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Pint-Sized Leadership: Meet Ryan Hreijac, a Global Leader

May 29, 2011

Updated May 21, 2013

I live in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. There are lots of big shots here: politicians, business people, sports heroes and wannabees. The word “leadership” gets thrown around frequently when people talk about the big shots. But if you want to find a TRUE leader, you only have to drive 30 minutes south of Ottawa to a small town called Kemptville. There, you’ll find this type of person.

Meet Ryan Hreljac.

I recall reading an article about Ryan several years ago; however, it wasn’t until I watched the Movie Blue Gold: World Water Wars where Ryan’s outstanding work was shown.

What’s so special about Ryan?

At the age of six in 1998, Ryan learned from his grade one teacher that people were dying from the lack of clean water in developing countries. He confronted his parents about the problem and in a very focused and determined way Ryan began to raise funds to help these people. This included his doing extra work around the house to earn a whopping $70. In 1999 his first well was built in a small village in Uganda.

This success prompted Ryan to accelerate his efforts to bring clean drinking water to peoples in Africa. Ryan’s Well Foundation was created in 2001, and over the subsequent years more than 660 wells and 715 latrines were built to provide safe drinking water and sanitary conditions for over 700,000 people.

Here are a few facts to illustrate the scope of the problem of unsafe drinking water:
• Almost one billion people lack access to safe drinking water
• Some 5,000 children under five years of age die every day from unsafe drinking water
• Over two and a half billion people do not have adequate sanitation
• Half of these people have NO sanitation at all

Now at age 21, Ryan has continued to expand his foundation’s work. He has visited more than two dozen countries to speak on the vital need for safe drinking water. He is recognized by UNICEF as a Global Youth Leader.

Take a moment to watch this video of Ryan to see an exceptional leader in action.


I hope you take a few minutes to visit Ryan’s website to learn more about this incredible young man and the extraordinary leadership he has shown; consider making a donation. And it all started out with a pint-sized leader at age six. Grownup leaders could learn much from Ryan.


We know that 5 million people, most of them children, die every year from illnesses caused by poor drinking water. If we do not change our ways, by the year 2025 as much as two-thirds of the world will be living in either water scarcity or total water deprivation.

– Maude Barlow (author, Blue Gold)



Click here to download my complimentary e-white paper Leading in a Multipolar World: Four Forces Shaping Society.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 5:35 pm

    Yes, there are young leaders in many places that fly under the radar. One of my daughters, Joanne, lives in Kemptville and has heard of Ryan’s achievements.

  2. May 30, 2011 3:54 pm

    What an inspiring story! Ryan sounds like an amazing child and, as you noted, an excellent example of youth leadership.

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