The Power of One


In 1998 in Kempville, Ontario, Ryan Heljac, a 6-year-old first grader, was horrified to learn that people in Africa were dying because they didn’t have access to clean water.   His teacher told the class it cost $70 to dig a well in Uganda, so the young boy set to work.  His parents were supportive, and gave him additional chores to do around the house to raise money.  When he had earned the entire $70, he learned from the Canadian charity WaterCan that drilling a well actually required $2,000.

Undaunted, Ryan threw himself back into the project with renewed vigor.  The local paper picked up the inspirational story, and soon the boy was invited to speak at other schools and regional organizations.  Donations flooded in to supplement his chore money, and within 10 months, the necessary funds were raised.  Ryan, then 7, was invited to visit the village in Uganda that finally had direct access to clean water from its brand new well, thanks to the unflagging focus of the compassionate youngster.  In his honor, the village created a big marker in front of the life-nourishing water source that read, “Ryan’s Well.”

Today, the non-profit foundation, “Ryan’s Well,” has created nearly 2,000 well and sanitation projects in Africa, benefitting nearly 1 million people.

Meanwhile, in 2005, An Oakland California mother reading newspaper accounts of the wrath of Hurricane Katrina noticed a Louisiana church was asking for donations of baby clothes to help families who had lost everything.  On a whim, she spread the word to her circle of friends, and started boxing up baby clothes her own kids had outgrown.  In just a few days, she had collected 200 pounds of desperately needed baby clothes, and was inspired to continue.  To date, she’s collected 28,000 pounds of gently used items through Loved Twice, the non-profit she created to help new parents clothe and care for infants.

It’s not how much money or education someone has, or even how old they are, that can make them a catalyst for positive change and healing on a local, regional, national or even global level.  A single person with passionate dedication to a specific project or cause can make miracles happen.

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