Wine to Water – Fathom Cruise Impact Activity

Like I mentioned in my previous post, Fathom is a different kind of Cruise line. Instead of your regular off-ship activities, like snorkeling or zip lining, you also have the option to volunteer. Fathom works with two local NGOs from the Dominican Republic that support local initiatives to help the communities in and around Puerto Plata. From Reforestation to teaching English, helping out in a Chocolate factory, making water filters for the Wine for Water foundation and more, you can choose an activity that speaks to you and do some good while on vacation.

A combination of volunteering and tourism, called voluntourism has become quite popular in recent years, but this is the first cruise that offers this concept. When the husband and I were invited on this cruise, we didn’t know what to expect. Would this be one of those volunteering scams that you read about, where the volunteers do more harm than good, because they take away jobs from locals or prevent children from going to school? Well, I’ll let you read for yourself and make up your own mind…

Wine to Water Foundation

Wine to Water - Fathom Cruise Impact Activity

I have to admit, when we first got the list of our Fathom Cruise Impact Activities, Water Filtration did not sound appealing to me at all. I picked Chocolate factory, the husband picks water filtration. Go figure. Fathom needs to do a better job describing the activities and maybe finding some more interesting sounding names for some of them, don’t you think? It turned out, that the water filtration activity was actually really cool and we had a lot of fun.  

The Wine to Water Foundation was founded by Doc Hendley, a bartender from South Carolina. He heard about the clean water crisis in developing countries and set his heart on making a difference. He first organized fundraising events in the US and then built the first Water Filtration factory in Africa. They also provided disaster relieve after the earthquake in Nepal, built water pumps in the Amazon and support other projects that give people access to clean drinking water. 

The Wine to Water operation in the Dominican Republic is run by Hendley’s sister-in-law and her family. They dedicate their lives to this cause and you can feel their passion for this project. Together with a local ceramic artist, Rhada, they created a production line for cheap and efficient water filters that can be used for a minimum of 5 years, but if cleaned and handled carefully, they will last a lifetime. 

Why is Clean Drinking Water so Important?

Wine to Water Dominican RepublicMost of us, who grew up in First World countries, never had to worry about access to clean drinking water. But almost 10% of the world’s population are not that lucky. They don’t have access to this very basic need. Drinking unfiltered, contaminated water leads to the spread of highly contagious diseases, such as Cholera, Dysentery, parasites and other infections. Especially children and the elderly are at risk, the child mortality rate being a sad indicator of this problem.

No access to clean drinking water is also a reason for continued poverty, as people often miss work due to sickness and have to spend time and resources to fill this fundamental need. Some remote areas in the Dominican Republic only have access to water every three days and even in more accessible regions, the cost of clean water is a huge financial burden to the people. Reliable and free access to clean drinking water makes a big impact on the lives of the people in the Dominican Republic and the effects can be seen immediately. 

How to Make a Water Filter

When we got to the Wine to Water factory, we were first welcomed by Rhada and his team from Wine to Water, who explained the importance of clean drinking water and how the Wine to Water filters made a positive impact in the Dominican Republic. Then, he took us on a quick tour of the facility and Rhada explained the process of how the water filters are produces. We split up into smaller groups and got to work, rotating through the different stations, so each of us could see the whole process. 


Wine to Water - Water filter ingredients

Wine to Water uses locally sourced ingredients and a very simple process to produce the water filters. All they need to produce the water filters are: 

  • Clay
  • Saw Dust
  • Liquid Silver
  • Water

All the ingredients, except for the liquid silver, are sourced locally to keep things cheap, create additional jobs and support the local economy.


1. Grind and Sift

This is pretty straight forward. The filters cannot be too porous, so the ingredients need to be ground very fine and then sifted. It was a fun activity, but very dusty. 

Wine to Water - Sifting Clay and Saw Dust


2. Mix it all together and knead (perfect for anger management, ha!)

Sorry, I was too busy kneading and smacking the clay mix on the ground, that I didn’t get to take any pictures 🙂 

3. Form Water Filters

After the clay dough has been kneaded to the right consistency, it is placed on a bell shaped form and then pressed into its final form. Then we pressed a Wine to Water logo as well as a serial number into the wet clay and placed it onto a drying rack. 

Wine to Water - Waterfiltration

4. Drying and Burning


Water Filter Drying Rack at Wine to Water


Wine to Water - Burning Water Filters

5. Quality Testing

Wine to Water makes sure that the water filters perform as they are supposed to and they sample each batch of filters they produce. We cleaned the water filters with a bleach solution and then sent them on a test run. Some samples are sent to a lab, to ensure that the filtered water is indeed safe to drink. So far, all filters passed inspection and if the process of producing these water filters, as simple as it is, has proven to be very effective. 

Waterfiltration Quality Control at Wine To Water

6. Ship to Locals all over the Dominican Republic

Last, we packaged the filters in boxes to be shipped to communities all over the Dominican Republic. 

Our Impact

During our visit at the Wine to Water factory in the Dominican Republic, we made 30 water filters. This will bring clean drinking water to 150 people in the Dominican Republic for a minimum of 5 years. I think Fathom did a great job with this Impact activity. They made sure to work with locals, who understand the need of the community and know how and where help is most beneficial. Wine to Water creates jobs for locals, not only in the factory, but also by locally sourcing their ingredients. All ingredients, except for the liquid silver, are from the Dominican Republic. 

The bi-weekly impact activities through Fathom give Wine to Water the baseline production levels that they need to sustain the operation. Before working with Fathom, they needed to supplement the water filter production with producing bricks, which was a distraction. Now they can focus on their main mission and make water filters and improve the lives of the people in the Dominican Republic. 

Fathom predicts that within one year, the Fathom volunteers will produce 1000 water filters and providing clean drinking water to 5000 people in the Dominican Republic. Needless to say, I am so happy we signed up for this Impact activity and it felt like this was a worthwhile project to support. High five to the husband for choosing it 🙂 

Here is our Fathom crew, including the Wine to Water volunteers, staff and Fathom impact guides. All smiles after a successful and productive day!

Wine to Water - Fathom Impact Activity


Pin for later: 

Fathom Cruise - Water filtration impact activity: Wine to Water