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The Ryan Hreljac Story
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The Ryan's Well Foundation is a family of people committed to delivering access to safe water as an essential way to improve the lives of people in the developing world
How many people do you know who are like Ryan?
“Everyone has the ability to make a profound impact on the lives of others. That’s the message I try to get other people to realize. Whether the cause is water or something else, just be naïve enough to think like a First Grader.” Ryan Hreljac
I continue to look for stories of ordinary people making a difference in the lives of others. Whether it be a single parent fighting the long odds to raise a child in a loving home or someone with an incurable disease who refuses to succumb to negativity and in fact serves as an inspiration for others, there are similar stories in every walk of life on this planet.
We do not have to look hard for the heroes in this world. I recently wrote an article about Arthur Boorman, seemingly crippled during the first Gulf War, who reached out for help and found it in a yoga instructor. Today Boorman is walking and pain free, 140 pounds lighter and loving life. There was nothing extraordinary about Boorman other than the fact that he refused to give up.
That, my friends, is one of the defining characteristics of human beings, the ability to meet staggering challenges and succeed despite them.
Today I give you the story of an ordinary six-year old boy who, upon hearing in school about the shortage of drinking water in Africa, decided to do something about it. Six years old!
Please say hello to Ryan Hreljac!
BABY STEPS AT FIRST
The story begins with Ryan in the first grade. His teacher, Mrs. Prest, was explaining to the class that there are many sick and dying people in the world because of the lack of drinking water. Specifically she spoke of the African countries where people would walk for hours to get drinkable water and even then it might be dirty.
Ryan was surprised because he just assumed, as any six-year old would, that everyone was like him, that if you were thirsty you just walked ten feet to the nearest faucet and quenched your thirst. He decided that day that he wanted to do something about the problem. He went home and after several days of talking to his parents was told that if he did extra chores he could earn the $70 he believed was necessary to build a well in Uganda.
After four months of work he earned the $70 but then found out that a well actually costs closer to $2000; the realization also hit him that the problem was much bigger than he realized.
Not to be deterred he began speaking to school classes, service clubs and anywhere else he could go to tell his story and raise awareness about his crusade. Mind you, this boy was six years old at the time.
His determination paid off and he finally earned enough money for his first well at Angolo Primary School in Uganda.
BABY STEPS BECOME BIGGER STEPS
A remarkable journey had begun. From those first efforts Ryan moved forward, eventually establishing “Ryan’s Well Foundation.” He is the chief speaker and a board member of the Foundation as well as a college student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Canada, and he has made several trips to Uganda to meet the people he has helped and to see firsthand the exact nature of the problem.
To date the Foundation has raised money for over 660 wells and 715 latrines in developing countries and the work continues. Total number of people helped so far….over 715,000. Ryan is highly sought as an inspirational speaker and has delivered speeches about water issues and the importance of making a difference around the world.
His message: find something that you are passionate about and then take the necessary steps to make it happen.
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I think we need to stop at this point and review what you just read. A six year old boy decided to make a difference and eventually affected the lives of nearly ¾ of a million people. It began with an idea and it was fueled by determination and willingness. Not once did it occur to this average six-year old boy that he could not accomplish this task. He met obstacles, he met resistance and he just continued moving forward towards his goal. How many lives did this boy save? How many people has he inspired? How many acts of kindness have grown from his initial action?
Allow me to tell you a personal story. When I was in college we were challenged in our Sociology class to make a difference. While thinking about this challenge it occurred to me that our school, Seattle University, was located in a rather poor district in the city and that many of the neighboring kids were underprivileged and possibly receiving a sub-standard education. I asked my professor if I could begin a reading program for the neighborhood and make that my semester project. He signed off on it and I began my task.
Please do not think for a second that I had any idea how to do this and I certainly had no funds with which to finance it. I simply had an idea, one which I believed had merit, and so I went about making it happen. I talked several of my college classmates into volunteering their time. Next I went to the local schools and asked them for a list of below-grade level readers who might need some tutoring. I hung up pamphlets in the community stores and I arranged for a meeting place where we could all meet twice a week to hold our neighborhood reading program.
It took one month to organize and when we began our first session we had eleven kids show up. By the end of the year we had seventy-two participating in our reading program.
The reading program is still being operated today, forty-two years after we began it. How many kids do you think have been helped in those forty-two years? How many kids do you think we empowered in that time? How many lives did we improve?
I had no special skills back in 1968. I certainly had no rich financial backer nor did I have any experience in creating such a program. I just had an idea and, as Ryan stated, I was naïve enough to believe I could accomplish my goal. It never even occurred to me that I could not accomplish the task.
One small act grows, like the smallest of seeds, into a giving tree that continually bears fruit.
THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Yes, I am naïve! I readily admit it. Put me in front of a jury of my peers and I will declare my guilt for I am a naïve dreamer who believes that each and every one of us is capable of so much more than we have done to this point.
Yes, I am naïve! I believe that the only limits we have on our potential are imposed by us. We either lack the courage, confidence or the willingness to move mountains and achieve personal goals.
Yes, I am naïve! I believe that every single person can better their life AND become a caring, giving and loving member of society. I believe that every act of kindness goes forth and spreads just as the ripples caused by a single drop of water in a pond.
Yes, I am naïve! I believe if you tell yourself you can’t do something then you will never achieve it. I also believe if you tell yourself you can do something then the sky is the limit.
I mentioned earlier that one of the defining characteristics of humans is the ability to overcome obstacles and succeed despite them….hell, thrive because of them. I will tell you one other defining characteristic and then I will give you leave today.
Human beings have an unlimited capacity of compassion and empathy. We can feel the pain of others, rejoice in the happiness of others and celebrate the victories experienced by others. Imagine, if you will, if each one of us adopted one project the sole purpose of which was to help others. Imagine how many ripples of kindness and love would be generated from those individual acts.
Imagine if there were a movement of everyday people, a movement that said we are tired of the suffering and misery in this world, and we are going to do something about it. What would that movement look like?
It would look like H.O.W., or Humanity One World. Join us as we attempt to change this world one person at a time. You can find us on Facebook here!
Imagine, as Ryan did, the profound impact we could have on the lives of others. It would be incredible. It would be revolutionary. It would be…….LOVE!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)