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Bartender Turns Wine into Water

“[They] sit on the same stool, drink the same drink, pay the same tab every day. I felt like they really did want to be a part of something.  They just were waiting for somebody to bring that something to them.”

So says “Doc” Hendley, a 30-year-old bartender named by CNN as one of its Heroes of the Year for 2009, for his work in organizing ordinary people to help supply water to communities in the developing world.  Hendley first learned of the global water crisis as he took time off from his college education to travel overseas.  There he found himself face to face with a hard reality many of us scarcely think about: how millions of the world’s people lack access to safe, affordable drinking water.

Upon returning to college, Hendley began setting up wine-tastings at which he handed out information about the water crisis and solicited donations.  By the time he’d graduated, his “Wine to Water” events were funding water-distribution projects with simple bio-sand filters that were supplying whole villages with drinkable water.

It’s estimated that Hendley’s work has provided safe drinking water to more than 25,000 individuals in refugee camps, orphanages, schools, hospitals and a leper colony.

“You can be a bartender in Raleigh, North Carolina,” he says.  “You can be just a regular anybody.  And you really, really can change the world.”