Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Kids Can Press, 2006.
Ryan and Jimmy tells the story of Ryan Hreljac, who at the age of 6 decided to earn enough money to build a well in Africa. After hearing about people in Africa who do not have clean drinking water or who have to walk long distances to find their water, Ryan started doing chores around his house to raise enough money to build a well to provide clean drinking water to a community. As Ryan earned money at home, word spread throughout his small community in Ontario and people started donating more money to help Ryan reach his goal. The result of Ryan’s successful fundraising efforts led to Ryan and his family forming a nonprofit group to continue raising money to build wells in Africa. Ryan’s Well Foundation continues to raise money and Ryan has traveled throughout the world talking to organizations and conferences (and Oprah Winfrey) about his work.
In the summer of 2000, Ryan, then 9, traveled with his parents to a small village in Uganda to help open the well that was built with the money he raised. This trip was also significant because Ryan and his parents finally got to meet Akana Jimmy, a young Ugandan boy who had been Ryan’s penpal since the boys had been paired through their respective schools. Jimmy’s life in Uganda was difficult and over the two years after Ryan’s visit it became clear to the Hreljac family that Jimmy’s life was in danger. By 2003, they made arrangements for Jimmy to visit Canada and spend some time with the family and participate in a conference in Vancouver. After spending several months in Canada, Jimmy applied for, and was granted refugee status and has lived with the Hreljac family ever since, attending school, running, and speaking on behalf of Ryan’s Well Foundation. Ryan Hreljac continues to raise funds to build wells in Africa and travel around the world on behalf of his foundation
Ryan and Jimmy is a remarkable story about how one person can make a difference in the world. The book is appealing and easy to read, with many photographs and colourful illustrations and large print. Although it is longer than a standard picture book, the design and format of the book is reminiscent of this format. The text of the book is informally written and often feels like it is being narrated by a young person. Although the style sometimes feels too informal for adults, it will appeal to young readers. Ryan and Jimmy will be an excellent addition to any unit on global citizenship or social responsibility and should be included in school and public library collections.
Thematic Links: Global Citizenship; Social Responsibility; Africa; Water; Wells; Humanitarianism
Joanne de Groot
Vol. 12, number 3
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.