Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wine To Water

On Tuesday evening, I went to Powell's City of Books again to attend the lecture given by Doc Hendley, who was a bartender in North Carolina when he decided to get involved in the water crisis in the developing world and ended up starting his own Non-Profit Organization. I love stories like this. Or course I had to attend!

When he approached the podium and began speaking, there was no question that he's a Southerner. He had an interesting drawl and he personified the "good ole' boy" stereotype of Southern white boys. His persona does give off a certain image, but this was actually beneficial to him. As he told his story, he was a bartender and had a college degree from a university in North Carolina when he saw a story about the world's water crisis, with some statistic that unsafe water is one of the primary causes of death for people in the developing world. Something about this affected him in such a way that he held fundraisers (wine and cheese events at bars around North Carolina) with a plan to donate all the money to an organization devoted to this issue. He made an appointment with the charity Samaritan's Purse and spoke with someone high up (the head guy? I can't remember). Instead of accepting the money, the guy asked Doc what he deal was and why was he interested in the issue. As Doc explained it, I felt goosebumps, because this is exactly how synchronicity works. Instead of taking the money, the guy asked if Doc would be interested in working for him. Wow. I've been wanting to work in the international field. This gives me some ideas to ponder. I guess this job offer was due to the fact that Doc defied stereotypes. He may look and speak like a Southern "good ole boy", but he actually had depth and an interest in the world beyond the South.

Doc accepted the job offer and requested to be sent to the worst place possible, which happened to be Darfur in Sudan in the middle of the previous decade, when things were truly bad. He didn't share much of the details that happened in Darfur, but said that it was in his book. He hinted that it was an interesting story, which includes a threat of death by the Danjaweed militia. After getting a basic learning experience about water issues and international relief work, he decided to form his own non-profit organization. He shared how he came across the idea of "Wine To Water", which is a reference to Jesus turning water into wine. Not a bad idea (a bartender who turns profits made from wine and other alcoholic drinks into building wells so that villagers in developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia can have fresh drinking water).

He shared a little bit about starting a non-profit organization, which he advises that you surround yourself with good people that you trust and to put as much money towards the actual work instead of administrative costs. His organization actually hires local people to build and install the wells with local materials. This is a job creator overseas, which is more affordable than having Americans traveling and staying in expensive hotels. He also shared about how grants work (once you get a grant, you have to write reports detailing the progress, which means hiring people stateside to keep track of grants and writing them as well as the reports). He seems to prefer direct donations instead of grants, which is understandable. Less strings attached.

As I listened to the lecture, I was impressed. The guy has charisma and appears likable, humble, and earnest. He kept emphasizing that if someone like him could do this, anyone can. He's also willing to work in tandem with other organizations devoted to water issues. He said that the dirty secret of the non-profit world is that they can be even more vicious (competitive) than the corporate world, because they are chasing the same donors to fund their organizations.

I kept thinking, this is the kind of work I need to be doing. I majored in international politics, so why aren't I doing it? I guess my problem is that I have not found an issue that really grabs me. Human rights was my focus, but that's a broad topic. Lately, I've been thinking of volunteering with an organization in Portland devoted to refugees and helping them learn English and to understand American culture. I need to get on the ball and see if synchronicity will follow. This lecture really sparked some ideas and it is inspiring to see someone you wouldn't suspect on first glance to be interested in the lives of people in the poorest countries on earth (I've lived in the South long enough to know that most Southern white boys are not like Doc Hendley). It kind of gives me hope for the world that there are people like Doc who feel a need to do something to make the world a better place. If he can do it, why can't I?

I did not buy his book, though. Like the previous post mentioned, I'm limiting the number of hardcover books that I buy and will wait until this one is released in paperback. I wanted to talk with him about how to get a job with Samaritan's Purse (I'd love to go to Burma, if they operate there), but if I wasn't buying a book, I thought it would be awkward to go up and talk with him. Plus, I had a cut on my tongue that made it extremely painful for me to speak this week (karmic retribution, perhaps, for some "unkind" things I had posted on Facebook to a "troll" on the Community of Christ's discussion page?). Hopefully he will be back in Portland again someday so I can talk with him. But I do thank him for the inspiration. More people should learn about his story and perhaps even support his organization: Wine to Water. He requested that people get the word out about the world's water crisis. In fact, March 22nd is "Water Day" or something like that. Here's my part. I guess I need to learn more about the issue. An internationally-focused career keeps beckoning to me. We just have to find each other (the right career / organization for someone of my experience, interests, and skills).

1 comment:

Mandalynn said...

This book looks really good!! Maybe I'll recommend it for book club.