Aamir Qutub was stuck in a tricky position without a square of toilet paper when a lightbulb came on.
For weeks the Geelong man had been trying to think of meaningful ways to be of help to the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, an idea had struck at an unexpected moment – and soon, he was on a roll.
“When I ran out of toilet paper I rang my sister, who lives around three blocks away, and she helped me,” Mr Qutub told The New Daily.
“That gave me the idea: I know my neighbours, but there would be a lot of people out there who don’t have that level of connection with their neighbours.”
Eager to connect his community during the crisis, Mr Qutub used his skills as a web developer to create Angel Next Door, a website that links people who need help with their neighbours.
Users who register themselves as an ‘angel’ receive an email notification whenever someone posts a help request in their area.
One of the first users was Armstrong Health Centre’s Dr Faisal Murad, who wanted to find a webcam so he could conduct health consultations with patients over video calls.
“We can’t find it in any shops. If you have a spare webcam that you can sell or rent, please let us know ASAP,” Dr Murad posted.
Not long after, some ‘angels’ answered the call: One offered her webcam, and another organised a special urgent delivery.
#AngelNextDoor New help request from #Lara – Help for a family member. | Hey there! I’m fine?. My daughter and son in law are struggling. Son in law just home from open heart bypass surgery. (He’s not even fifty) Found out on drive home from hospital on Tuesday, his work has pic.twitter.com/VSH8sgQ48r
— #AngelNextDoor (@AngelNextDoorAU) April 2, 2020
“If they didn’t have any help from the angels, (the health centre) would have missed the patients who are stuck at home due to isolation or other reasons,” Mr Qutub said.
“I think this platform would be a huge benefit to people who are high risk, who need help with medicine and groceries.
“There are so many people out there in lockdown and we don’t know who needs help.”
A key feature of Angel Next Door is the website’s dedication to privacy: The location and full name of a person seeking help is kept confidential.
All conversations happen one on one as private messages.
Mr Qutub said he didn’t want people to shy away from helping others over fear of sharing personal information in a public forum, such as Facebook groups.
And his sensitive approach to information sharing is paying off.
“The response time is pretty quick – generally within 30 minutes of someone posting a request they will get a response,” he said.
A family of five in the nearby town of Lara recently posted on the website explaining they urgently needed groceries and “a lot of lovely angels jumped on to help”, Mr Qutub said.
“One of the ladies organised a delivery from a local grocery shop.
“It’s all about encouraging people to help each other, and celebrate people helping each other.”