One in six people on the planet doesn't have access to clean water. Most children in developed countries don't know this -- and certainly don't realize they can help. The new children's book Ryan and Jimmy reveals the power one child has to make a difference. A true story, the book explores the bond between a Canadian boy with a fierce determination to help and a Ugandan boy who faced grave danger in a country at war.
In 1998, when six-year-old Ryan Hreljac learned about the lack of safe drinking water in many parts of the world, he set out to earn money to build a well in Africa. His efforts had a ripple effect. An article appeared in the local newspaper and donations began to pour in. Hreljac, who initially was shy, spoke about his cause at schools, churches and clubs. He started a foundation that has built more than 200 wells in 11 countries. He has appeared twice on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and his work has been recognized by the Pope, Prince Charles, Jean-Michel Cousteau and Jane Goodall.
A life-altering friendship began when Hreljac met his pen pal, an orphan named Akana Jimmy, who lived in the village where Hreljac's first well was built. Although the well now provided clean water, Jimmy faced a bigger problem: He lived in a war-torn part of Uganda, and, in 2002, was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army. He escaped, only to see his village burned to the ground. With his life in danger, the Hreljacs decided to try to bring him to Canada. But he had neither passport nor birth certificate. Readers are kept in suspense as the Hreljacs fight to get Jimmy a visa and refugee status.
Ryan and Jimmy, for ages 8-12, humanizes the issue of water pollution and unequal access to water, while telling the story of a friendship that changed both boys' lives. Today, at 15, Ryan Hreljac continues his efforts with the Ryan's Well Foundation, http://ryanswell.ca/, which has raised more than $1.5 million and provided clean water to more than 350,000 people. His former pen pal now is a member of the Hreljac family.
Published by Kids Can Press, Ryan and Jimmy will be available in October 2006.