Book Review: Wine to Water
From his humble beginning as a bartender in a North Carolina biker bar to founding a successful international charity providing clean water to some of the most impoverished locations on the planet, Doc Hendley’s Wine to Water is an inspiring story about one man’s desire to help change the world.
This book begins with the story of Dickson “Doc” Hendley’s life growing up in North Carolina as the rebellious son of a preacher. After an uneasy time in high school, Doc had fallen in with what most would consider the ‘wrong crowd’; rough & tumble bikers. These years of his life were filled with smoking, drinking, partying, aimless wandering, and the occasional bar fight. This all began to change when he returned to North Carolina to enroll in college and learned of the water crisis.
Within a short amount of time, Doc had organized a fundraiser, which he called ‘Wine to Water’, as both a play on words, and as a literal description for the event. After the success of this first event, Doc went in search of a means to make use of the money. This search led him to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, who offered him a job working with water projects in Africa. Doc asked to be sent to the area of most need, little knowing that he would get exactly what he asked for.
Not long after, Doc found himself in Darfur, an area he described as a “literal hell”. Armed with little more than a meager budget and a mission to provide clean water to as many people as he could, he started building his team. Throughout the next year, Doc and his team were able to help a great many people by providing clean water directly, repairing wells, and eventually teaching others to repair wells themselves. Throughout this time period friendships and alliances were formed, and tragedy befell the group when one of the crew was murdered.
Doc eventually returned to the USA to formally start Wine to Water as a charitable organization, and the book ended with his travel to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. This was one of the first parts of the book where the sustainability of this operation was mentioned. A water system that relies on the import of parts, materials, or expertise is likely to fail. For Haiti, Doc partnered with FilterPure which is located in the neighboring Dominican Republic. By using a locally produced and serviced filter system, the availability of clean water was assured for many more people.
The other significant technology that Doc’s group worked with was the BioSand Water Filter; a low cost biological treatment system that can be used to purify even very poor quality surface water when clean well water isn’t available.
Wine to Water has since expanded to oversee projects in 9 different countries, including Uganda, India, Cambodia, Peru, Ethopia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Haiti, and a second project in Sudan.
Water projects in developing nations is a subject I feel very strongly about, and I was fortunate enough to have a professor in college who travelled to Africa for several weeks each year to install water systems for villages. Seeing how much a few hundred dollars worth of pipes, pumps, and filters made in the lives of so many people made a lasting impression on me. Reading this inspiring book brought all of those feelings back to the forefront, and I am very grateful that there are people like Doc Hendley out there doing this work, to help so many people in need.
I personally found the religious overtones in the book and on the Samaritan’s Purse website to be a bit overbearing, and was puzzled by the notion that prayer is a higher priority than raising money for tangible materials , but that’s likely owing to me not being a religious person at all. Doc Hendley and his team put their lives in danger again and again for a very important and worthy cause. For that, they have earned my sincere respect.