good heart.  A tender heart.  A helping heart.  

The compassion that moved Ryan to help dying children in Uganda to have clean water is the attitude of Jesus.  The spirit of service.  The mind of ministry.  The attitude that moves one to action, to help others.

The second great commandment says to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  And the parable of the Good Samaritan forever settles the issue of who my neighbor is.  It is any fellow human being that I have any opportunity to help.

The Bible commands Christians, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10)

The story of Ryan Hreljac reminds us that one person can make a difference.  Even a six-year old!  Hmm, I wonder what we could do if we possessed the same passion?

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Ministry

5 responses to “How One Child Changed The World

  1. Diane peoples

    That is a great story! I’m moved and reminded of the unfinished work Pete and I did to build a school and worship building in Sudan! We spearheaded fundraising efforts to raise and complete the building in BOR, the Republic of Southern Sudan for 750 refugees working with our friend John Gak. I say unfinished, because while we finished the school, they still need uniforms, daily meals, clean water and books, bibles and school supplies!

    Ryan’s story stirs my spirit to wonder what more can I do and it brings tears to my eyes.

    Thanks Ken.

  2. What a great reminder that we really can make a difference. I like how you say ” The spirit of service. The mind of ministry. The attitude that moves one to action, to help others” Well said. Best Regards, Wendy UBC

  3. Tami Spidle

    How many wells- or other needs met- could we help with by just opting out of cable TV every month and putting that same money to greater use? Thanks for sharing this story, Ken. It has challenged me to find a better use of what I have than always on myself!

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