By Peter Owen
SUNSHINE Coast surfing couple Dylan Rowe and Ellie McGovern were midway through a two-year international surfing safari when something happened to fundamentally change their lives. They’d been camping outside a remote village in El Salvador when Dylan, 31, took time out from surfing to go spear-fishing at a reef just off the coast of the tiny Central American country.
He landed a giant Pargo, or Northern Red Snapper and, in a gesture of goodwill, offered to share it with the villagers. Every villager joined them that evening in a feast that went late into the night.
As they sat around the cooking fires in this far-flung community in January 2017, Dylan and Ellie noticed that nobody but themselves was drinking water.
“It was because the village water made them sick, and bottled water was just too expensive for them to buy,” Ellie, 27, said.
Later, when the two travellers retired to their camper, a stream of youngsters visited them, begging for a tiny cup of fresh water – a rare luxury in this poverty-stricken village.
It was a “light bulb” moment for Dylan and Ellie, whose surfing sabbatical had taken them from Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia to the United States, where they’d bought a truck, put a camper on the back, and drove through Mexico, Central America, and back. They returned to the Sunshine Coast last year with a firm plan in mind – to set up a company that would manufacture useful, stylish drinkware, with the proceeds of each sale helping provide clean water for people in need.
“The need is truly enormous,” said Ellie, a former commercial real estate agent who now works at Rivershore resort, an award-winning holiday park developed by her family.
About 750 million people live without clean water, and a baby will die every 60 seconds from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions.”
Dylan, an electrician by trade, and Ellie have designed a range of high quality insulated drinkware – bottles that keep drinks ice-cold or steaming hot for hours; and cups that keep coffee piping hot and cold drinks chilled for long periods.
The products come in two colours – BBQ charcoal and bone white – and the brand is called Project Pargo, after the prize fish Dylan had speared in El Salvador.
While they were developing their product, Dylan and Ellie contacted the US-based non-profit organisation Waves for Water, which provides access to clean water through distributing inexpensive, portable water filters and building rainwater harvesting systems in remote communities.
They were particularly impressed with the Sawyer water filtration systems, capable of transforming the dirtiest water into a safe, drinkable supply – and arranged to buy quantities of it from Waves for Water.
“Our plan now is to travel to remote, poverty-stricken communities throughout the world, implement this simple water filtration system and teach these isolated people how to use it,” said Dylan.
Project Pargo will finance the cost through the sale of the products.
“Every product sold will provide a person in need with clean water for five years or more,” Ellie said.
Every time you drink from one of our bottles or cups you will be helping someone in need gain access to clean water.”
They launched the Project Pargo range in Sydney in early June at the Naturally Good Expo, where the response to their initiative was positive.
THE PARGO PRODUCTS
Dylan and Ellie’s humanitarian mission will be financed by their range of insulated Project Pargo drinkware, which they’ve developed over the past year.
The 950ml bottle is made of lightweight 18/8 stainless steel, and utilises double wall vacuum sealed technology which keeps hot drinks hotter, and cold drinks colder, for longer periods. The 355ml or 12oz cups have an 8oz fill line for large or small size barista made coffees and perfectly fits a can of beer, keeping it cold till the last sip.
The products are stylish, shatter-proof, toxic-free and heat resistant. The bottles will sell for $60 and the cups for $36. They will be available online, as well as through lifestyle stores and cafes.