LOWELL – Whether you need a math teacher, singing teacher, or just a friend to listen to whatever is bothering you, a couple from Lowell have launched a new digital platform that can help you connect to them all.
“Due to the pandemic we are all in our bubbles and it is really difficult to connect safely,” said resident Elina Shapiro. “Here we have a generalized site where people can get the services they need with one click, and they can find it all at once. “
On March 8, Shapiro and her boyfriend launched RentPeeps, a peer-to-peer online platform that offers a wide range of virtual services – from tutoring and tech support to Zumba classes and life coaching – in the goal of helping people make new social connections. at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is causing widespread isolation.
“Depression, anxiety and loneliness are huge issues and they have been exacerbated by COVID and quarantine,” Shapiro said. “We also realized that many people feel very overwhelmed and need services, but may not know where to get them. ‘”
Those who visit the site can either make an appointment for the service that interests them, or publish an advertisement to offer a service of their own, either for free or with an attached rate.
Users can even sign up to be “listeners,” who simply volunteer their time to meet on Zoom and lend a sympathetic ear to anyone who makes an appointment.
“Personally, I’m not much of a talkative person so being a listener is natural for me,” said RentPeeps subscriber Kyle O’Brien from Nashua, NH “If anyone just wants to talk about life or its issues , I’m here to listen.
Shapiro, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Simmons University, said she and her partner came up with the idea in January, inspired by the emotional toll they were suffering from the combination of COVID and seasonal depression. .
“It was a very isolated time,” she said. “We thought, ‘this is a big deal’, and we realized that there was just a very great need for help and connection. “
Aside from a few services, such as anything illegal or sexually explicit, Shapiro said there are few limitations on what can be offered, although users must be at least 18 years old to make an appointment. you or post on the site.
In fact, when speaking with the Sun, Shapiro could barely contain his enthusiasm for all the possibilities for people to support each other.
“Vaccine finders, virtual babysitting, singing teachers. You can also find a friend who maybe likes the same video game, or who wants to take a socially distant walk or who wants to meet on Zoom to chat about a TV show you both love, ”he said. she declared. “It really is a site to make friendships to provide these necessary services.”
Since its launch, the site has so far amassed around 100 subscribers, according to Shapiro.
Among them is Divin Gatera, a Minnesota banker who signed up to become a personal buyer, but also used the site to receive mentorship on how to buy an apartment building.
“So far the service has been helpful, within 48 hours of requesting a mentor I received a response and was able to set up a meeting,” Gatera said.
Gatera added that he particularly appreciates that so many of the services listed on RentPeeps are offered for free, as he believes it is very considerate of the many people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
“I think it’s refreshing to see that people are willing to give of their time to help those in need,” he said.