Gver, opened to the public just a few days ago, has already elicited very good response. The volunteer group already has around 300 registered members and many people are of the opinion that it’s a great initiative. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch hasn’t heard of Gver.

It is a platform for the community to be able to give and take any item for free. Notice the missing letter ‘I’, it is meant for individuals to be there as a giver. If you have any stuff just gathering dust in your closet, don’t trash it, better to give it away for someone to take and treasure it.

Lalaine and Ramon Benitez, founders of gver.net, are very excited with the community’s positive and massive reaction.

Lalaine said: “We have just opened Gver to the public a few days ago, and the response is very good. We already have around 300 registered members. People tell us it’s a great idea. Some are incredulous, asking us if it is true that the items are for free.

Everything is free on Gver: Ramon Benitez (with wife Lalaine Chu-Benitez).

Ramon said: “We would like to make giving and taking mindfully, a mainstream practice by making it easy for people, and eventually build a sustainable business that adds value to people’s lives. We believe there’s so much to be gained from sharing and adopting a more conscientious mindset when it comes to consumption. It’s good for the heart and good for the planet also.”

"Perhaps they are not used to the idea that somebody can give them something without asking for anything in return, especially those of us who have experienced promotional gimmicks or scams online. But it’s true. Everything is free on Gver.”

What was the catalyst for this Filipino couple who have been UAE residents for over two decades?

Garden-variety idea

Ramon replied: “The idea for Gver sprung up two years ago while working in our garden patch. We were overjoyed to see hundreds of tomato and basil seedlings growing.

"And we thought it would be great to give to friends to perhaps inspire them to grow their own produce. And then we realised that through the years we have actually become more open to the idea of sustainability and have become less and less material-oriented, so expanding that idea of giving plants away to things that we own, seemed a natural way of thinking. It was as simple as that.”

Membership is free and users can make a first request upon registration. Gver has a variety of items on the platform from pre-loved designer clothes and shoes, to accessories, books and CDs, household items like air fryer, to furniture like a loft bed, recliner chair and so on. They even had one giver upload a French language Quran.

Lalaine said: “We encourage people to post their first ‘give’ to help us increase the platform’s inventory of free goods, so that others may benefit from the system as well. Gver is about sharing, after all.”

Dawn, a Filipino Gver member, who works in Dubai, said: “The concept of giving and receiving stuff for free is a brilliant idea! I have experienced posting and giving an item, and someone requested it. And it is true, what they say, it is in giving that you truly receive. I also took some items, which are still in good condition, all pre-loved stuff is simply amazing. The delivery rate is affordable as it is also convenient, it won’t stop you from requesting awesome things on Gver.”

Giver can choose who will get item

If a member finds something they like, they can send the giver a request note within the platform: It’s not on first-come-first-served basis.

Lalaine said: “We wanted this process to be as natural and as self-determining as possible, so the giver has to choose who he/she wants to give the item to, because sometimes there will be more than one request for the same item.”

Another Gver member, Karen An De Guzman, a Filipino working in Dubai, said: “I love it, lots of women’s clothes. It’s a pleasant way of giving back to society. As human beings, we all wish for a reason to exist. I think it really comes down to personal values. Doing something for the community you live in and returning the favour to those who have helped you are strong motivators. Everyone, rich or poor, takes from society, and volunteering is one way to show a sense of appreciation.”

On shipping the item, rates vary depending on the item weight and volume, location, and whether it is by courier or truck delivery.

Ramon said: “We have over 300 item sub-categories in the system right now so there’s a lot of variation in the delivery charges. You can get a pre-loved designer shirt for Dh25, or an entire 5-piece sectional living room set for Dh190, delivered to your door.”

Since all items are free, how can you sustain the recycling of giving on Gver?

Lalaine replied: “Our project is currently self-funded at this stage. We charge a small service fee included in the delivery charges, but also hope to generate revenues through other Gver initiatives, which we will be rolling out later on. All in all, we hope to build this into a sustainable format that delivers goodness to the community.

Ramon added: “In future, we will tap companies to give to the community as part of their CSR program. Gver will also be available in the Philippines and the rest of the GCC, rolling out to other countries as we move forward.”