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
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?
Most 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 uses locally sourced ingredients and a very simple process to produce the water filters. All they need to produce the water filters are:
- Saw Dust
- Liquid Silver
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.
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.
4. Drying and Burning
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.
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.
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!
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Nice to read this. This is one of the activities we simply did not have time for. Really one need TWO trips to do them all. I agree that the descriptions could be expanded upon. AND.. in time, with more and more people doing them the on-line reviews of the people who “do” the activity will provide this – kinda like the ship and excursion reviews for the typical cruise. I DO really like the direct and large impact that this activity has on the people and country.
You are absolutely right, Rob. One would have to do at least two trips to experience it all. Some people tossed out the idea to go on an anniversary cruise a year from now and see how much progress our initiatives have made. I haven’t decided yet, if I will do it, but it would be very cool to see everybody again and really see, how much accumulated impact the Fathom cruise has.
Wonderful idea. I never knew such activities existed, but I will certainly consider it as a travel option in the future.
It is a very cool concept and I had a great time. I would highly recommend this cruise, if you want to see if volunteering is for you, or if you only have a limited time for vacation, but also want to do some good and give back.
Nice read, practical information. Great cause. Thanks for sharing!
What an amazing concept. There are so many countries that could benefit from something like this. Good for you for volunteering.
Thank you Shelly! It was great to be able to support this cause. So many things that we take for granted are not available to so many people in other countries. It is just a small start, but every single water filter gives clean drinking water to 5 people for several years, so after just a few visits through the Fathom Volunteers, you can start to see a difference.
A great write up for those of us heading there soon:) I wanted to sign up for this activity but with our group of 7 we picked some easier activities that were no additional charge.
With each of your blogs and great photos I’m looking forward to going even more!
I have been following some folks on these cruises and I believe it’s a great experience. It will be interesting to see how many other cruise experiences like this start popping up.
Wow! This sounds like an incredible concept. I’ve never heard of anything like it from a cruise line. I’d love to do this someday. I love giving back to the local communities whether it’s patronizing small mom and pop restaurants or volunteering with the less fortunate.
What a beautiful idea and so lovely Fathom promotes this kind of tourism. Very inspirational (and educational) read – have pinned to one of our favourite Travel boards.
This looks like a great cause. I like how they use local products to do the filtering. Thank you for sharing this!
It’s crazy to think about how many people are living without clean water. You and your husband really made a difference for these Dominican citizens. Thanks for sharing!