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Topic – Wells for Water

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Wells for Water

In many rural villages in Africa, people do not have easy access to clean, safe water. The closest water source, such as a stream or a ditch where water has collected, might not provide water that is safe to drink.

Children in Africa bring jugs of water back to their village to be cleaned

Not Safe for Drinking

An unsafe water source might provide water that contains bacteria that causes illnesses. Diarrhea is a common problem for people who drink unsafe water. For young children, diarrhea can be deadly. Every year, many children in Africa die from diarrhea. People in a rural village might not have access to medicines that can be used to treat illnesses caused by drinking water that contains bacteria. Sick children who do not die may miss school, so their education suffers.

Illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water are also a problem for adults. Parents may be too sick to work. Farmers may be unable to look after their crops or animals. People who make and sell items to buy food and other necessities for their families lose income if they become too sick to work. For families who are struggling to survive, illness can be a major problem.

Women and Girls

In rural African villages, it is traditional for women and girls to collect water from a water source. For many people, one trip to and from a water source takes between one and three hours. Water is heavy to carry, so only a limited amount of water can be collected in one trip. More than one trip a day might be necessary to provide all the water a family needs. Every week, a woman or girl might spend 10 to 20 hours collecting water. Girls may miss part of the school day because they need to collect the water their families depend on. Women who work are able to spend less time earning money to help support their families.

Fresh water being pumped from a well

Water from Wells

In some villages, safe drinking water is available underground and can be accessed by digging a well. Traditionally, wells have been dug by hand, but this can be dangerous. The walls of a well can collapse during digging, killing the worker digging the well. It is much safer to use a drill to dig a well, but many villages do not have a drill to dig with.

One Canadian Child Makes a Difference

When Ryan Hreljac was a Grade 1 student in Kemptville, Ontario, his teacher explained to the class that hundreds of thousands of African children die each year from drinking unsafe water. When she pointed out that it cost $70 for a well to provide clean water, Ryan decided to raise the money for a well. He did extra chores to make the money, but then his mother learned that $70 was only the cost of a hand pump that brought water up out of a well. Digging the well cost $2000. Once again, Ryan decided to raise the money. Word of Ryan’s efforts to raise funds for a well quickly spread. The project even got coverage on TV. Soon, many people and businesses were donating money to help Ryan reach his goal. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) also provided money. Eventually, Ryan succeeded in his quest and a well was built in a village in Uganda.

From One Well to Many

In 1991, at the age of 10, Ryan started Ryan’s Well Foundation, a Canadian charitable organization with the mission of providing safe water in Africa. The foundation has now been involved in over 1400 water projects in Africa and other places where obtaining clean water is a problem. The work of Ryan’s Well Foundation has provided over a million people with access to clean water.

A couple of years after finishing university, Ryan took a full-time job working at Ryan’s Well Foundation. In 2019, he became the executive director of the foundation. What had started as a project to raise $70 has become his life’s work. To date, Ryan has received over 20 awards for his efforts to help people around the world.


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