Benita Adesuyan talks to the founders of www.wepul.com, a site that helps Dubaians find a helping hand in the city.
Time is a precious commodity, especially in fast-paced Dubai, which is why two friends who met in the city have come up with a novel way to make the most of yours – and get rewarded for it.
Jonathan Blake and Brandon Jones are both from a technology background and have been living in the emirate for two years. Their separate problems helped them find a unique solution. ‘I had a business back in the UK and I needed someone in Italy to go and look at a campsite for me,’ explains web designer Jones. ‘That person didn’t need to have any special skills – I just needed someone that lived in Italy, could speak Italian, has a car and some time – but how do you find that sort of person?’ Meanwhile, Blake faced a dilemma when he was starting up his own company and realised he needed a designer for his website. ‘I’m a programmer and when you start up a business you realise that you’re good at the things you know, but need help for everything else.’
The result of their collective problem is www.wepul.com a website aimed at getting people to help each other out, and learn amazing new things. The site launched recently, but already has hundreds of users signing up not only offering their time but swapping skills and expertise. A quick browse on the site reveals members looking for someone to help teach them Arabic, play guitar or simply to go for a walk with, while others offer their skills in scuba diving, computing and even Persian dancing.
Blake and Jones have a two-way vision for the site: as a noticeboard for people seeking a hand and also an opportunity for the giver to be paid back in kind or financially. ‘Everybody benefits,’ says Jones. ‘If you’re a mum and your husband goes to work, maybe you don’t have the opportunity to go out because you’re looking after the kids – you could teach people to cook the most awesome biryani from your home and earn yourself a few hundred dirhams, or get someone to do a favour for you – and that’s really empowering.’
The site is still in its early days and both Blake and Jones are passionate about its potential to help communities, and entrepreneurs alike to find the skills and people they need. The pair both have a web and technology background and are heavily involved in making sure that the site continues to improve. ‘The site is only as good as its content,’ says programmer Blake. ‘There isn’t another site like this so as the content grows it will become a very serendipitous thing – where you can say “I wonder what I can do today?” People are sharing everything from business and legal advice to fire juggling skills and martial arts – you name it, it’s there.’
The site’s name wepul.com, was borne out of the idea of the community pulling together and could be just what Dubai needs and the pair feel the city is the ideal place for it to launch. ‘Some people complain Dubai has no culture,’ says Jones. ‘People say there are no cool poetry-reading nights – so start one – this enables people to go and do that.’ Blake adds: ‘In Dubai – there could be someone in your building, or living in a tower across the road from you that can help you, or be the answer to entertainment, learning or making friends – it’s about getting people together.’
Users of wepul.com are encouraged to sign up using Facebook or Twitter so that they know something about you and your interests, however your personal email address and details will be kept secure, and users are asked to state what they can offer too. ‘It should be not just “I want” but “I can do,’” explains Blake. ‘You don’t need to find someone who’s an absolute expert at what you want to achieve – they just need to be a little bit better than you, to be able to get you to that next thing – whether it’s a parallel ski or helping with advice.
‘There are so many people here looking for something to do, people with so many different skills it seems like a place to make this happen.’
More ways to share your time and skills
This organisation pairs your skills and experience with charitable organisations in the region that need your assistance, so you can be sure your talents will be really appreciated.
Dubai Language Exchange
If you’re keen to learn a new language, check out this online community where you can share language skills. You can teach someone your own language in person or via email, and you get to learn theirs in the process.