Skip to content

Book Review – Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World by Doc Hendley

Synopsis:  The captivating story of an ordinary bartender who’s changing the world through clean water.

Doc Hendley never set out to be a hero. In 2004, Hendley-a small- town bartender- launched a series of wine-tasting events to raise funds for clean-water projects and to bring awareness to the world’s freshwater crisis. He planned to donate the proceeds through traditional channels, but instead found himself traveling to one of the world’s most dangerous hot spots: Darfur, Sudan.

There, Doc witnessed a government-sponsored genocide where the number-one weapon wasn’t bullets-it was water. The Janjaweed terrorists had figured out that shooting up a bladder containing 10,000 liters of water, or dumping rotting corpses into a primary water source is remarkably efficient for the purposes of mass extermination. With limited funds, Doc realized that he couldn’t build new wells costing $10,000 a pop, but he could hire local workers to restore a damaged well for a mere $50 each. He’d found his mission. Today, Doc and Wine to Water continue to help stricken peoples repair and maintain water- containment systems in places like Darfur, Cambodia, Uganda, and Haiti.

First Line I’d driven this same road through the low desert plains of South Darfur dozens of times before.

Random QuoteDuring my assessment, I was also informed that the Janjaweed destroyed one of the major dams in the area over a year earlier.  It had been one of the main sources for drinking water and much-needed irrigation.  With that, I started thinking about what I could do to help rebuild the dam.  I didn’t know the first thing about cholera or fixing dams, but I figured it was just like back when I first started bartending in Raleigh:  It’s not so much about how good and fast you are at making a Fuzzy Navel; it’s about developing a good relationship with the people sitting in front of you at the bar.  Get that down first and then you can learn how to mix the complicated drinks – or fix a dam.

Review:  Water is a paradoxical thing.  It covers most of our planet.  We are 99% water and we all need to survive – not just for drinking, but for irrigation and the maintenance of agriculture whether you’re in an African village and gardening or running a major corporate farm.  Water is something human beings have fought over throughout our history and the fight continues today.  It has been a developer’s tool (see also the history of Los Angeles) and a tool for organized genocide (see almost any war).  And think of this, the rule of thumb for survival is 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.

Doc repairing a well in Sudan

The paradox of water is that much of it is not potable.  Water attracts all kinds of parasites and insects that carry quite deadly diseases – malaria, West Nile Virus, flu, cholera – the list goes on and on.  Much of the world’s water is so polluted with both chemical and bacterial waste and this water cannot be consumed without taking measures to make it potable.  Some of it can never be consumed.  Think of the Cuyahoga River – a river that caught fire so often that it prompted the development of clean water standards here in the U.S.  Any time you think there’s too much regulation think about our rivers on fire, rendered unsuitable for maintaining life at any level.

In the Third World the problem of getting potable water to people is an ongoing one.  Here are some things to think about while you drink your Evian:

  • The water crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • At any given time, half the world’s hospital beds are taken up by people suffering through water-related diseases
  • In Africa alone women and children spend 40 billion hours walking for water – time that could be used for education, agriculture – all the things needed to pull families out of poverty
  • In Darfur, the terrorizing violence between the black Africans and the Arab tribesmen, a genocide that killed over 100,000 civilians in one year was never a battle about religion – it was a struggle over land and water
  • In Cambodia, 74 percent of the country’s deaths are directly related to the lack of clean water.

Wine to Water is a memoir about one young ordinary man’s struggle to find  himself and to become a part of enabling people get good drinking water and maintain their own wells and drinking water solutions so the access to water continues.

Doc in Uganda

Doc reminds me of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about service:

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

This young man found himself and his calling.  He also found that an individual can make a difference.  To quote Mother Teresa, I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.  Doc Hendley has amply demonstrated that he too can create many ripples – as can we all.

A story of horror, hope, and empowerment, Water to Wine embodies the best of the journey to discovery – the part where you narrow down how you can use your unique gifts to better the lives of all.  The gift may be ambitioius and dangerous or as simple as smiling at people – even when you don’t know them.  Not a perfect read, but an inspiring one.

Format:  Printed matter

Publishing Information:  Avery Publishing – January 12, 2012

FTC Disclosure:  Advance copy from the publisher for the author’s TLC Book Tour


Reading Challenges:  Mount TBR Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge

I am pleased to be a part of Doc Hendley’s virtual book tour through the blogosphere sponsored by TLC Book Tours.

proves how ordinary people can improve the world.

About Doc Hendley

is the Founder and President of Wine To Water, a non-profit aid
organization founded in 2007 focused on providing clean water to people
in need around the world. Hendley was a top-10 finalist for CNNs 2009
Hero of the Year and was featured on AC 360 with Anderson Cooper during
the Haiti earthquake coverage as he was in Port-au-Prince providing and
installing clean water filters for Haitian orphanages.  He is an avid
public speaker with many major speaking engagements lined up for the
coming year.  
Doc lives in Boone, NC with his
wife and two children.  Balancing family life and the demands of
building Wine To Water, Doc Hendley continues to travel to
underdeveloped, war-ridden nations, working in the field bringing clean
water to those in need and also traveling and speaking around the
country to raise awareness and advocacy for the worlds water crisis.
Connect with Doc on the Wine to Water website,, the Wine to Water Facebook page, and on Twitter @DocHendley or @winetowater.

Published inBooks

Comments are closed.