Wine to Water

For many reasons, Wine to Water deserves to be one of Begin Giving’s featured charities.

Wine to Water provides sustainable solutions to the world’s water crisis by working directly with partnering organizations around the world. In the relatively short amount of time they have been in existence, Wine to Water has had a tremendous impact on hundreds of communities and hundreds of thousands of people.

A rainwater harvest tank that a group of locals and volunteers from the United States built in Uganda thanks to donations to Wine to Water.
About Wine to Water

Here is a little bit more about them directly from their website:

“We as an organization, we not only raise funds to combat the world water crisis but carry out our own programs in the field as well. Currently, Wine To Water has three international offices in Nepal, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. This means that, in each of these three countries, Wine To Water employs a collaboration of qualified nationals who work full time toward sustainable clean water solutions catered to the specific country’s needs.”

“Outside of Nepal, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia, Wine To Water is constantly branching into new territories through organizational partnerships and disaster relief preparedness. In these programs, we train our partners on the implementation of the Sawyer Filter, so that they may then incorporate these filters in their own programs, or respond to natural disasters with them. As with every aspect of our programs, this process depends entirely on the building of relationships, so that we may seek longer-term solutions in these areas as one community.”

A brief history of Wine to Water

I love Wine to Water’s story because the organization’s founder, Doc Hendley, is a great inspiration. Growing up in North Carolina, he didn’t have any specialized training or background before getting involved in relief work. His drive, ambition, and willingness to stay focused on his goals has allowed Wine to Water to grow into the organization that it is today.

Biosand filters ready to be painted and then distributed in the community in Uganda.

Also from the Wine to Water website: “Doc Hendley dreamed up the concept of Wine To Water while bartending and playing music in nightclubs around Raleigh, N.C. In February 2004, Doc held his first fundraiser. And by August, he was living halfway around the globe in Sudan, Africa installing water systems for victims of the government-supported genocide.”

“His life would never be the same, especially after two of his team members were killed. After spending one year in Darfur, Doc returned home. The haunting memories of what he had witnessed drove him to continue building the organization he started with that first fundraiser in a bar. Doc was determined to provide clean water for the world.”

“In 2007, after working two jobs and volunteering his time for three years, Doc launched Wine To Water. His dream of fighting the world’s water crisis became a reality. But that was just the beginning. In 2009, Doc was named as a top ten CNN Hero for that year, and the ripples continued to grow.”

“Soon Doc was speaking to packed houses, including two TEDx events and national media outlets. Thousands were inspired by his story and Wine To Water grew from one man’s mission into a movement for clean water.”

Building relationships

If there is anything the Wine to Water does better than other organizations that I have had experience with, it is with building and maintaining relationships.

It is apparent in working with them that it is the basis of everything they do – from communicating with staff in the United States to working with volunteers abroad to managing projects with the support of partnering organizations around the world, Wine to Water makes every individual involved feel as though they are an active part the solution. It a difficult thing to do, but they manage to pull it off well by communicating often and allowing participants to have a voice.

A woman in Nepal washing her clothes at a community pump.

I have had the opportunity to volunteer with Wine to Water in Nepal, Colombia, and in Uganda on three separate trips between 2014-2017 and am now working with them in implementing a WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) program in Haiti. Each trip offered a different experience  — either in learning about the technology and technique behind digging wells, learning what a bio-sand filter is and how it is built, effectively used and maintained, or distributing Sawyer Water filters to families. The work we were physically doing might have been different, but the relationship building and connecting with the community was always there with each project.

This is one of my favorite aspects of Wine to Water – that they are an organization that works very closely with partnering organizations on the ground to ensure that they are providing exactly what is needed  — not what they believed was needed. A common and very critical mistake that NGOs or individuals with good intentions often make is deciding what others — especially those living in extreme poverty — need without asking them. When this is done, not only hurts the very people you are trying to help, but it also lets them know that you don’t respect them.

How can you get involved with Wine to Water?

According to their website: “One of the most effective ways you can be involved with Wine To Water is to share your story and raise funds for clean water projects. Whether you tell your friends, get your company involved, or host a fundraiser, you are becoming a changemaker in your own community and taking a step closer to resolving the global water crisis.”

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