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Water Boy

When Ryan Hreljac was a first-grader in 1998, his teacher talked about the struggles many people face in different parts of Africa. Some have “to walk five miles to get a bucket of clean water,” Hreljac said.

Hreljac asked his parents for $70, which his teacher said would help pay for the construction of a well. His parents agreed if he earned the money doing chores.

Since then, 13-year-old Hreljac, from Ottawa, Canada, helped create Ryan's Well Foundation. This organization raises funds with the support of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. Groups, such as Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief, and some of the communities Ryan's Well assists, contribute to the foundation's work.

With all of this help, Hreljac has raised more than a million dollars to help fund 120 water and sanitation projects. Sanitation refers to the disposing of waste products. It also has to do with protecting people's health. Hreljac has supported projects in the African countries of Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Guyana, as well as in the Central American nation of Guatemala.

Hreljac speaks at rallies to raise support for clean water in Africa. A documentary about Ryan's Well Foundation also spreads the word about Hreljac's work. “I want clean water for everyone in the world,” Hreljac says. “But I can't do it alone.”