Our Work Never Stops

The pandemic in 2020 challenged us all.

We had a very different year at Repair Café Toronto (RCT). Previously, we organized large and small events during which people came together to fix broken items.

In 2020, we were confronted with the global pandemic Covid-19 that led to a city-wide lockdown in mid-March.

We followed the social distancing measures and cancelled all in-person cafes. We adapted, developed new ways of maintaining our mission of “neighbour helping neighbour”.

Below are the highlights of a year like no other.

2020 highlights . . .

Mother, Christie (left) and daughter, Evie volunteering together at the Repair Cafe at Toronto Reference Library in January Photograph by Wai Chu Cheng

  • Offered two large in-person monthly cafés, including the January one held at Toronto Reference Library and the February one held at Central Neighbourhood House.
  • Provided a jewellery repair workshop, “How to repair beaded necklaces” to RCT volunteers in February
Mask Making Challenge – Video by Jung-Hee Ban and Jane Bae
  • Mobilized our volunteers on mask making for the community in April
  • Provided eight virtual workshops between May and September
    • Bike Maintenance Workshop for RCT volunteers
    • Bike Repair Workshop for Stonegate Community Health Centre & LAMP Community Health Centre
    • Lawnmower Maintenance Workshop for RCT volunteers
    • Sewing Machine Repair Workshop for Woburn Community Centre in Scarborough
    • Repair Lunch ‘n Learn for CAMH
    • Computer and Phone Repair Workshop for Brampton Library
    • Repair Café Info Session in Waste Reduction Week for Celestica
    • textile repair and upscaling workshop “Repair and Redemption” for RCT volunteers

As well, we continued to support the repair movement and help promote repair initiatives led by other groups. We also did some work to prepare for our re-opening after the pandemic.

  • Supported the ongoing global and local repair movement on our newsletter and social media. Covered a number of initiatives from Repair Café Foundation’s FixAtHome campaign and the global virtual Fixit Clinic events to the publication of the new repair books, “Repair Revolution” by John Wackman and Elizabeth Knight and “Fixation” by Sandra Goldmark
  • Supported the virtual Fixit Clinic event co-hosted with Brampton Library in November
  • Held working sessions to explore ways to improve the volunteer experience during a repair café

Two year-end events

Ultimately, Repair Café is all about building a strong community through repairing and connecting with one another. 2020 ended with high notes with two events.

On Dec. 12, we held our first ever virtual café, Repair Café Holiday Special, for our volunteers. It was well attended with around 30 participants. The fixers came together online to help the owners, Mireya, Liz and Frances repair their broken items; apprentice fixers and observers also joined. Our three owners took turns presenting their broken items. This included Mireya’s coffee maker, Liz’s carpet cleaner machine, and Frances’ shortwave radio and Bose radio/CD player.

By the end of the two hour event, Liz rang the bell for the successful fix of her carpet cleaner, and progress was made on the other items. The event closed with a raffle, and the prizes of two repair books were given away to the lucky winners. We received a lot of positive comments about the event, particularly the hands-on learning experience it gave everyone.

On Dec 29, over 20 volunteers joined our virtual holiday get-together online which was held in “Pecha Kucha” (chitchat) style. Each of the participants took turns sharing what they had done this past year through their photos and/or own words. It was great to catch up.

A shout-out to Paul

In spite of the challenges we faced in 2020, we continue to have an impact. A key reason is the dedication and commitment of the remarkable volunteers among us.

A special thank-you to Paul, our co-founder. In addition to giving repair workshops, Paul has been helping several organizations serve their local communities by offering weekly no-contact repair services. These organizations include Creative Reuse Toronto, Rexdale Women’s Centre, Toronto Neighbourhood Organization, and St. James Town Community Corner.

St. James Town Community Corner was the organization Paul had mentored to start their own repair program as part of their Share and Reuse initiative. They began offering repair services five days a week and continued to offer a modified program in 2020. At the end of the year, they presented a gift to Paul to show their appreciation.

Paul has established the partnership with Creative Reuse Toronto and St. James Town Community Corner who have been providing drop-off depots for the many repair requests we receive. He regularly visits the depots to pick up the broken items which he either fixes himself or distributes to other fixers.

Paul, along with Fern, has been encouraging young people to get involved to advocate for change. Last fall, Paul was invited by the youth environmental group, Ecoborough, to speak on the repair movement.

Paul is currently working with Woburn Community Residents to create a repair program for its Scarborough community in the new year.

Thank you Paul for all that you do!

Looking forward to 2021

When we first started Repair Café seven and a half years ago, we were the only community organization in Toronto that aims to change the throwaway mindset through repairing broken household items. Today, we are glad to see that not only the City of Toronto, but also a good number of community organizations and businesses have included repair as one of the key strategies for their waste reduction initiatives.

In 2021, we look forward to collaborating with our partners to spread the repair culture. Together we will continue to build a caring, connected and sustainable world.

Bring it on 2021!