Running for Clean Water

Ryan Hreljac learnt about the lack of safe drinking water in some African villages when he was six. He started doing errands and was soon able to buy a well. Bryony Thomas reports on his progress a decade on and looks at another water charity that he is now working with.

Since he was six Ryan Hreljac has raised 1.5 million dollars for 265 water sources in 10 water-poor countries. Now, ten years on, he has become a recognised Ambassador for water and participated in several major global events, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Since Positive News last reported on Ryans work, exciting and successful developments have unravelled. He is now collaborating with American actor Matt Damon, who is perhaps best known for his Academy Award performance in the film Good Will Hunting. Ryan and Matts charity H2O Africa are working in the Lira and Oyam districts of Uganda to improve water, sanitation and hygiene standards in schools, providing wells, latrines and hand-washing stations. They plan to educate students and staff about healthy hygiene and sanitation in 90 of the regions schools. The aim is to leave a positive message that will influence the lives of community members, as the students spread the word down through their families.

Awareness and money is being raised from both charities using various schemes. For example, a promise whereby every dollar contributed to Ryans Well will be matched by Matts H2O Africa. In order for the project to be fully successful, they hope to raise at least 200,000 dollars and to start building the wells and latrines by September 2007.

Matt Damon founded his charity to draw support and help counter the current water crisis in Africa, as well as raising awareness about the importance of safe water. He works in conjunction with Running the Sahara, a fundraising challenge in which three ultra-endurance athletes ran a total of 4,300 miles in just 111 days.

Ray Zahab, Charlie Engle and Kevin Lin covered up to 60 miles each day, the equivalent of two whole marathons, regardless of terrain, climate or injury. Along the way, they met with the people whose lives they are trying to improve. All their experiences are documented in an online diary, which is designed to both inform and encourage others to support their cause.

The trio travelled through Senegal, Mauritana, Mali, Niger, Libya and Egypt, crossing nine different eco-systems. Naturally, there were some hardships within the group: mental blocks, viruses, shin injuries, exhaustion and even government denial on entry to some countries, to name just a few. However, this only strengthened their unity for their cause. As Charlie Engle said: “Our struggles drew us closer to each other.”

Having started back in November 2006, the runners finally completed their groundbreaking expedition in February 2007. The trip was documented by filmmaker and Oscar Award-winner, James Moll. Produced and narrated by actor Matt Damon, Running the Sahara is expected to be viewed by American audiences this autumn.

Contact: The H2O Africa Foundation, 230 South Elm Street,
Zionsville, IN 46077, USA
and Ryans Well Foundation
PO Box 1120, 215 Van Buren Street, Kemptville, Ontario, K0G 1J0.