I never wanted Wine to Water to be like one of those…nonprofits I’d heard about on the news that used the majority of the donations to pay staff and run their businesses while little of it actually ever made it to the people who needed it most. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I didn’t know how exactly it was going to work out, but I’d figure it out.
Nine nations, hundreds of wells, and over 50,000 people later, it’s safe to say that Doc Hendley has indeed figured it out.
The narrator of his own unexpected journey from the North Carolina bar scene to the deserts of Darfur, Hendley’s Wine to Water is a riveting and humble account of how anyone can, with the proper perspective, become a large-scale Good Samaritan. I myself hadn’t heard of Doc’s Wine to Water organization before reading this book, but now, knowing how many villages the team has hydrated – often when no other aid group was willing to travel to the dangerous rebel-filled zones where water was needed most – I am excited to make my first donation to what is an indisputably genuine cause, founded on genuine principles. (Not to mention the world’s most endearing and folksy vernacular. I challenge you to find a 2012 publication with more instances of the adjectival phrase “big ol’…”)
I loved reading about how Jesus hung out with drunks and hookers, and that his first miracle, as I could best calculate, was making approximately a hundred and twenty gallons of wine so that a wedding party could continue on rocking it out…Instead of making me feel like I was being preached at or judged, the stories spoke to me…I didn’t have to be a perfect do-gooder to actually do something good in this world.
Amen, right? Because while it’s obviously difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of such need as is found in Africa every day, it’s often just as difficult to imagine what we can possibly do about that need once it’s exposed to us. Often (and in many cases through no fault of their own), international aid organizations and NGOs run into a few conundrums: like Doc said, they can mismanage their donations. Or, they can become so behemoth (which is fundamentally a good thing, of course, to expand their reach) so as to seem like inaccessible fortresses to outsiders with any interest in joining the cause. Wine to Water, as near as I can tell, is a far cry from either of those things. And the human side we are shown in Hendley’s account is enough to call us to action without ever pushing under our noses the constant subtext of other volunteerism memoirs on the market: “What have YOU done for humanity lately, you schlub?” Somehow, the line between rallying us readers and condemning them is never crossed. And that in itself is an impressive feat for a 2009 CNN Hero – someone who has every right in the world to think a Midwestern girl running a book blog probably has bigger and better things she could (and should) be doing with her time.
So maybe a step in the right direction is to tell you all to read this book, too. It’s a fast read and you’ll be better off knowing what you know once you’ve finished it. You’ll be wiser when it comes to how you might involve yourself with NGO infrastructure, more versed in how non-urban areas access their basic needs, you’ll know which countries still need our help the most, and as some comfort, you’re bound to be charmed by all of the above packaged in a slightly irreverent Southern drawl.
Let’s raise a glass to Doc.