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Inspiring Global Human Rights with Doc Hendley

Doc Hendley is a CNN Hero and President and founder of the organization Wine to Water. The original concept of Wine to Water came from Hendley’s experiences tending bar and playing music in nightclubs in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wanting to raise money to fight water related death and disease in a new way, he started to hold fundraisers that gave his patrons the chance to have a good time for a good cause. Balancing family life and the demands of building Wine to Water, Doc Hendley continues to travel to underdeveloped, war-ridden nations, working in the field to bring clean water to those in need.

Being just a bartender, and kind of a washed up musician, I wasn’t really sure how much of an impact a guy like me could actually have. But I tried anyway.

SPEAKING.COM: Why did you start the global charity Wine to Water?

HENDLEY: When I learned about the water crisis 12 years ago, something deep down wouldn’t allow me to sit back and do nothing. Being just a bartender, and kind of a washed up musician, I wasn’t really sure how much of an impact a guy like me could actually have. But I tried anyway. I had given up on a lot of things in my life before Wine To Water when things got really tough or when failures came more than successes. Thank God I didn’t give up on Wine To Water.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the most challenging areas for improving civil and human rights?

HENDLEY: The most challenging things in my opinion are actually simplest. Not easy, but simple. I believe that we as human beings were made to serve our fellow man regardless of different backgrounds, races, or religions. On the contrary, I believe we should especially be serving those people who are from different backgrounds, races, religions, sexual orientations, or whatever else society uses to differentiate folks. Can you imagine what would happen to this country, and this world, if people sought to serve those who were different from them rather than judge them or put them down? It’s hard to hate someone who smiles at you with an outstretched hand ready to help.

You can be a stay at home mom, a flight attendant, an event planner, or a bartender and you have just as much ability to change the world around you as Angelina Jolie or that guy from U2, maybe even greater ability.

SPEAKING.COM: How can the power of relationships transcend perceived barriers?

HENDLEY: I firmly believe that without the people and relationships that I have in my life, I would be nowhere near where I am today both on a personal and professional level.

I learned early on that this mission that I had taken on was not going to be an easy one. One of my most valuable lessons was when I realized that I didn’t have to do this all on my own, or rather I couldn’t do it all on my own. When barriers and hardships do arise, which seems to be quite often, I immediately look to the people around me for support and direction on how to best move past each obstacle.

A wise man once wrote:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor, If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

SPEAKING.COM: What would you like to say to people who feel they cannot make a difference – that one person cannot affect real change in the world?

HENDLEY: I know the feeling very well! Most of my life I thought a regular guy like me couldn’t have much of an impact on the world at all. The one thing I would ask of anyone is to stop listening to that voice in your head that says “You’re not good enough” or “You can’t.” Once you decide to turn that voice off then you have to have the courage to take the first step. That first step is always the hardest, but the second comes a little easier, and then third is even easier, and before you know it one day you look back and smile at how silly you were for believing you couldn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish.

SPEAKING.COM: Describe some of the challenges you have faced in life and how you have overcome them.

HENDLEY: Challenges come in all shapes and sizes for me, and for some crazy reason they seem to come at me a lot. I was never a very good student growing up, was never a great athlete, and I was awful at following the rules, so I guess it’s no surprise that I was in trouble a lot. I always had a lot of energy. Unfortunately, I chose to use that energy for some pretty negative things.

When I finally found my passion in Wine To Water I began to channel all that energy that I once used for negative things and started using it positively. I needed that energy to help me get through my time living in Darfur during the government sponsored genocide. I needed that energy to get me through being hijacked, ambushed, and shot at in Sudan. I needed that energy to push through disasters like Haiti and the super typhoon in the Philippines. I need that energy even on the home front, especially on the home front, when we have to deal with inter office issues that nearly every organization or company has to deal with at some point in their life cycle.

As a result of being a normal guy and not some superhero, I run out of energy a lot. But it’s the people around me, my wife, my children, the team at Wine To Water, and also my faith that help to replenish that energy once it’s run out.

SPEAKING.COM: In one of your keynote speeches you discuss, “how to do what we can with what we have.” What does this concept mean to you?

HENDLEY: This concept means everything to me. Too often people want the skills, resources, or gifts that someone else has and think that if they only had more then they could do more. I think the opposite. You can be a stay at home mom, a flight attendant, an event planner, or a bartender and you have just as much ability to change the world around you as Angelina Jolie or that guy from U2, maybe even greater ability. Because most people can’t relate to Hollywood stars or the rich and famous; people can relate and will get behind a schoolteacher or a truck driver who is trying to have a positive impact in their own community regardless of what resources they have.

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  • Doc Hendley Doc Hendley is a 2009 CNN Hero. He is President/Founder of the organization Wine To Water and is also a professional public speaker. “When the idea came to me to start Wine to Water the only real job experience I had was tending bar,” said Hendley, “I dreamed of building an organization that fought water ... more

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