Elm River Colony's Brennan School is holding a fundraiser for the Ryan's Well Foundation and it's taking place at Stride Place this coming Saturday, June 1, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Grade 6 - 8 Social Studies teacher Karen Maendel explains the students have been studying global issues, people, and places in the world. She says one of the places that they discussed is Africa, and learned about its poverty, water crisis, and even the education crisis.

"I read the class this book, 'Ryan and Jimmy, and the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together.' All of us were touched by it. It's a story about this boy. When he was in first grade, he, like our students, heard his teacher say that there were kids in Africa who didn't have access to clean water. And Ryan was so struck by that. We take it for granted. We turn on the tap and we get clean water. And there are kids in the world who don't have that."

Maendel says Ryan Hreljac decided that he was going to take action. She notes it took her two close classes to read the story to her students, noting it opened their eyes and gave them a bit of a glimpse into a world we were not familiar with, seeing as we have everything in our hands. This turned into a project for the school to help the cause. 

"We even actually set up a Zoom meeting with Ryan. We got to talk to Ryan himself, who's close to 30 years of age now. We chatted with him about it and told him our plans for this fundraiser. He was excited about it, as well."

Nathaneal Waldner is in Grade 7 and shares the experience of getting involved with the cause in Uganda.

"We learned about that in social studies class. The reason they wanted to give build wells for them was because the people didn't have water, and 71 per cent of the people in Africa have to walk for water. We learned about it," says Waldner. "They brought his friend Jimmy here because they were under attack. Their homes were destroyed by people (rebel terrorists). That happens a lot; all the time."

Jimmy is one of the boys at a school in Uganda for whom Ryan helped build a well.

Waldner recounts how Ryan then set out to help and raise money to build a well. 

"He did chores to raise some money, but he made $75 dollars. Then he found out that there was only enough money to make to just buy a pump. He's still getting donations. He made already 75,000 wells. People are raising money for it to send, so they can make more wells for the people in Africa," continues Waldner.

He notes the students were able to chat with Ryan and ask questions.  He notes he asked a question.

"I asked him how many wells they made. It was exciting to talk to him. When Jimmy first came here, he was confused about all the things we have. We dig holes in the ground. He was confused because we dug holes in the ground and put a house on top. And on the way here on the airplane, Jimmy said they were trying to feed him grass, but it was salad."

"His mom and dad were killed and he was constantly escaping rebels that were trying to get him to make him a child soldier," says Maendel. "There's terrible stuff happening there with kids. He had gotten away once, and they say if you get away the second time, you likely will be killed. He did get away a second time. Ryan was in contact with Jimmy and he got a letter from Jimmy's Uncle that Jimmy was in trouble Ryan and his family worked very hard to get Jimmy to Canada. He actually lives in New New Brunswick or Newfoundland; in the East Coast somewhere. He has a family; a wife and a kid."

Ava Waldner is a Grade 8 student and noted the part that touched her was to think, "A guy that young could touch the lives of so many people."

Kendra Maendel is in Grade 8, as well, and says the thought that impacted her was the following note about the people in Uganda.

"They're important, too. That's why we should make a difference in other people's lives, as well," says Maendel. 

Their social studies teacher outlines what they're selling at Stride Place on Saturday, June 1.

"We have birdhouses, we're selling African violets, and there's macrame hangers. We have 3D-printed planted pots with succulents generously donated by Our Farm Greenhouses. The ladies in the community have brought over craft items to sell like crocheted bath rugs, mittens, potholders, aprons, and blankets. There are a couple of charcuterie boards. We've made bath bombs. We're going to sell cookies and buns. Just come. We are hoping to build a well for people in Africa who don't have access to clean water.."

They're going to be at Stride Place on Saturday, June 1, beginning at 1:00 p.m. and it runs to 5:00 p.m.