Carmel High senior Ryan Lefebvre looks like your typical California surfer dude. Blond hair, shocking blue eyes and tanned skin, Lefebvre lounges comfortably in a corner of the library, maintaining a cool smile and mellow air as he flips through a skateboarding magazine, pausing intermittently to chat with friends.
From just looking at Lefebvre, you might not guess that as a sophomore he started his own non-profit organization with the dream of helping others.
“Ryan has a true passion and dedication to help others,” senior Matt Gibson says, “and that really shows through in his daily life.”
A parishioner of All Saints Church in Carmel, Lefebvre first became involved in charity work through his church’s efforts to provide clean drinking water to citizens of Haiti in 2011.
“My church was affiliated with a program building wells in Haiti,” Lefebvre says, “but things were moving pretty slowly.”
Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Lefebvre started the RPL Project—pronounced “ripple” and standing for his Lefebvre’s initials—in 2012.
Lefebvre organized several garage sales to raise money to pay for a well in Locorbe, Haiti, a village of more than 1,000 people with the nearest water source located three miles away.
Lefebvre notes that his loving parents gave him the foundation and inspiration to start the charity.
“I’m an only child, so I was always given everything,” he says, “and I guess there can be two sides to that, but I really saw how fortunate I was, and I didn’t take it for granted.”
It’s clear that Lefebvre finds gratification in his efforts.
“It really doesn’t take that much of an effort to make such a big change for other people,” Lefebvre comments. “I don’t really see it as work.”
Lefebvre plans to major in structural engineering at CaliforniaPolytechnicStateUniversity, and after college he hopes to continue providing aid for others.
“After college I want to get a steady job in San Francisco, so I can raise some money,” Lefebvre explains. “Then I want to move to a third-world country where I can help other people.”
Once the well was completed, Lefebvre redirected the RPL Project’s efforts to a closer setting by pairing up with local organizations.
The RPL Project participated in Small Bites for Hunger which provides money to Monterey food banks and shelters and also worked behind the scenes for Meals on Wheels’s Culinary Classique d’Elegance at SpanishBay. Most notably, Lefebvre and five friends acted as dance partners for elderly ladies at the Meals on Wheels dance in November.
“It was very helpful to have the extra help,” says Andrea Fuerst, the director of the Sally Griffin Active Living Center at Meals on Wheels of the MontereyPeninsula. “[Ryan’s] enthusiasm and energy went a long way toward the success of our events!”
Lefebvre’s efforts to give go beyond the needs of the less fortunate, and he explains that part of the reason he redirected the RPL Project’s efforts was to help CHS students earn community service hours and have fun in the process.
Gibson, who participated in the dance, adds, “I had a really great time dancing with old people, surprisingly.”
“Ryan has so much love and loves to give,” senior Carli Hambley says. “He never hesitates to help, whether that means advice…or a bite of his food.”
Lefebvre’s willingness to help friends as well as the less fortunate connects back to an eye-opening summer spent at the TassajaraZenMountainCenter in Big Sur.
“At first I really knew nothing about it,” Lefebvre comments, “but it really touched me. The whole Buddhist culture speaks to me.”
Lefebvre adds that his knowledge of Buddhism has changed his way of thinking.
“We’re all here and seeking peace, so why don’t we just do it together?” Lefebvre asks. “We’re all in it together. It’s made me think that way. After that experience, I don’t judge people anymore.”
It’s clear that Lefebvre utilizes the kindness practiced in Buddhism in his everyday life.
“He [stands] out from other people because he is so kind and incredibly understanding,” Hambley notes.
Whether he’s dancing with elderly women, catching a surf session or just hanging out with friends, Lefebvre lives his life with the compassion and kindness that is essential in his pursuit of helping all whom he meets.