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Wine to Water – An Interview with Doc Hendley

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Image of Doc Hendley on a motorcycle

Doc Hendley’s not your average do-gooder.

The rugged founder the non-profit Wine to Water has traveled the United States atop a motorcycle, slang drinks and sang in a string of North Carolina dive bars, sports sleeves of tattoos, and talks about mixed martial arts as easily as the water crisis in Darfur.

He’s also fighting to bring clean water to the world’s most dangerous, most volatile regions. In short, Doc’s not the hero our generation deserves, but he’s the one we need.

He talked with me just as the book tour in support of Wine to Water, his autobiography, was beginning.

Read the CultureMob review of Wine to Water.

Meet Doc in person Feb.1 at 6 p.m. in the Barnes & Noble, UPenn Bookstore, 3601 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.


Shawn Proctor: “I wanted to ask you about a few of the big turning points in the book. At the beginning you were not living up to your potential by working the bar circuit when a friend called you out. Why was that such a wake-up call?”

Doc Hendley: “It was my friend Tasha, who I really trusted. She encouraged me, but was also critical. I was doing the same thing as everyone else, but she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and said, ‘Bartending, this isn’t who you are.’ Deep down, I knew I needed to do something more than living for myself all the time.”

SP: “I was struck by no matter how far you traveled from home—to Darfur or Haiti—that you were always the same person. A sort of man without a country, always in between.”

DC: “I’ve always felt like I’ve never fit in anywhere. I wasn’t 100 percent in the bar scene or among the aid workers. Coming back to home, I was still struggling to find a place. I just don’t fit any mold, it turns out.”

SP: “How did you avoid depression, not having any place you felt like was truly home?”

DC: “Phenomenal question. The first year back from Darfur I had reoccurring nightmares, but that was just part of it. Getting to the point when I cared about someone more than myself was an important step in healing. Meeting my wife helped, then having my first child. It gave me an outlet to not sulk. I found I fit in with this little family I’ve got.”

SP: “Why did you choose to go into Darfur’s no-go zones? Those are places aid workers are advised not to enter because of the danger.”

DC: “The areas that were nearby were already set up and other organizations were taking care of them. There was nobody who was going in the no-go zones. No medical groups. Nothing. We saw this was where the biggest need, which made it an easy decision for us. It wasn’t a matter of being courageous or tough—I was just an average guy trying to make a difference.”

SP: “How was it digging wells for the militia, who were perceived as the enemy, as well as the people in crisis? Can you explain your thought process?”

DH: “Even though the militia was full of people that I hated, it tested me to mean my beliefs that everyone deserves the right to clean water. In the end, I still got my ass shot off. (Laughs) My old man is a preacher man in the south. I learned not to focus on the bad. People are human beings and they need to be loved no matter what. I want to embrace people from all walks of life.”

SP: “Now for a bit of a switch. I noticed that you mentioned mixed martial arts in your acknowledgements. Who’s your favorite fighter?”

DH: “It’s hard because every time you get to liking a fighter something happens. I love Forrest Griffin, but his last couple fights, man, have been disappointing. I have so much respect of Georges St. Pierre. He seems so disciplined and hasn’t let it go to his head. GSP just wants to be a great fighter.

“I used to like Matt Hughes, but he got so preachy toward the end of his career. That’s a thing for me, too. Sometimes people wear that stuff on their sleeve like it’s some sort of trophy. I’ve never tried to force these beliefs on people. If people want to ask me what I believe I’m happy to tell them.”