Doc Hendley, the founder and president of winetowater.org visits the podcast and previews his upcoming Wednesday keynote talk as well as the work that his organization is doing to bring water those most in need around the world. Be sure to catch him in person at IMEX America to hear even more….
Jon: Welcome back to the Meetings Podcast. Today, we have a special guest. We were talking with Doc Hendley. Doc is the founder and leader of an organization called Wine to Water, and he’s going to be speaking at IMEX America, and we’re going to be talking a little bit about what he’s going to be doing there and just a little bit about his background, and history, and his story. I know he has a new book out and a couple of things like that. So Doc, welcome to the show.
Doc: Yeah, thanks for having me man.
Jon: As I said before we went on the air, I had a chance to hear you speak last year in Cancun, and I actually think if I remember correctly, I talked to you about a little bit on the podcast back then, and just recommended as a speaker that I thought you did an excellent job. So I’m looking forward to hearing you at IMEX. I know you’re doing the key note on Wednesday.
Jon: Now you’ve been traveling. I was reading your website a little bit. So tell us what you’d been up to most recently first.
Doc: Most recently, I actually just got in from Turkey. We are working with a partnering organization there to reach out to Syrian refugees that are fleeing the fighting there.
Doc: So we’ll be distributing water filters too. There’s a camp – It’s actually in Syria, right near the Turkish border that’s about 7,000 people that haven’t reached at all, and one of the biggest needs that the kids are extremely sick, a lot of them from no access to clean water, and so we got a hundred filters sent to them this week, but that was just a small portion of what we needed for the 7,000 people. That would cover about 700.
Doc: And it was really cool. I was actually also there for a conference that was going on as a group called Entrepreneurs Organization, and when they’ve found out that we were only able to reach 10%, the whole conference decided to get together, and I did a little fundraiser, and they raised them up for us to get another 900 filters in. So we’re putting those, getting that together now and get ready to send over so in total about a thousand filters to reach the 7,000 people in this camp across the Syria borders. I’m super excited about that opportunity.
Jon: That’s one of the things that I know from having heard your talk is it’s very inspiring. I can understand how a group would have heard that, and you’ve been doing this now for a number of years. Maybe go back in time a little bit and just give us a little bit of the background because you go into some really, really rough areas to help people out with water, a very basic need that a lot of people don’t have access to.
Doc: Yeah, yeah, for sure, yeah. Well, when I got into this back in – You know, I had the idea late 2003, and you know, in a few weeks at IMEX I’ll get into the details of how it all happened and how it all came about, but in the beginning, I didn’t really know that I would even have the opportunity to travel and do this work hands on. In the beginning, I had to begin hosting events to raise funding and my plan was just to donate that money to another organization that was doing great work, and just continue to do it all volunteer, and then I had the opportunity to travel with the organization that I was actually donating to. They actually gave me a job, and I actually found myself for half of 2004, and then the rest of 2005 in Sudan, in the dark core region working there, and yeah, it was pretty – There were some pretty rough spots there, some tough times that I’ll also touch quite a bit on in my speech in Vegas here in a few weeks, but it was quite difficult, but really, even aside from the insecurity and all that, one of the more difficult things for me was to actually physically see firsthand what lack of water does to a family, and more importantly, to children. It’s one thing to read about it. It’s one thing to see pictures on Google images of women and children walking in the dessert to get water, but it’s a whole another world to be there, and witness it, and see it, and hear the heartbreak in a mother’s voice when she talks about, you know, losing children to something that’s actually quite simple to fix. You know, I’m not an engineer. I had a communications degree when I got into this, and all it took was just some resolve, you know, to get out and get something done, and a lot of the fixes that are out there are quite simple.
And so for me to see the despair in a family, in a mother, or in these children, and then to see that the fix needed is actually quite simple, it’s really what I think fueled the passion to come back home at the end of my time in Sudan to continue, you know, growing this organization.
Jon: And now you’ve been to, I believe, 9 countries. Is Turkey now a 10th country?
Doc: Oh, actually, we’ve grown our website – We’re a little behind. We’re looking for a new web guy right now. So we’re actually in 14th countries, and so once we’re able to get into Syria there, that will be our 15th, yeah, this week.
Jon: Wow, that’s – Yeah, I was on your website last night just reading, and – I mean the numbers and such are staggering when you talk about the need out there because when you’re talking about nearly a billion people and you have some very graphic things on your website to show how many billion people are compared to, you know, like the residents of Chicago or something, and it’s just staggering to think about it.
And another organization we’ve had on the podcast before is a group called Clean the World, and I know they’re involved in IMEX as well, and both of these are just kind of the most basic simple straight ahead ideas that you’re just amazed that there isn’t more access to this worldwide. Clean the World actually distributes soaps and things. What they do is they collect them from hotels, and they send out the bars of soap that people basically leave behind. They sterilize them, they clean them up, and they send them out to places so that people can have sanitation facilities in these remote areas as well. So kind of something along the lines of what you do, and…
Doc: Right, right, right, and hygiene is actually a huge, huge thing like – I mean people might think that’s a simple thing, just gathering soap and sending it out, but we’ve actually found that if you provide clean water to an area, you can decrease diarrhea disease in the children there by 40%, and if you do something as simple as tagging along with a hygiene promotion program, which includes soap and hand washing techniques, and teaching the mothers better hygiene practices, you can actually double that decrease in diarrhea disease to over 80% decrease. And so, it’s a huge piece to the puzzle of trying to keep these children alive.
Jon: Well, it’s nice because it’s nice to see the meetings industry that we’re connected to here with the podcast doing something positive and then bringing you in with your message. It’s, to me, some of the better giving back that I’ve seen within our industry so I just really – I really like watching it myself and I really like seeing what we’re doing as an industry to try and give back to communities locally and around the world.
So now I was also reading on your blog. First off, you have a book that came out this year, correct?
Doc: Yes, it came out in January of this year, and the paperback comes out actually December 31st of this year as well.
Jon: Okay. And does that both talk – Is that a little bit of an inspirational book or is it more about the kind of nuts and bolts of your experiences, or talk a little bit about what’s in there for us.
Doc: Yeah, it was really crazy. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to write a book or my story, so it’s really cool to have that chance, and throughout the process of it, the way I wanted it to read was basically like if I was meeting somebody for the first time, and hanging out for a few hours over a beer and just kind of sharing the journey of how it all got going, I want it to be very, just very organic and real. And so that’s pretty much how it’s written. It kind of just goes through a little bit about my background, who I was growing up, and why it’s – It’s almost quite miraculous that I even got into this because I was headed complete opposite direction in my life for a long time, quite reckless, and then to learn about such a huge problem, and then to get involved, and then all of a sudden, things just start happening, and you know, it was just a really fun thing for me to be able to sit down and kind of hash out on paper, and so yeah, that came out in January. It’s really helped us get, you know, obviously out to even a broader audience to share our passion as a team at Wine to Water, and what we’re all about, and what we’re trying to do.
Jon: How large an organization is Wine to Water grown to now?
Doc: That’s a great question. So we – One of our goals was, in the beginning, has always been to do a lot with a little, and so, we’ve been able to really stay quite small and organic as a team. So all together, there’s five on staff right now. We have Annie who came on at the very beginning to help me get this thing launched off the ground, and she basically runs the show. She now hosts anything and everything that’s going on at any given time, so Annie.
We have Jessup who is running our wine set of things because we have without our own label for a while, and we do partnerships with other groups, so the wine has been a big portion of who we are as an organization.
We have Kyle who’s helping me out in the field. Once we got up to about 8, 9 countries, this became overwhelming. This is also the same time that, you know, CNN and stuff started coming out and the books, so he’s come onboard to really help with the travel and manage the international program side of things, and he’s doing a phenomenal job of that.
We got our two newest folks are Josh. He’s for all of our education program as far as universities. We’re trying to get a lot of like Wine to Water camp chapters and clubs going, so he’s over that, but also with all our media and marketing side.
And then the newest person we just brought on is a guy named Allen, Allen Peterson. He was on our board for years, and he was also the CEO of a company here in North Carolina that have done very well, and instead of retiring, we convinced him to come onboard and help us that really just help with the business side of what it means to grow an organization and reach out to even more people and help reach more people to clean water, and he’s done – so he’s just come onboard actually as a CEO to help us really continue to grow and reach our bottom line, which for us, isn’t monetary. Our bottom line is more people to get water. And so he’s just in the first month actually that he came onboard. We had our biggest month since we started.
So we’ve got a great team. That’s five of us, but I’m sixth, and I’m also – I run the organization. I volunteer. Because of the book opportunity that we had coming up and that the different opportunities actually with this industry with the reading industry and being able to do some public speeches and stuff like that, I’m able to cover all my needs for my family too. That was two things. So I’m president of the organization on a volunteer basis.
Jon: Oh, that’s awesome. It’s interesting because I was thinking that you probably have faced a lot of the challenges that any smaller organization does of trying to be effective on a tight budget, and you know, be able to expand and have a larger reach. And so I’m just saying is that kind of part of what you speak to as well is sort of going through these growth things with the organization?
Doc: Oh, for sure, yeah. And you know, for us, you know, having that – to my mind, it’s a very effective team that we have, but it’s a small team in comparison to the fact that we’ve worked in 14 countries now, almost 15, and in the last year, we’ve been able to pretty much double our reach beneficiary wise of what we have been able to do all in the last 8 years before, and it’s because it’s just something that I do touch on a lot of times is being able to use, utilize local people on the ground that are already there, and teaching and training them using the resources that they have available to them.
So because we use locals in each one of these countries to actually do the work and teach and train them, that allows our tight team to be able to have a much farther reach instead of sending groups of people over or engineers or whatever to go, and throw the wells, and do the work, and come back where we’re spending man hour and plane tickets and hotels, and you know, all these stuff. We’re able to have such a greater reach by having that model. And so yeah, that’s one of the things I’ll talk about and even things that we started doing different, you know, as charities really have a hard time, especially in 2008 when the economy kind of went down, so we talked about it. That time, it was just, you know, Annie and I in the office like what in the world are we going to do, you know, to keep from dying here, and so I did touch on those things as well with, you know, depending on the audience and what the message, you know, direction needs to be.
Jon: Well I think there’s obviously a lot to talk about, and I know you’re going to cover quite a bit in detail with IMEX because I think you have like an hour or so to talk there.
Jon: So good. So you’ve got time, and I know for anybody who’s coming to IMEX, I would highly recommend coming in and hearing you speak in person.
As I say, I had an opportunity to last year, and really, really appreciate your message, and really appreciate what you’re doing and accomplishing out there. So I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas, and thank you for spending some time with us today.
Doc: Well, thanks so much for having me Jon. I’m super excited about it and here right on. The meeting/planning industry has, you know, really just now that, you know, in the last few months and last year have really got behind our organization and gotten passionate about what we’re doing, and so I can’t wait to see where IMEX takes us to, you know, maybe a whole another level with them.
Jon: Well, we look forward to seeing you. It’s just a few weeks away now, and so I guess we’ll leave people wanting a little bit more. Hopefully, they’ll come hear you at IMEX, and if they don’t have an opportunity to come to IMEX, they can find you on the web. It’s WinetoWater.org, and I know you probably got ways on there for people to become involved and do something if they’re passionate about this as well, right?
Doc: Yeah, for sure they can get online. I mean obviously, there’s a place they can donate, but also, there’s a whole tab where people if they want to host their own event or tie an event and with the meeting that they’re having or a conference that they’re having, there’s ways that we have for that to happen as well.
Jon: Great. So maybe some of the event planners out there listening would like to host an event or tie an event in to one of their larger events. So I think there’s some really good opportunities there, and once again, thank you so much for being on today. We really appreciate your time, and we look forward to seeing you a lot soon. So thank you very much…
Doc: Yeah, thank you Jon. I look forward to seeing you again in Vegas, buddy.
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