What kind of items do you fix?
For the Repair Café, primarily bicycles but I’ll pitch in on electronics and household goods too. For myself, I do some sewing repairs and projects but I don’t have a sewing machine so it’s mostly hand sewing and darning for me.
When did you first start volunteering with Repair Café Toronto?
2015. I was already going to Repair Cafés to get my things fixed but then I moved to the Jane and Finch area and it was harder for me to get to the monthly events so I thought about organizing one in my area. Through that, I met Paul, who told me about his work teaching tech and repair at PEACH, a program for at-risk youth. I also started volunteering there until the funding for the youth program ended.
What is your day job?
I work at a clinical research company.
What is your favourite location?
I liked the ones at Driftwood Community Centre because I could walk there (and also it’s the place where I first organized a Repair Café).
Do you have a favourite quote?
I don’t know if it’s my favourite quote but I like Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem below:
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final
Why did you start getting interested in repairing things?
When I realized I was too poor to buy replacements for broken things. I also have an aversion to throwing away anything that can still be useful.
How did you learn your skills?
I learned basic bike repair through a Build-A-Bike program run out of a TCHC building in my neighbourhood. Participants got to refurbish an abandoned bike for themselves (which was donated by the city’s Solid Waste division) in exchange for refurbishing a bike for a community member. I continued volunteering there until COVID made them stop their volunteer program. For other things, it’s a mix of YouTube videos and advice from Repair Café fixers. I used to volunteer at the Toronto Tool Library’s St. Clair location on Sundays – when there was a mini-Repair Café there – and I learned a lot from the fixers about tools and repairs.\
What does it mean to you to volunteer at Repair Café Toronto?
Something interesting and useful to do on the weekends. I also get to meet a wide range of people and, unlike at a customer service job, the “customers” are usually pretty nice.
What is the most memorable item you have fixed?
Somebody brought to the Sunday Repair Café a couple mugs that had gotten jammed together while moving. The owner hadn’t wrapped them and one mug had gotten stuck in another. My idea was to put ice inside the inner mug and to heat up the outer mug with a heat gun. The ice should have kept the inner mug cold and made it slightly contract while the outer mug should have expanded with the heat and given enough room to separate the two. My theory was proven correct and both mugs were saved. Oleg helped me with the extraction process.
Why should people get involved with Repair Café Toronto?
Repair skills are useful to have, especially with the ever-increasing price of everything and the lack of growth in wages.
Where do you see Repair Café Toronto in five years?
It’s hard to say. With luck and a lot of political will, all levels of government in Canada will take climate change seriously and will start funding a transformation to a green, circular economy. Every library will have a Library of Things and there will be regular repair cafés run by knowledgeable local volunteers. Without luck, repair skills will be even more useful in a Mad Max-style societal collapse.