Happy New Year! Looking back, we are proud to say that we accomplished a lot in 2019. We provided 125 free community events. That is two to three events on average each week. In addition, in response to the demand for a place to go to not just repair things but share knowledge, we have started workshops for fixers and apprentices that are proving popular. We are excited about the increasing number of young people we are drawing to our events. Our influence continues to grow in Toronto and beyond. All of this as a grassroots organization supported completely by volunteers!
Below are some highlights from 2019.
1. Record numbers of community events
The 125 events in 2019 events was a substantial increase compared to the 83 events in 2018 and represents the largest number of events we have ever offered in one year since we started in 2013. These events include full and mini repair cafes as well as the Sunday drop-ins at Tool Library. A total of 2,775 household items were diverted from landfill, which brings our total number of diverted items for the last 6.5 years to approximately 8,867 items.
The events were full of energy and vibe. There was a lot of interaction and engagement especially during the monthly full repair cafés when we had fixers available for all categories.
Here is a short video from the Repair Café at Parkdale Public Library on November 16, 2019, that gives a sense of the interaction that is drawing more and more people to Repair Café.
The photo above is the monthly full café taking place at Parkdale Public Library in November. Not only our fixers, but our greeters, visitors, and partner organizations are essential parts of our success.
In the photo above are our greeters, Fumi (left) and Judy, working at Registration in the July café.
The photo above is a happy visitor with his fan fixed at the September café.
The photo above is Dawn, a bike fixer from our partner, Bike Pirates, working at the November café.
2. Unique training workshops
In the photo above, André, one of our dedicated fixers, is teaching the Electricity and Electronics Basics class he designed.
We organized two special repair workshops, one on how to fix zippers and the other on watches. What we had learned from offering Repair Café was that broken zippers are common problems but the skills to fix them are unique and often items are thrown out only because of the broken zippers. We also learned that although there are fewer people wearing watches these days, even fewer people have the skills to fix watches. So when these two workshops were given by one of our sewing fixers, Josie, and our watch fixer Ryan, they were welcomed by their peer fixers at Repair Café.
In 2019, we also created a new fixer training program for those who are interested in learning about the basic knowledge of electricity and electronics. The program was made up of 4 hours of in-class learning in November and 24 hours of practice with experienced fixers during Repair Café within the following year. Within a short period of recruitment, the registration was full and we had to triple the intake of participants. The positive response to our recruitment confirmed that there are a lot of people who are interested in learning about how to fix common household appliances and they find it helpful to gain the skills in a systematic way through a combination of classroom learning and real-world practice.
3. Attracting young people
A key reason why we introduced our new logo is to speak to a wider audience, particularly young people. This year we saw more young people seeking out Repair Café to volunteer and complete their community volunteer hours. They told us they like being part of Repair Café because the events are well-organized and action-oriented. We were approached by school teachers to give talks and presentations at their waste reduction and environmental events, and were invited to offer workshops to their students.
We have been covered in various local and national news networks, and were delighted this year in the media coverage from young people such as Toronto Student Media Network, a news network run by teenagers. They approached and profiled us in their report in November.
4. Our Influence
In the photo above, Saskia (left), one of our experienced sewing fixers, is helping the visitor learn how to darn her socks.
This year, we were featured by the City of Toronto as one of 10 case studies that is helping to build a circular economy in Toronto. We mentored other local groups to start their own repair events. And one of these groups, St. James Town’s 240 Hub started to offer the Fix-it Days on Monday evenings recently and will continue in the new year.
Our impact is not just within Toronto. As the longest running Repair Café in Canada, we have been mentoring and supporting those outside Toronto to start their own Repair Cafés every year. This year’s list included the following locations:
Mohawk College, Oakville Public Library, Burlington, Hamilton Workers’ Art and Heritage Museum, Haliburton, Whitby, Thunder Bay, Timmins (Alberta)
There are now 47 Repair Cafés in Canada. And we continue to receive requests from overseas for assistance, two UK cafes being the most recent.
In the photo above, our fixers, David (left) and John, are guiding the two kids to do the repair in the July café.
In 2020, we will offer more repair workshops. We would like to reach out to more students in schools and show them that repair is one of the best ways to reduce waste and that everyone can learn to be a fixer.
We believe what we are doing is transforming our future. We would like to see schools including repair skills in their core curriculum. We will continue to encourage people to go repairing rather than shopping on their weekends. We would like to see manufacturers design products that last longer and are repairable. We see more demand for repair services leading in turn to the creation of jobs and the rise of repair businesses. Through our concerted effort, we are building a more sustainable future for our next generation.
In the photo above, Dave, one of our experienced fixers, is working on a toy car with the visitors.
Finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks to our amazing volunteers. We greatly enjoyed our celebration at the 7th annual volunteer appreciation dinner with more than 80 attendees. Below, in the video from the dinner, is a recording of Elizabeth, one of our sewing fixers, singing the song written by Lester Simpson called “Make it mend it”.
At the dinner, the lucky attendees (below) received surprise raffle prizes – colourful aprons handmade and donated by Gail, one of our great volunteers and partners. The aprons were made with a variety of fabrics and styles.
We are always looking for new volunteers to join us. If you would like to support us as a fixer, an apprentice fixer, a general volunteer, a photographer, an event organizer, on social media, or in whatever way you would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you! For more info, please visit our website, or email us at email@example.com.
If you need help with fixing your broken household item, feel free to bring it on!
Check out our event calendar. See you at our upcoming Repair Café at Toronto Reference Library on Saturday, January 18!
Photographs by: Jules Trinh
First Video by: Lon Appleby
Second Video by: Fern Mosoff