A state of wellbeing

18-year-old Ryan Hreljac was just 6 years old when he first learned of the devastating effects a lack of clean drinking water can have on a community. Reflecting on the ease of his own access to fresh drinking water, Ryan was horrified to learn that more than 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean water. 

By the time he was 9 years old, Ryan was convinced he wanted to do something to help this situation and set out to raise money to help build a well in Africa - the Ryan’s Well Foundation was born.

Currently a freshman at University in Nova Scotia, Ryan was introduced to the Award through West Island College in Nova Scotia and decided to use the programme offered by the Gold Award to develop his initiative further.

Finding a voice

Ryan’s quest to raise funds for his project began with earning money from errands and chores. He quickly realised that by speaking out about the problem to his class, community and youth groups, faith based organisations, businesses and individuals, he was able to make an even greater impact and his fundraising income began to grow.  

Making a difference

Ryan’s endeavours have raised millions of dollars to date. The Ryan's Well Foundation is committed to building water and sanitation projects in developing countries and has successfully achieved this in Uganda, Togo and Ghana. The Foundation has built 518 wells in 16 developing countries, providing around 640,000 people with clean water and improved sanitation.  The project has had seen many other benefits too such as fewer illnesses from water borne diseases, girls having privacy when using the bathroom and children being able to spend more time in school each day instead of spending many hours collecting water.

Said Ryan, “The communities that benefited from our water and sanitation projects all had poor road networks and sparse infrastructure to treat and distribute clean water.  Many people were forced to walk considerable distances every day to collect water and waste was often disposed of close to a water source, compromising and contaminating an already unreliable water source.”

Building capacity

Ryan’s foundation focuses on projects that build community capacity by supporting locally driven scalable programmes that empower children, youth and women.  In addition to building water and sanitation projects in developing countries, The Foundation aims to educate students about the need for clean water and is active in motivating people, especially the young, to make a positive change in the world.

Commenting on being recognised as part of the Peter Cruddas Social Innovation Initiative, Ryan said, “I am really proud to have been selected as a social innovator. My goal remains getting clean, safe water for people without access. The only difference is that it has grown from one well to hundreds and from one person interested in helping, to thousands from across the planet.  I continue to speak around the world on water and sanitation issues and try to motivate young people to make a difference.”