Rene


What kind of items do you fix?
Mostly appliances, electrical appliances. Things I don’t like are impossible to open or close again.

When did you start volunteering with Repair Café Toronto?
Close to 3 years now.

What is your day job?
I am a lucky retired person. During my career, I worked with Nortel Telecom, I then started a consulting business mostly in project management. I did it for about 12 years and then I finally decided to retire.

Do you have a favourite location for a Repair Café?
No. I like locations where there are a lot of people. Some places are more organized than others due to the environment in which you work. But I really enjoy either the mini café, full café, anything as long as it’s good.

Do you have a favourite quote?
The most important thing at Repair Café is not about repair, but rather meeting the people who bring the things to be repaired.

Why did you start get interested in repairing things?
To the despair of my parents, since I was 6 years old I used to take things apart. I had an uncle who owned a hardware store. So as a teenager, I worked in the summertime at the hardware store and I learned a lot [there]. I always like to fix things. I did that in my household and for friends and now I’m doing it as a volunteer for the Repair Café.

How did you learn your skills?
Mostly by doing it. When I first started to work professionally, my work consisted of building machines that would be testing other machines. So you have to develop the thinking [process] about how to make something work in order to test something else. My training is mostly to analyze and then make it happen, make it real.

What does it mean for you to volunteer at the Repair Café Toronto?
First of all, it’s a lot of fun, in terms of the people and the relationships. People who bring things to be repaired hope that you’ll be able to fix it. It’s also preventing stuff from going into the junkyard. It’s a matter of reusing something rather than getting rid of it.

What was the most memorable item you fixed?
I think it’s one of the first ones [I fixed]. A young woman brought a little carousel. It was a wedding gift from China and it had stopped working. I couldn’t figure out at first what made the carousel work. I finally realized what made it to work, that is, it needed light. She had replaced the lightbulb with another lightbulb. The photocell was not getting enough light to get the carousel to turn around. By the time we got all this figured out and got the carousel working again, she was super happy.

Why should people get involved with Repair Café Toronto?
It’s a great initiative. It started in Europe and now it’s all over North America. I think that Repair Café Toronto is extremely well-organized. You can tell from the support structure that we have. We can make a big difference in the community where we have Repair Cafés.

Where do you see Repair Café Toronto in 5 years?
I see Repair Café Toronto maybe going to have a permanent location while still going around the city. But having kind of a base where in one location you have a repair café that comes up every month.
As well, there maybe greater specialization for special electronics. I think that electronics are becoming virtually everywhere, even though it is sometimes impossible to repair. That’s where the focus could be.
I think that it would also be important to have young people getting more involved and brining young people on as helpers. Last time I had a young fellow, the son of a friend of ours and he did repair a vacuum cleaner. Trying to train younger people to be involved in repairing things would be a big focus to have for Repair Café.