Watch Alvin going the distance

Watch Alvin’s workshop

What kind of items do you fix?
Computers and most small electronics. I’m also familiar with appliance repairs and wood work.

When did you first start volunteering with Repair Café Toronto?
Back in 2018, ended up skipping a 2nd year telecom lecture at Sheridan College to make it.

What is your day job?
A little cloud infrastructure engineering here, a little software development there. When I’m not fiddling with mechatronics for FIRST robotics teams, I’m on the Repair Café Committee focusing on developing repair initiatives among colleges and universities in the GTA.

What is your favourite location?
My favourite place for Repair Cafés would be anywhere with high traction, such as Toronto Reference Library.

Do you have a favourite quote?
“Sometimes I remind myself that I almost skipped the party, that I almost went to a different college, that the whim of a minute could have changed everything and everyone. Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.”
~ Anna Quindlen

Why did you start getting interested in repairing things?
Sure, encouraging sustainability and reusability is great, but personally I repair for the challenge. Like a partial equation, you’re never given the full picture of why and how something broke. It’s up to you to build upon wisdom of the past and present to design a fix that’ll give an item a future. Along the way, you ask questions, make assumptions, and test them. It’s the puzzling nature of the fix, the challenge that keeps me hooked.

How did you learn your skills?
A good portion are self taught, built upon from years of successes and failures. Another portion from online resources and the rest of the awesome repair community.

What does it mean to you to volunteer at Repair Café Toronto?
Empowering those around me to learn, grow, and enjoy the beauty that is repairing while learning and growing myself.

What is the most memorable item you have fixed?
It was during one of our events back in 2019, an elderly lady brought a pretty dated laptop she hadn’t used in years and needed help because it wasn’t booting into Windows XP. While formatting would’ve probably been the fastest method to getting the laptop working again, I went ahead and spent 3 hours performing a recovery. The key-word here being 3 hours in recovery – I ended up digging up some old photos and documents that would’ve been lost if formatted. Once done, I sent her along with the now working laptop.
She returned at the following Repair Café event with the same laptop, and gave me a hug with strength that betrayed her age.
It turns out that the laptop was never hers – it belonged to her late husband, and those photos and documents were some of the last remnants she had of him. When the laptop first started experiencing issues all those years ago, she assumed the worst that whatever’s on it was lost, and at this point just wanted the machine to work so she could use it for something else.
It was tough understanding her accent at times, but she eagerly showed me a few pictures and told me stories that went along with each, all the while with tears in her eyes.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this. What was to me a small challenge in data recovery and the discovery of a couple of lost megabytes meant the world to this one person – and to think I ever considered formatting as an option…
Ever since then, it’s changed how I viewed every single repair, from mere puzzle solving to intimate challenges with invaluable outcomes.

Why should people get involved with Repair Café Toronto?
Awesome people, doing awesome work, empowering awesome beliefs in an awesome community.
The real question should be why not?

Where you see Repair Café Toronto in five years?
In 5 years, I’d expect Repair Café Toronto to be a lot more like one of our core beliefs – sustainable.
Currently, the community sees us as travellers, fixing nomads bringing gifts of repair every now and then.
While it has a very magical Midnight Circus feel to it, the crux of the matter is that it’s not. Our committee’s put in tremendous effort throughout the years to make our events seamless.
To keep true to our goals in this fast changing world, it’s clear that we must evolve. To do so, we must seed our philosophy into more groups and communities, to inspire and empower them to carry the torch of repairability and sustainability, to hold repair cafes of their own. The more of this we can do, the more time and energy we can invest in driving policy that will change the GTA and beyond.