December 2006 – Vol. III, Issue 12
Feature Article: By Small and Simple Things
Recently, I heard about the same young man twice in the course of a week. His story was amazing and inspiring, yet it’s not a new story. It began in 1998.
One cold day in January, Ontario first-grader Ryan Hreljac ran home and begged his parents for $70 to build a well in Africa. That day, his teacher shared with the children the sad truth that many children were dying in Africa because they lacked clean water to drink. At first, his parents tried to put him off, saying that $70 was a lot of money and not thinking that he was serious.
When Ryan kept bringing it up, his parents agreed to let him do extra chores around the house to earn the money. He began to slowly accumulate the money, doing odd jobs for his parents and grandparents at $2 a pop. Eventually, he had earned the $70, and went with his mother to the nonprofit agency WaterCan to deliver the money.
During the conversation with the nonprofit’s director, Ryan learned that $70 would only buy the handpump for the well, but that it would take $2000 to drill it. Determined, he simply said, “I’ll just do more chores, then.”
Ryan’s mother sent an email to family and friends, and through word of mouth and media publicity, Ryan’s earnings were matched and exceeded by people who had caught his vision. When donations for Ryan’s Well had passed $700, WaterCan called to ask where Ryan wanted his well to be placed. Ryan asked if they could put the well near a school so the kids at the school could have clean water. A site at Angolo Primary School in Northern Uganda was chosen.
When Ryan was told that drilling equipment would allow many more wells to be drilled, he said, “I’ll raise the money for that drill. I want everyone in Africa to have clean water.” The cost? $25,000.
Nine years and over $1.5 million dollars later, Ryan Hreljac is still raising money for clean water for all Africans. He has visited his first well several times, being greeted as a hero and a son and brother by the people of Angolo each time he comes. The Ryan’s Well Foundation has built 254 wells in 11 countries, serving 425,335 people and saving lives. Ryan, although shy, accepts invitations to speak and appear in the media in order to further his vision.
Ryan is an inspiring kid. He’s now a lanky teenager, shy and a little embarrassed by attention, but he’s an amazing teen with passion and a vision. He didn’t look at the greatness of the task and think, “There’s no way I could do that.” He simply looked at the first goal and said, “How can I make this happen?” And from there, his vision grew.
One of my favorite quotes from scripture is this: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Alma chapter 37, verse 6). Ryan continues to confound the “wise” men and women of the world by what he’s able to do. He’s a catalyst for others to see their capacity for taking action and making a difference. Great things are coming to pass because of his vision. In Ryan’s own words: “Little people can do big jobs… only if you try.”
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed because of the greatness of a task in front of you, dig deep to find your vision. Identify that first “small and simple thing” that you can do to make it happen. For Ryan, it was vacuuming the floor and washing the windows. What will it be for you?
Read more about Ryan and Ryan’s Well Foundation at: