18-year-old Ryan Hreljac was just 6 years old when he first learned of the devastating effects a lack of clean drinking water can have on a community. Reflecting on the ease of his own access to fresh drinking water in Nova Scotia, Ryan was horrified to learn that more than 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean water. By the time he was 9 years old, the Ryan’s Well Foundation was born.

Ryan’s quest to raise funds for his project began with earning pocket-money from errands and chores, but he quickly realised that by speaking out about the problem to his class, community, youth groups, faith based organisations, businesses and individuals, he was able to make an even greater impact and his fundraising income began to grow.

Ryan’s endeavours have raised millions of dollars to date. The Ryan's Well Foundation is committed to building water and sanitation projects in developing countries and has successfully achieved this in Uganda, Togo and Ghana. The Foundation has built 518 wells in 16 developing countries, providing around 640,000 people with clean water and improved sanitation. The project has seen many other benefits too, such as fewer illnesses from water borne diseases and children being able to spend more time in school each day instead of spending many hours collecting water.

Ryan’s Foundation focuses on projects that build community capacity by supporting locally-driven programmes that empower and educate children, youth and women about the need for clean water, and is active in motivating people, especially the young, to make a positive change in the world.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation is one of eleven projects recognised by the Peter Cruddas Social Innovation Initiative which supports and develops the leadership skills of young social entrepreneurs as they bring their vision to reality.

Ryan said, “I am really proud to have been selected as a Social Innovator. My goal remains to get clean, safe drinking water to people without access to any. I will continue to speak around the world on water and sanitation issues and try to motivate young people to make a difference.”

Lorna Howarth is Development Director at Artists Project Earth. www.apeuk.org