magine having a pen pal in Uganda, Africa. Now, imagine that you actually travel to Uganda to meet him. Then he becomes your brother! Sounds unbelievable? Well, that’s just what happened to Ryan Hreljac (Hurl-jack) and Jimmy Akana (A-kan-a) Hreljac. These two boys now believe that anything is possible. When Ryan was six years old, his teacher talked about people in Africa who did not have access to clean water. This bothered Ryan so much that he began doing chores around the house to raise money to drill a well in Africa. Less than a year later, Ryan realized his dream
when a well was built near Angolo Primary School in Uganda. After Ryan’s well was built in Agweo, his teacher decided to bring her students and the Ugandan students together as pen pals. Ryan was paired with Ryan and Jimmy meet for the first Jimmy Akana, a time in Uganda. young orphan at the school. The two became long-time pen pals.
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When Ryan was given the opportunity to travel to Uganda to see his well, he met Jimmy and they instantly became close friends. Later, Jimmy was adopted by the Hreljac family and now he lives in Canada too. Although Ryan and Jimmy were born in different continents, they have one important thing in common—they believe that young people can make a difference in the world. They often talk to schools, governments, and other organizations to tell in their own words how a well brought them together. Here’s their story.
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Ryan gave this speech in the spring of 2003 to Minesing Central Public School in Ontario. Thanks for asking me to speak here today. I can’t thank you enough. I am 11 years old and I live in Kemptville, just south of Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. As fast as you can snap your fingers, people are dying because they don’t have clean water. That makes me very sad. It all began when I was in grade 1. I saved $70 by doing extra chores at the start, but with lots and lots of help from other people and CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, I helped to raise over $750 000 for water projects in Africa. 3/8 Ryan’s Well
Ryan receives a gift from the village of Agweo—a goat!
I even have a foundation now called the there with over 5000 people in attendance! In Ryan’s Well Foundation. The foundation and appreciation, they gave me a present—a goat. I I are still working hard to get clean water for named her Peace! people in the world. I know how lucky we are because “I dream of the day when everyone in the we are born in a country world has clean water. That’s a big dream. that has lots of clean water. But I learned that you can do anything if However, there are countries you really try hard and you really want to.” that are not as lucky as ours. In July, 2000, I travelled all the way to Africa I met two boys who were very nice, but for the very first time to meet the people of meeting them made me very sad. They were Uganda. I was able to drink from my well when very sick and their stomachs were sticking out I was there and it tasted great. It was satisfying from drinking contaminated water. Seeing to see my drilling equipment in action. The what they had to go through made me feel school had a huge celebration when I was sick too. No one should have to live like that. 4/8 Ryan’s Well
We all just have to learn how to share and conserve and not pollute the water we have. There are lots of great kids in the world. I know that lots of them are working to make the world a better place. I just met 130 amazing kids at the Children’s World Water Forum in Japan, in March. They came from all over the world! Kids can help to change the world, you know, but we can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t wait any longer or we’re all going to be in big trouble. And whether it’s clean water or something else, what is important is that we all make a difference. Right now, I am working
on water projects in Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. I dream of the day when everyone in the world has clean water. That’s a big dream. But I learned that you can do anything if you really try hard and you really want to. Who knows? If all the kids and adults work together then maybe someday there will be peace and clean water for everyone. I wish for clean water for not just my family but for every single family on earth. I really hope my dream comes true one day
and I hope your dreams come true too.
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At the age of 17, Jimmy gave this speech in the fall of 2006 to students in North Grenville in Ontario. Good Morning everyone. Irio wunu maber (eyereeo woo-noo may-burr). My name is Jimmy Akana Hreljac. I have lived here in Kemptville, Canada, for three and a half years. Before moving to Canada, I lived in Uganda. I would like to tell you a little story about
what my life was like when I lived in Uganda. I used to get up very early in the morning, usually around midnight, to fetch water for my aunt and her family. The water was about five kilometres from my home. Sometimes I would make the trip three times before I went to school. After Ryan’s well was built near Angolo Primary School, I didn’t have to get up as early to fetch water. I could go straight to school for the whole day and I wouldn’t be as tired in class. We had more time for homework and
Jimmy at home in Uganda 6/8 Ryan’s Well
more time to help out at home with gardening because they do not have access to clean water and other chores. and sanitation. I was happy that we had clean water now. Young people need to help with telling the Water is life, not just for people in Uganda but good stories so that people don’t lose hope. I am for people everywhere. In the north of Uganda, there is a lack of clean “Young people need to help with water. It has caused an increase in telling the good stories so that water-borne diseases for thousands of people don’t lose hope.” people. People need at least 15 litres of water per grateful for my new home. Today, I can get clean person, per day. In northern Uganda, people water from taps in my very own house and my live on less than three litres of water per day! family’s very own well. I am lucky to be living in Six percent of the population has worms, all Canada with my new family.
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I am telling you my story today so that people around the world can understand about how important clean water and sanitation is to everyone on earth, no matter who you are or where you live.
Villagers gather water from a pond. © 2008 Scholastic Canada Ltd. V001 Adapted with permission of Ryan’s Well Foundation. All photos courtesy of Ryan’s Well Foundation
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