Jul 17, 2014

Finding Another Chance

Finding Another Chance

When Wine to Water’s wine director became part of the organization several years ago, he found more than just a career, a home and a family.

He found a second chance.

It was his job just a few years ago to oversee the distribution of wine for a wholesale company, and all of western North Carolina was his turf.

Jessup Marion’s line of work brought him to Boone in 2007, back when Appalachian State University football was still in its dynasty mode and Doc Watson’s physical presence still graced the stages at local music festivals. But neither of those were the reason Jessup come to the High Country. Jessup was in Boone to sell wine to the good people of Appalachia.

He parked his car on King Street and went to anywhere in the downtown district where he saw the word “wine” on a door or window. He’d do his sales pitch, shake hands and start friendly relationships with potential clients, something he has always been gifted at doing.

On his last day in Boone, Jessup saw the opportunity for one last sale before leaving town. Following his word association strategy, he targeted the sign of a place called Wine to Water and walked inside.

“Let’s go try to make a sale,” he thought to himself before entering.

But this stop seven years ago didn’t result in commission and it didn’t open the possibility of a follow up sale when Jessup would eventually return to Boone at a later date. Instead, the wine wholesaler walked into the organization and lives of two staff members -- Doc Hendley and Annie Clawson, who is now Annie Marion -- that would change his life and give him the second chance he had been searching and asking for.

“Doc gave me a chance where a lot of people didn’t give me a chance,” he said. “I’ve always been sort of a loner to be honest with you. I don’t know if it was because of my own doing or just because of whatever it was. Once I met Wine to Water and Doc and Annie, they believed in me and they gave me a chance to be a part of something that I can’t ever repay. The people I work with now, they’re so close they’re like family -- and I’ve never really had that.”

Now seven years later, Wine to Water has given him charge of the wines as the wine director and he has a home in the mountains of North Carolina with his family.

And Jessup has given Wine to Water a private label and a bright future with the wine program that was unimaginable before he showed up.

Early impressions

Jessup had two impressions when he walked into the door and learned about Wine to Water for the first time. One of them was the sensation he felt when he learned why the nonprofit existed in the first place.

“I don’t even really know what the word is, but I was overwhelmed with just the fact that I didn’t know anything about this water crisis and that there was something out there that’s killing so many people that’s the most elemental thing in the world. I had no idea about it.”

Jessup then realized that this moment, that this opportunity was something he had been searching for in his life. The traveling wine salesman at the time said he was feeling lost as a person and had been looking to be part of something bigger than himself.

“I think we all get to a point in our lives, regardless of what you’re doing or where you are, that you want to try to contribute back to society or feel like you’re a part of something,” he said, “and I was blessed and fortunate to walk into the door that day and find that I could potentially.”

Aside from this impression of a greater worth in one’s self and contributing to others at the same time, Jessup noticed something else -- or rather someone else.

“With Annie, she was glowing from the moment I saw her and that struck me pretty hard when I first walked through the door.”

But the now married couple, who have one young child and another on the way, didn’t exactly make the connection right away -- at least not for Annie, anyway.

“It’s funny looking back at it because Annie thought I was trouble, and quite honestly I was at that time,” Jessup said. “But I just kept hanging out and being around them, trying to show her that I wanted to make a change in my life and that I’m not as bad of a person inside, that I had a good heart and I wanted to show her that and get the opportunity to. I just kept hanging out and bugging her really. She shot me down a lot.”

But eventually, after volunteering and showing his commitment to the organization, the vice president of Wine to Water came around to the new guy and got to know the Jessup not many people know.

“I think as you get to know Jessup, you see that he’s not the kind of person that immediately you see his tender, soft side and the tears in his eyes and things like that,” Annie said, “but that’s the real Jessup that I fell in love with. He has the most tender heart, is very compassionate and is very passionate about the things that he does. I started seeing who he really was and not who he was portraying, or who he was kind of hiding under. I got to see the heart of who he was.”

In 2010, the two Wine to Water staff members were married and later welcomed their first child, Jackson Marion, into the world Jan. 30, 2013. Their second child is expected to be born in December.

Others in the Wine to Water office, including Doc -- who is the founder and international president -- have noticed the kind of husband and father Jessup has become.

“The good Lord gave Jessup many gifts, but the one that I have enjoyed witnessing the most is his gift of being a great dad,” he said. “Watching Annie and Jessup's family life take shape has truly been a blessing for me and everyone else in that office. We're all one big family anyway, and it's been a joy to watch that family grow.”

And for Jessup, both of these impressions he initially had coming in have helped him reach where he is now in his life.

“I have a home here in the mountains and sometimes I can’t even believe where I’m at, to be honest with you.”

Making the commitment

That same day in 2007 when Jessup learned about Wine to Water, he and Doc grabbed a beer at a nearby bar to talk more about the nonprofit, and ultimately Jessup’s involvement.

“He told me more about the organization and right then I knew and I told Doc then that I wanted to be a part of this in any way I can,” he said. “I committed myself at that point to start volunteering in any way I could. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time or what it was going to look like, but Doc and Annie both welcomed me in and gave me an opportunity to contribute whatever I could.”

And volunteering is what he did. At events, Jessup noticed Doc and Annie trying to do everything from socializing to providing drinks, so he stepped in with his talents and connections to take some of the pressure off.

“[Doc] turned it over to me there,” he said. “And for about two years after that point, I went to every event that I could possible go to, volunteering as far as pouring wine and supplying wine and just helping out in any angle I could, really so they could have more time to grow awareness and mingle and do their thing.”

And by 2009, all of the work and time paid off. Jessup became the very first wine director for Wine to Water, a position he continues to serve in and expand to this day.

Given a second chance

To Jessup, Wine to Water is much more than a career mingled with passion and purpose. It is more than a group of coworkers that are also like family. This place is his second chance.

“Before Wine to Water, I was at the point where I went through some really bad times and I was pretty much giving up on life. I was just going through the motions. And I was at the point where I was saying, ‘God if you’re real show me, because I can’t do this alone anymore and I don’t want to,’” he said. “‘Take me home’ is what I used to pray and I would pray for him to take me.”

But knowing Doc and Annie and having them in his life gave Jessup the answers and opportunities he had been asking for.

“I met Doc, Annie and Wine to Water and since I’ve been here I know what God really is to me now and that I’m here for a purpose,” he said.  “And my faith continues to grow and it’s only grown stronger since I met Doc and Annie, especially Annie.”

The future of the wines

Jessup’s time at Wine to Water, from volunteering to a full-time staff position, has helped grow the wine portion of the organization.

Because of Jessup’s efforts, Wine to Water has its own label through Brutocao Cellars and Bliss Family Vineyards in California, which features a Red Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Doc said it is because of Jessup’s work and effort that the organization even has wine to offer.

“He has spearheaded getting our label up and running for the last five years,” he said. “In my mind, our wine label is one of the things that makes us unique as a charity and I see that wine label, and thus Jessup, playing a major role as the organization continues to expand.”

Annie said that if he had not shown up the wine program probably would have been cut altogether.

“He has fought to keep it alive,” she said. “And I think that we, just not knowing what we were doing and getting discouraged, may have easily just nixed the wine program.”

Jessup’s vision for the future of the wine program is still in the works, but one major project is a wine club referred to as an “Ambassadors Club” in order to reflect on the organization’s roots.

“So if you’re a member of this wine club, then you really are an ambassador to Wine to Water and doing these home events where we first started and growing. It’s definitely a work in progress as far as the future of getting to where I envision the wine part of Wine to Water being.”

Faith, family and friendship

Searching in life for answers, coming across Wine to Water and starting a family in Boone is not just some wild, fortunate occurrence to Jessup Marion.

“I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. God puts everything in motion for a reason, he made me walk through that door one day and he’s brought the people that are here into my life now, and I didn’t expect it.”

Through Wine to Water and through the people he has grown close to because of it, Jessup and those around him know he has a greater sense of faith, family and friendship since his wholesale days in 2007.

“I mean, family is everything and family really is everything,” he said. “Your best friends are in your family and your support system is in your family.”

Finding Wine to Water seven years ago gave Jessup more than he could have imagined. Through both his personal and professional interactions, Jessup’s involvement in Wine to Water gave him another chance in life.

“Walking in the door to wine to water that day, I not only found a purpose but I found my life through Annie and through Doc and Wine to Water.”

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May 6, 2014

Just One Shift

Andrea Kaji embodies everything you’d expect in a bartender. The Chicagoan has been in the bartending business for nearly a decade, including for a time in college. To Andrea, this is a way of life.

“In Chicago, our industry is a career for many people. As a bartender or server, you have many transactions and you meet a slew of various characters. A bar is almost set up like a stage. Your consumers become the audience. What are they looking for? What can you teach them?

So what does Andrea teach her patrons? Perhaps her work with Wine to Water’s annual campaign directed toward those in bartending is an example.

Andrea participated in last year’s inaugural Just One Shift, a campaign where bartenders and servers alike donate their tips from one shift to WTW. Last year, Andrea with help of some friends in Chicago raised $3,000 -- and they look to outdo themselves this year.

What is Just One Shift?

Just One Shift is WTW’s annual fundraiser that encourages bartenders and servers to donate their tips from one shift, which takes place between May 12 and 18 this year.

“Just One Shift started when world renowned bartender, Gaz Regan, approached us with the idea in early 2013” said Josh Elliott, social media and campus coordinator for WTW. “His passion for the service industry was hard to ignore and is very well respected in the industry.

He pitched the idea to us and we all agreed that it was very in line with our roots as an organization.” Just One Shift was inspired by WTW’s unique approach to fundraising. International President Doc Hendley hosted similar events in 2004 to raise money in the fight to provide clean water to those in need, and the purpose still remains 10 years later.

“Last year we were overwhelmed by the support that came in from around the world,” Josh said. “More than 327 bartenders in 34 countries participated. We raised $40,000. The service industry is a compassionate crowd who move quick and can make a big impact. I doubt they'll let last year out do their efforts this year.”

Andrea first heard about JOS through her sister, who had just learned about Doc’s trip to Syria. “She also mentioned that there was a campaign in which I could get involved in by tapping into the service industry.” Andrea said. “Our mother is from Syria, and we had plans to visit family in Syria right when the war broke out.” Through the efforts of bartenders and servers across the world, WTW was able to raise $40,000 last year. The organization’s goal this year? It’s $100,000.

Why it all matters

WTW isn’t alone in setting the bar high. Andrea plans to make an impact with JOS in Chicago again, this time hoping to raise between $5,000 and $10,000.

“The goal is to get as many bartenders and servers to participate around the world. We plan to challenge bartenders and servers in a little friendly competition. In Chicago, we plan to support as many bartenders involved during the campaign week and have a Just One Shift finale.”

Andrea says she believes this campaign is an incredible way to make a difference in the lives of those affected by the global water crisis.

“Just One Shift is an easy and effective way to truly make a difference and save lives. When you have two bartenders who are devoted and driven to make a dent on an epidemic that affects 2.5 billion people around the world, it’s hard not to pay attention.” And it’s her involvement in the service industry that Andrea says helped lead her to her role with WTW now.

“Quite frankly, service industry employees have always been some of the most hard working and hospitable people I’ve ever really met. They are always actively looking to participate in the greater good. This is a great way to start; its how I started.

Continuing to spread WTW’s mission

Andrea’s work with WTW does not stop at JOS. After last year’s event, she helped organize the Chicago chapter of WTW. “We are branching out from the wine world into all aspects of the service industry. We have had a tremendous amount of support from Allagash, Lagunitas, Sazerac, Wirtz, Vanberg & DeWulf and currently from UN86’d.” Andrea will also help to host Doc in Chicago on June 1 when he will speak at Webster’s Wine Bar.

“If this chapter evolves, we’d love to replicate it in various cities around the country or around the world.” After all, if one bartender was able to spearhead a nonprofit, think what several bartenders and servers across the world could do in just one shift.

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Apr 14, 2014

Founder's Vision

Starting an internationally known non-profit is no easy task. It takes hard work, it takes a dedicated team, and a vision. But it all started with a leap of faith. 

Doc Hendley’s story has been told many times over the years.  e son of a preacher who loves to ride his Harley had the idea in a dream years ago of what would one day become Wine to Water. He’s traveled the world to provide clean water and spread his message, started the non-profit with the help of others and he’s started a family in the mountains of North Carolina.

But there’s more to Doc’s 10-year story with Wine to Water.

 “Most people think that when I had the idea for Wine To Water that I never looked back and that I stayed the course and was passionate all the time, but that’s not the complete truth” he said. “ the truth is there have been a lot of hard times along with the great times. When times were hard, I doubted my ability to push forward.”

Every time something difficult confronted Doc, he was forced to rely on an important element to help pull him through: his faith. 

 “Whether it was getting shot at in Darfur, Sudan, or it was worrying about how we would stay open after the financial collapse in 2008, my faith has been tested time and again these last 10 years.”

 But what kept Doc going back then is keeping him looking forward to the future.

 “My faith has been tested time and again these last 10 years. Every single time, God has been faithful and given me the strength I needed to overcome problems I faced.”

Shifting roles

Doc’s involvement with Wine to Water has taken what he says is a positive turn in the last few years. 

 “My roll with WTW has been evolving since the beginning.  The first three years I worked a number of jobs to make ends meet, while volunteering my time to raise funding for WTW and get it started. By 2007, with the help of friends Coy Isaacs and Annie Marion, we became our own 501(c)(3) non-profit. For the next four years, I worked full time as the President/CEO.”

Since 2011, Doc has written a book, and Allen Peterson took over as CEO/President, which has given Doc more time to focus on public speaking, traveling to the field and being able to attend major WTW events around. 

“In 2011 I quit taking a salary from WTW and became International President. My role now is more as visionary leader and fundraiser for the organization. However, the one thing that has stayed consistent has been my involvement in the field.”

In 2013 alone, Doc traveled to Syria, Haiti, Cambodia, Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines. 

 “These last three years have been a dramatic shift for us and a blessing. Our team has grown significantly in numbers and capability, allowing me to move into a much better role.”

Goals, vision and faith

Doc wants to help people in need. After all, that’s why he started Wine to Water in the first place.  The non-profit’s reach is expanding, but Doc wants to see he and his team reach even further. 

“We continue to grow exponentially each year and provide more and more people with clean water. It has taken us 10 years to reach 250,000 people, but by the end of next year (2015) we hope to have reached our 1 millionth person.” 

But there’s more to the future than quantitative figures in Doc’s vision. He sees the faith of himself and the faith of those in the organization to play a vital role in Wine to Water’s mission.

“We are an organization made of people of faith. But instead of using our faith as a way to make everyone believe the same things we believe, we have a different view. I believe that our faith calls us to love and help anyone and everyone. Whether it is an Islamic community in the Middle East or a Buddhist community in Cambodia, we feel it is our mission to help, love and build relationships.”

Doc’s vision was never to place an earmark on Wine to Water’s services that required those he and others helped to accept a specific type faith, but to help and love others unconditionally.

“In the end, I am convinced that true love does not judge or condemn. True love is willing to serve anyone without question or judgment.”

Looking ahead

Doc’s story, or the “Founder’s Story,” will continue to be told. But Doc wants more stories, not just his, to be told through Wine to Water.

“Our team is growing and is full of amazing people. Moving forward, the stories of the people in our organization will be told more to show everyone we are not a one- or two-person show. In fact, if something were to happen to me tomorrow, our organization would move on just fine without me. I want the stories of our great team members to be shared and I also want to share more about the impact our work has had on the families in the countries where we work.”

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Nov 6, 2013

Community Support

Regan Fahey, a 5th grader, chose to raise money for Wine To Water as her school project. She decided to run a 5K and ask friends & family to donate just $1 for each mile she ran. Regan's community united around her passion to give and raised a total of $200! Thank you Regan and the amazing people that surround you.

We are honored to have your support!
-WTW Team

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Aug 22, 2013

Give Up a Glass

Tiffany Shatley part owner of Sweet & Savory, an American style restaurant located in downtown West Jefferson, hosted an event at her restaurant to benefit Wine To Water.  After learning about the water crisis and reading Doc Hendley’s Wine To Water: A Bartenders Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World, she decided to use her resources as a vessel for change. 

The event was held once in June and another in August, where they asked their Sweet & Savory customers to “give up a glass” of tea, coffee, or soda and only drink water. They then asked their customers to consider donating a few dollars to help raise money for the 1 billion people around the world who lack access to clean water. All summer, Sweet & Savory displayed information and materials that would inform their customers of the water crisis. They raised over $1500!!!

This is a brilliant idea; we just had to share it!  We are so excited and encouraged by such creative, passionate individuals such as Tiffany and everyone at Sweet & Savory. Thank you for your hard work and for your support of Wine To Water!! Keep up the good work.

 

Cheers!

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Jun 24, 2013

Guatemala: Oscar's Choices

I met Oscar years ago when we worked in a horrible slum outside Guatemala City. Oscar, who is short and stout, moved about that slum like he was Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – smiling, never resting, Over the last decade, he has devoted his life to the poor in Guatemala, feeding and clothing them, providing medicines, building and repairing children’s centers, churches and homes.  He is a magician with any tool.

He has helped establish over 100 churches.  He is Guatemalan and sustains himself, and those around him, on humility, kindness, devotion and energy.  He is in sixth gear always, unless asleep.  He has taught me more about dedicating a life to good than anyone I know. 

Years into our friendship, he described one of his choices in life.  The day he made this choice was over a decade ago.  He had opened his mail to find two job offers.  One was from a Canadian engineering company for a six-figure salary.  The other was to be a full-time missionary in Guatemala, earning far less in a dangerous environment.  He told me he held one letter is his right hand and the other in his left, comparing each.  He chose the job as a missionary.

Recently, Oscar and I were traveling together in Guatemala, checking on Wine To Water projects. Making conversation, I asked him what countries he would like to visit before he died? He has been to very few. Being American, I expected to hear him tell me:  “Italy, or France, or Spain, or Greece.”  These are the places Americans think about, as we see vacations as a gift to ourselves – a chance in a lifetime. 

I waited as Oscar thought, and then he said: “Well Allen, I want to go to Haiti and Ethiopia.” 

Stunned at his answer, I asked him “Why?”

Oscar replied, “I want to go there because that is where the poorest of the poor live.  I want to help them.”

I said nothing, as shame silences me every time.  I compared my choices in life to the ones Oscar has made.   What had I missed in making my decisions, and what he had gained in making his?  I have to think about my choices more, as they mark the chances of a lifetime.

Allen

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Jun 19, 2013

Cambodia: Sok's Family

We are so proud of our Cambodian partner, Kone Kmeng. The update below was recently shared with us and we couldn't resist spreading the word on the truly life changing work they do!

“A Pump Well+ $25 = Make a family difference”

Sok’s Family Story: Hope of Children Project, Svay Rieng province Cambodia 

Sok's family was very poor. She stayed at home with her older parents and her two children. Her husband had left the family to look for job by the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Even, he got a job there but it turned that he couldn't send enough to support his family at home. In 2011, Sok got a pump well and small loan of $25 to buy vegetable seed from our program. Since then, things started improving in her family regarding health and economic. A year later, Sok asked her husband to come back home. Now, both are working hard on their sugarcane farm and vegetable farm around the house. Sok said "Without a well, we had a poor health and we couldn't do anything to improve our family. But the well and the small loan have helped our family so much. Every month, I can make at least $80 for selling the sugarcanes and vegetable. Now, I am even more happy that my husband is back with us." 

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May 20, 2013

Giving the gift of clean water!

Wine to Water would like to specially thank Peggy Moseley and Maria Taylor for hosting a Greek Birthday Celebration in lieu of supporting our cause!

Peggy and Maria decided to host a Greek Night “with lots of wine” in honor of their friends who have birthdays in May.  They told all of their guests to pick up one of our brochures and drop ‘any amount’ into the empty wine bucket.  Because of their selfless act, they ended up raising $485. Maria said that “we had a wonderful time” and that she hopes this idea will catch on. 

Thank you again to everyone who was involved in the support of raising these funds, spreading further awareness of the water crisis, and creating a fun and generous way to celebrate friend’s birthdays. You ladies saved the lives of many and we salute you. 

A special belated happy birthday to Cindy Outz, Rose Wilkins, Virginia Crooks, and Wanda Johns!

OPA!

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May 6, 2013

Uganda Hand Pump Repair

International Projects Mananger, Kyle Lomax, explains the "Block & Tackle" pulley system used by our team in Uganda to repair hand-pump wells. Its great to see our guys having fun!!!

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Feb 15, 2013

The Faith of Guatemala

-Photo left to right: Allen Peterson, Oscar Martin, David Rosser, Geraldo, Kyle Lomax, Melissa Sutton, Jeff Holt-

It was late January this year when he introduced himself as “Geraldo.”  I asked for a last name, and he responded: “Just Geraldo, no last name.”  I thought about the absence of a last name, its significance.  Jesus, Adele, Bono, Oprah; so just “Geraldo,” was o.k. with me.

I gauge his age at fifty-five.  He is stoic and confident, because he has seen and experienced more than I have, at a more profound level.  He is used to life with physical hardship, of not enough to survive, of looking at this day only, not tomorrow or next week.  He lives on faith and hope surrounded by tragedy, sickness, and despair.

He is a pastor in Mas Agua, a poor, rural village 100 kilometers south of Guatemala City. His church has about 350 members, 270 of them children.  Pastor Geraldo tells us that 70 % of his congregation is chronically ill from water borne illnesses and that most of the kids live with stomach parasites and diarrhea.  

I briefly met Geraldo in the summer of 2012, when Doc Hendley and I visited Mas Agua to see if Wine To Water could provide clean water to the village.  We were only exploring –seeing if sustainable water projects were possible in this rural region of Guatemala.  We talked to Geraldo for over an hour then, and left telling him we would let him know if we could help.  If we could, his church would have to hand dig a 30-foot deep well before we would return to install a pump, pipe and a filter system.  Our last words to him were not to count on a water project and not to dig the well until we gave him the o.k.

In December 2012 a missionary friend, Roger Briggs, called to say that just Geraldo had not heeded our words of caution. Right after Doc and I left, he and his congregation began to pray, seeking guidance about digging the well.  After months of prayer, the church agreed that they would dig a well.  When I heard the news, I asked if he had understood us.  He had heard us all right, but had listened to a different voice.  On faith alone, the well was completed.  I wondered how often I operated purely on faith, relying solely on God, and not on all the stuff that I have bought to barricade me?

Although the well was in place, the water it brought was contaminated, still poison.  Geraldo knew this, but also knew the first step in faith is obedience.  The second step was ours – we had to provide a filtration system to purify the water.  I talked to Doc, Annie, Jessup, Kyle and Josh.  We all agreed that Mas Agua would get clean water.

When Kyle and I arrived at the church on January 28th this year, just Geraldo had been there for hours.  He had been preparing for the work to be done.  He had brought a watermelon for us to share. As he greeted us, Geraldo’s eyes revealed that he knew this day would come. We all worked together for two days, installing a pump, the filter, and a 350-gallon tank that would hold water drawn from the well and purified by our filtration system.  I watched Geraldo without staring at him.  As we assembled the pump and piping, he took the lead.  Within an hour, it was clear that Geraldo was very skilled at plumbing.  He and Kyle worked well together, bridging a language gap with hand jesters, broken English and Spanish, and laughter.

When the plumbing was done, Geraldo disappeared.  I didn’t see him for a while, as we welded a platform for the tank and glued pipe joints.  When he returned, Geraldo had electric wire, switches, and crude tools.  He began wiring power for the pump and revamping the old wire that lead to it.  He was a gifted electrician as well.

It took our team a couple of days to get the system ready to test.  When Geraldo hit the power switch, everything worked beautifully.  We were soon transforming dirty, coffee colored liquid into pure, drinkable water.  We all drank from the tap, satisfied with what we had done.  But, I wondered what exactly we had done?  We had of course helped a village to eliminate water borne illness. The church will provide water for everyone in the village, regardless of faith. The kids would be healthier without the parasites, they would go to school more often, and would have a better chance at life.  The adults would also have less sickness and more healthy days to work and support their families. 

That’s what we had done, but what had been done to us?  I thought about the fact that Mas Agua means “more water” in Spanish.  The Spanish word for depth of a well is “profundo,” like the English word profound.  We had come to a place to provide more water, and in the process had learned a profound truth.  We had been witnesses to the power of operating on faith.  That is a lesson at least equal to the value of clean water. 

-Allen

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Oct 11, 2012

Haiti Update

It has been 2 ½ weeks since I returned from my first trip to Jacmel, Haiti. I have to admit, I miss that place more and more as the time passes. I met some incredible people during my 2 week stay. I had the privilege of working alongside FilterPure’s ceramic engineer, Brad Ponack, and the Haitian filter factory staff for a majority of my time spent there. It was truly an honor to be a part of the work they do day in and day out. The Haitian people are so resilient! 

Our latest filter distribution partner, Friends of the Children of Haiti (FOTCOH), helped us and FilterPure distribute ceramic water filters at their September medical clinic. Most recipients either suffered from malnutrition, worms, or stomach issues such as diarrhea; we also targeted mothers who were breastfeeding or pregnant. All 150 filters were distributed in just 6 days with each filter capable of supporting a family of 5 for up to 5 years. So, combined with our previous filter distributions at the May and July FOTCOH medical clinics, over 1000 Haitians have been reached with clean water!

The Wine To Water crew is so excited about this partnership; mainly because it allows us the opportunity to follow up on previous filter recipients. FOTCOH treats nearly 1500 repeat patients suffering from all types of medical conditions. If we are able to reach every patient that also needs clean water, then we can make sure they continue to have clean water for a very long time. We look forward to the future!

Shortly after I left, a gang of thugs tried to raid the FOTCOH compound where the ceramic filter factory is located. They came under the cover of darkness and fired off 9 gunshots during their attempt to get in. Luckily, the bodyguard was able to keep them at bay long enough to become spooked and leave. No one was hurt; however it sent a wave of uneasiness through the area.

Haiti is still a very rough place and in desperate need of clean water. So, although incidences like these are common in Haiti, the Wine To Water/FilterPure factory nor FOTCOH will show no signs of slowing down.  We will continue to reach Haiti with clean water!

-Josh

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Oct 5, 2012

"What we are doing, what we are all working for became so clear to me."

September turned out to be a month of firsts for me. It started with my first trip to Africa or, more specifically, my first trip to Uganda. It was my first time traveling into the field to visit our projects, and finally it was the first time that I would be able to share with our wine supporters what their efforts are doing.

Being a part of Wine To Water (WTW) has been a blessing on my life on a lot of levels. Since the day I walked into WTW in 2008, I have taken great pride in simply having my name associated with such a great thing and such amazing people. It has truly been an honor to be included.

This is the first blog that I’ve been asked to write. Trying to illustrate what I experienced during the month of September is hard. How can I put into words all that I saw, the emotions that overwhelmed me, the prospective I gained, the humility and compassion I now carry? I’ve been fortunate to have traveled quite a bit throughout my life, but this trip shinned more light on my life than any other trip I have ever taken. I guess the best way to express my experience is to share a story from my recent journey.

Kyle, our projects guy, and I were in Uganda to visit our projects and partners as well as attend our first hand-pump training workshop. We spent two weeks meeting, teaching, and training locally appointed community leaders not only on how to fix broken wells but also the importance of management and how to get locals in each area to take ownership and pride in their water source. We began traveling to various areas to repair wells and at one particular community the well was completely unusable causing locals to rely on another water source. I noticed that they were drawing water from a small lagoon ten feet away from the broken well. The lagoon was overgrown and covered with a film from animal and human waste.  It smelled bad, it looked bad and it was the community’s only water source. As community leaders were talking, I noticed two young girls carrying jerry cans approaching the dirty water. I watched as they both leaned down to fill their buckets, stood and began to walk home again.  I couldn’t bear it. I went to one of our translators and asked him to tell the girls to wait and not leave. The girls didn’t understand why I was begging them not to go. I asked them to wait until we finished fixing the well. Reluctantly they waited and once the well was fixed they dumped out the dirty water they had collected and followed me to the new well. Once we finished the repair, Kyle told me to pump the water for the girls. As I pumped they both began to smile. We cleaned their jerry cans and filled them with fresh, clean water. That is a moment I will never forget.

What we are doing, what we are all working for became so clear to me. I am honored to have traveled to Uganda and so thankful to be representing our supporters in the field. As the wine guy for WTW, I especially want to thank everyone who has supported us through our wine program. Thank you to each person that has bought a bottle of wine! To our partnering wholesalers and sales team, partnering retailers and suppliers, thank you. I am humbled by the efforts that each of you in the wine world has made. Together our efforts are making a difference and we are making an impact.

-Jessup

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Jul 13, 2012

GREAT NEWS for Uganda!

"Habari marafiki!"  Wine to Water, in cooperation with Samaritan's Purse UK, has just finished a 4 year project in Uganda, where we built two community resource centers that manufacture biosand water filters (BSF's) and oversee training on other appropriate technologies, like rainwater harvest (RWH) tanks.  We also installed 1,000 BSF's in communities surrounding our centers, reaching 12,076 Ugandans with clean, safe water!  The last of these were installed this March, as seen below in the picture with the motorcycle loaded down with a BSF and media sand.  After the last installs, the team and I spilt up into small groups to hit the bush for a few weeks to conduct in-depth surveys in households that have a BSF and evaluate the project's effectiveness.  And our findings were AMAZING!!  Here's just a few...

* Local health clinics showed a decrease in waterborne illness by 37.8%

* Decrease in lost work days due to illness by 69.4%, school days lost reduced by 35.5%

* Increase in household income by 10.1% (usually due to money saved from not having to buy medicine) 

* 95.9% of beneficiaries passed hygiene/sanitation tests, 88.7% using soap for hand washing 

I know, right!!  And I could write a book with all the great human interest stories and improvements on quality of life, directly resulting from this project!  These can't be put into statistics.  Well, since Doc stole my book idea, I wrote a new project proposal to SPUK, in hopes to secure a second grant for another Uganda water program.  I was so nervous about it, as I'm no expert grant writer or literary genius...just read my blogs!  I was in Kigumba, Uganda, when I got the call from London, saying the project proposal was APPROVED!  I must of had a 40 inch vertical during my leaping fist pump when I heard the news!  Micheal Jordan, after his game-winning "shot" against the Cavs during the 1989 NBA playoffs...THAT WAS ME!!  You Tube it for the visual!

I just signed the offical grant contract to start the new Clean Water Project for Uganda, which just started July 1!  This two year project, worth $156,680, will involve our partners and local team, Connect Africa, capitalizing on things we've learned over the years.  In a nut shell, we will install 600 biosand water filters, 20 rainwater havest tanks (20,000 liters each), and repair 20 broken well handpumps, bringing clean water to 14,440 Ugandans!!  We will use a sustainable approach with a heavy emphasis on education and empowerment that includes BSF and RWH tank conferences to proper hygiene practices. The first 100 BSF's are being built and I'll fly back to Uganda in September to put together the new handpump repair team!  We are all SO thrilled to continue the mission of Wine to Water and thankful for everyone making it possible...so do your best 1989 MJ leaping fist pump!!!

-Kyle

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Jun 18, 2012

Lucky Number Thirteen

I’m proud to announce that Wine To Water has officially added Guatemala as lucky country number 13.  One of my close friends, and WTW board member, Allen Peterson had been hounding me for a while to get down to Guatemala. He had been doing mission work there off and on for the last 15 years and was always telling me about how amazing the people were and how so many of their lives would be changed if they could somehow access affordable clean drinking water.

Last fall Allen and his wife took a trip down to help serve at one of the school/feeding centers they had been supporting in a slum called Primavera.  Primavera is one of the more dangerous areas in Guatemala and on this trip down a local gang made contact with Allen’s team and basically said if they didn’t stop their work in Primavera then they would begin killing the team members one at a time until they left.

This obviously shook Allen up a bit and he questioned whether he would ever return to the place he held so dear in his heart.  However, just a few months later he felt the good Lord calling him back and this time he asked if I would go down with him to help three of their school/feeding centers gain access to clean water, one of them being Primavera. “Death threats, gangs, little kids needing water… I’m in!”

Allen and I just got back from Guatemala last week. We had an amazing trip down. We installed water filters in all three school/feeding centers.  And in Primavera not only did we hook them up with filters but by the end of our time there we had installed an entire rainwater containment system.

Oscar, an awesome local Guatemalan dude who runs these feeding centers, told us that he and his wife shut the doors of the Primavera center after the death threats. The gang began following him, found out where he lived, and eventually he was forced to move to a new home in a protected community. Oscar’s heart was broken for the children of Primavera and he said he prayed every day that if God wanted him to go back there to work in spite of the gang, then he would gladly go. However, in his praying he asked that God give him some sort of sign if he wanted him back there.

In January Oscar received a call from someone in Primavera begging him to come back to reopen the children’s center. The man told Oscar that six of the notorious gangs members had just been killed in recent drug violence and that he didn’t think they would bother them anymore.  So Oscar took that as his sign and returned.  Not long after he asked Allen to come back down to continue to help his people, and voilá, Guatemala becomes lucky country number 13!

Thank you all so much for your continued support. We will keep everyone in the loop on how we plan to grow our projects throughout Guatemala… and I hope y’all ALL know that this work that we love so much would not be possible without you. Whether you’ve supported us financially, hosted an event for us, or just kept us in your thoughts and prayers, we love and are thankful for each one of you.

Salud!

-Doc

Picture 1: Children at one of the feeding centers are gathered around watching us install the water filters

Picture 2: Oscar pouring the first bucket of water into one of the filters


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Jun 1, 2012

Haiti Update

Konpilman!!  I just spent a few weeks at the Wine to Water / Filterpure Filter factory in Jacmel, Haiti.  I was joined by Filterpure director, Lisa Ballantine, and ceramics engineer, Brad Ponack.  We worked with the factory staff on advancements to production, quality control, and distribution of the silver-infused ceramic water filters we produce. 

The latest program for distribution is being set up with an excellent medical mission clinic called FOTCOH (Friends of the Children of Haiti).  Comprised of volunteer medical professionals, they offer free medical clinics every other month to the local Haitians in desperate need.  Each two week clinic treats an average of 2,500 patients ranging in all illnesses; HIV, hypertension, and waterborne diseases are rampant.  In Haiti, one in five children dies from malnutrition, dehydration, and diarrhea. Waterborne illness is huge!

The program will provide every FOTCOH patient, suffering from any waterborne illness, a Filterpure filter for their household.  A test run was done during the May clinic where FOTCOH doctors designated those most in need of clean water and issued them a plastic tap from our filter bucket.  Patients were directed to our filter factory as they left the clinic, which is located on FOTCOH's property.  There, we educated the Haitians on filter use, maintenance, and gave them a Filterpure filter.  

The test run was a success! Dozens of filters went out to people like the malnourished 16 year old boy in the picture; he weighed less than 80 pounds.  Thanks to your support, we are very excited to be providing 100 filters for the upcoming July FOTCOH clinic!  These filters will provide a preventative solution to all waterborne illnesses, as opposed to treatment.  Our goal for this new program is to put FOTCOH out of business when it comes to treating waterborne illness!   

-Kyle, WTW Projects Manager

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Apr 24, 2012

The Power of One high school student

Tiffany Song, a student from Northern Guilford High School, approached us last year about doing her senior project on WTW. Below is her story in her words. Tiffany, thank you for all your hard work! We have no doubt that you will succeed as you move into college and beyond. 

-WTW Team

As my senior year in high school draws to a close, I keep reminiscing about a few things. I often find myself thinking about the moments and milestones that have defined my four years in high school. There’s the typical stuff, like The First Day and Homecoming and my first AP exam and Prom. However, there’s also a not-so-typical milestone that especially stands out in my mind: The Senior Project.

Every year, the seniors at my high school have to commit to what is called a “senior project.” This lengthy process, which includes an 8 to 10 page research paper on a topic we feel drawn to and twenty plus hours on a “project” that is relevant to our research, is no easy feat. Despite the hard work, there’s never been a time when I thought of my project with Wine to Water as labor. In a way, it’s been one of the pinnacle moments of my senior year.

I’m kind of an environmental geek, so I knew early on that I wanted my focus to be on water resource issues. For a while I struggled with finding a project to fit in with my focus, but by means of a family friend I finally found Wine to Water. Little did I know how big of an impact this project would end up having on me. Through Wine to Water, I also met my unforgettable mentor, Josh Elliott, who helped me with every point possible. With Josh, I set a goal of $500.00, which is enough to put a water well in Cambodia.

After setting my goal, the challenge became creating the wine tasting events themselves. It’s actually surprisingly easy to set up an event once you get your venue though; in fact, it can even be a simple event with family and friends. I ended up having two events at Rio Grande, a Mexican restaurant in Summerfield, NC, after getting help setting them up. Both Josh and Rio Grande’s owner, Gonzo, were very cooperative and supportive, and I wouldn’t have been able to take part in this experience without them. For two nights, Josh and I manned a little wine booth in the restaurant; as guests sampled wine, we talked about what WTW was and the goal of my senior project. Not only was it a great event, but it was very reaffirming to see how generous people were. One anonymous lady even donated $100.00! At the end of the day, I walked away with an awesome learning experience and a spring in my step, in addition to an unbelievable $632.00 of donations and sales.

To finish off my project after the two tasting events, I visited the Wine to Water office in Boone, NC.  It was really cool to meet some of the members of WTW and to check out things like the clay filtration pots and photos, which had been taken from around the world. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that such an unassuming office was home to one of the most impactful charity organizations I’ve worked with.

The senior project has been finished and graded for quite some time, and all thoughts now focus on graduation. Still, I keep coming back to it; it’s been so much more than a school assignment. I learned so many things from working with Wine to Water, and the personal gains from this project have been enormous. People often think that one person is too tiny to act. My senior project with Wine to Water taught me that though one person’s actions may not change the world, the world may change for someone who needs a hand. I went into the project hoping to create positive change, never even imagining how much it would change me. 

-Tiffany

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Mar 4, 2012

Haiti Update

Alo Wine to Water team!  I just spent a few weeks at the Wine to Water Filterpure Filter factory in Jacmel, Haiti.  In response to the devastating 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreaks, this local factory was formed to provide highly effective and efficient ceramic filters for thousands of Haitian households.  For most of the trip, I worked with the production staff on several improvements to the factory.  We strengthen the kiln, installed a new oblong press mold, repaired the factory roof, and did an overhaul on the generator.  I was very impressed with the staff as we worked to fine tune production and quality control.  Amidst all the work, I did manage to attend my first Haiti "Carnival", which was "people watching" at its best!  Now entering into our second year of full operations, we will continue to build on the number of Haitian families we can reach with this simple, life-saving technology...6,000 and counting!  Awesome work team!

-Kyle


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Feb 7, 2012

A Human Right for All People

We recently had the opportunity to provide a well in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The well was not for a small village, family, school, or church. It was for a prison camp of over 600 inmates from all walks of criminal life. The prison camp's primary water source recently ran dry forcing the inmates to use dirty river water being trucked in from nearly 2 kilometers away. The government was unwilling to fund a new well so the dirty river water quickly began to make a majority of the inmates sick from parasites. Our partner on the ground in Ecuador, Inca Link, helped facilitate the project, they did an amazing job. We want to sincerely thank them for all the hard work and compassion they showed throughout this project. Water is a necessity to life and therefore we believe it’s a basic human right for all people, even prisoners.  

-WTW Team

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Jan 10, 2012

THE DRILLING CONTINUES!

Teanaste'lle'n!  I just spent a few weeks of December in the Borana zone of southern Ethiopia, where we are currently working with our local partners in a large 27 well project.  Approximately, five million Ethiopians are suffering from lack of clean water in the southern part of the country and the UN has declared the area to be in a "state of crisis."  The Horn of Africa drought has devastated this area with extreme food and water shortages.  Just a few weeks before I arrived, the area received their first rainfall in over two years!  The drill team has been deployed with our best drill rig and been busy drilling wells in the Miyo District, where they will remain until the completion of the project in March.  The wells are drilled about 10 to 15 meters past the static water level, ensuring the will provide water though the dry seasons and even droughts.  The villagers were ecstatic to finally have a secure clean water source close by.  Children would come running from all over shouting "Woo hah" (Amharic for "water"), when they would see us driving by in the land cruiser.  The drill team was known all over and treated as royalty, as they worked hard day in and day out, giving the gift of life: clean water.  Amidst all the laughter and bright smiling faces surrounding the new wells, I was so humbled, thinking of everyone back home who made all of this possible.  I have seen some pretty amazing things doing this work but, this project stands out.  The need for clean water here is huge but the amazing thing is the huge response and impact Wine to Water has been able to make, due solely to our supporters, like you.  And for that we are so grateful!    

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Dec 29, 2011

THANK YOU from Uganda!

Our projects manager, Kyle Lomax, returned from Uganda just before Christmas. He came back with stories of people who were overjoyed to have received life saving water filters! Thank you Kyle for all your hard work; below are few of his words. 

Furaha ya mwaka mpya!  Happy New Year everyone!  I just returned from Uganda, where I've been getting quite the workout hauling these 70 kg bio-sand water filters!  I was greeted by large crowds of smiling people in every village, expressing their gratitude.  After instructions on filter use and maintenance, the filters are installed in the selected homes.  Clean water has literally transformed these communities with better health and a drastic reduction in waterborne diseases.  Although we are closing in on our 1,000 filter project, a new project will be starting soon to continue to fill the high demand for these simple life-saving filters!  Your gracious support has made all of this possible.  On behalf of my friends in Uganda, THANK YOU!!

-Kyle

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