Penpals become brothers

Filed under: In The News

I was catching up on some blog reading last night, while also catching up on some TV, (How's that for multi-tasking?) when I came across the story of Ryan Hreljac and Jimmy Akana. They happen to be the co-authors of a new kids' book, Ryan and Jimmy: And the well in Africa that brought them together.

You see when Ryan was a typical Canadian six-year-old, he learned tabout the lack of clean water in many African villages. So he set out on a quest to raise money to buy a well. At age SIX! When he found out that his initial fundraising of $70 would only buy a hand pump, he got his whole community involved to raise the $2K it would take to buy a proper ground well.

To abbreviate a very long story (you can read the whole thing here) Ryan began a penpal relationship with a 9-year-old Ugandan boy in the village where his well eventually went. Kristin recently posted about the Acholi children in Northern Uganda and the horrific struggles of these children. The penpal, Jimmy Akana, was no different. Each night he walked for miles to shelter himself from the possibility of being killed by rebels. Some nights he hid in the forest near his house for hours. He had lost both his parents, his siblings had disappeared and he was now living with relatives.

Ryan went to visit Jimmy and the well in 2000. Shortly after the life-changing visit, Jimmy's life was in danger again. At age 12, Jimmy's relatives were killed or disappeared after a middle-of-the-night attack by rebels that saw his village burnt to the ground. Jimmy had managed to escape, and since the rebels viewed the harbouring escapees was seen as treason punishable by death, no one would take him in. By 2003, the rebels were hunting Jimmy, eager to assassinate him, when a miracle happened.

Ryan's parents took out a loan and sought the advice of an immigration lawyer. Then they got Jimmy out of Uganda and safely into Canada, where he now attends high school, living as their adopted son. Wow.

Now the two boys travel together, trying to raise awareness about the importance of good drinking water and fundraising for Ryan's charity, the Ryan's Well Foundation. What touched me most about the interview I saw on my public TV station, was how incredibly positive Jimmy is, even after witnessing the death of his father and cousins, even when describing the horrible events of his life -- he has a smile that will melt your heart.

Next time your kids complain about something, tell them about these two inspiring guys.

ReaderComments (Page 1 of 1)


Flickr RSS



AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.