Repair Café takes big strides with our new leaders!

In collaboration with Woburn Local Planning Table, we end our September’s Repair Café at Scarborough Centennial Recreation Centre on a high note.

2023 was a transformative year for Repair Café Toronto (RCT). We shifted a big part of our energy from organizing our Repair Cafés to encouraging and supporting our community partners and volunteers to offer their own repair events. This distributed model of delivering repair cafes is more sustainable and has a larger reach. It was great to see such positive results a year later. With our collective efforts, a total of over 72 repair events took place in 24 different locations across the city this past year.

Highlights of 2023: 

1. RCT’s 10-year anniversary

As co-founders of Canada’s longest running Repair Café, we are grateful to our many volunteers and community partners for what we have achieved together in the last decade. The month of May marked our 10 years’ journey since our first Repair Café was delivered. A potluck picnic was held to celebrate this milestone with our volunteers and community on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Julie, our sewing fixer, for making a delicious cake for us!

At the picnic, one of our long-time fixers, Rene, talked about his experience with Repair Café and why he thought our work is important and why our fixers are special. Here is his interview.

2. Our new leaders

RCT supported the remarkable initiatives of our new leaders on their efforts in organizing repair events in their neighborhoods through assisting with event promotion, volunteer recruitment, experience sharing, among others.

a) New community organizations offering Repair Cafés

A good number of community organizations in Toronto organized Repair Café this past year. In particular, Scarborough Environment Association (SEA) began to offer Repair Café monthly. In their interview below, Krissan and Fizza, at SEA, share about their new Repair Café startup and what Repair Café means to them.

We have collaborated with Central Neighbourhood House (CNH) to offer Repair Café for a number of years. In September, their community development coordinator, Touhida Choudhury (in the centre of photo below), organized a Repair Café for the first time. It went really well with a great turnout of volunteer fixers and visitors.

The list of community organizations that offered their own repair events last year also includes Oakwood Vaughan Hub, Regal Road Village BIA, Karma Co-op, Beaver Hall Artist Co-op, Lakeshore Arts, Silent Voice, and more.

b) New Repair Café workshop leaders

We were also delighted to see that our fixers took the lead to organize repair workshops. In particular, our sewing fixer Kathleen delivered four visible mending workshops at Richview Library this past year. You can find Kathleen in the second photo below. She is the one with red hair standing and talking to the young women. A few sewing fixers assisted Kathleen including Khadije, who is working at the threads and fabric table in the last photo.

c) New Repair Café community leaders

A shoutout to all the RCT volunteers who have stepped up organizing Repair Café this past year. This includes Frank, David, Liz, Nat, Saba, Rene, and Khadije.

Our volunteer, Frank, has been supporting RCT as an appliance fixer. Last year, he began to organize Repair Café held in the Port Union Community Centre in his neighbourhood. He and his partner, Andy, enjoyed doing it so much that they organized a total of 10 repair cafes and they are offering Repair Café every sixth Saturday at the Port Union Community Centre in the year.

In this short video, Frank talks about why he has taken the initiative of starting Repair Café in his neighbourhood.

Our long-time volunteer, Liz (left in the first photo of the slideshow below) has been supporting RCT as a sewing fixer. Being a big fan and ambassador of RCT, she took the lead of organizing the first Repair Café at the Waterfront Neighbourhood Community Centre (WNCC) on a Saturday afternoon in September. Through her enthusiastic efforts, she won the support of the community centre and the local councillor. New and old fixers showed up at the event providing their help. A variety of items were received and got fixed, including laptops, shirts and bags, iron, watch, children bicycles, among others. Many of the neighbourhood residents had great experiences leaving the café with satisfaction.

Our fixer, David (in the middle of photo below) has become an organizer, receiving the full support from the head librarian of Leaside Public Library for offering Repair Café at their branch. We are proud to share that David’s skills go beyond fixing. He organized a few events and has been asked to return for more.

Repair Café returned to the United Church in Roncesvalles in October, thanks to the organizing work from Nat, Saba and Rene. Nat has been part of the RCT organizing committee since we started in 2013. Saba is an experienced and passionate Repair Café organizer as she has been planning and offering Repair Café in Guelph for a long time. Rene is a RCT fixer and resident of the neighborhood.

This Repair Café was part of the REmarket event offered by the waste reduction resident group and supported by the city of Toronto. There was a great turnout of visitors. Nat (in the first photo below holding an ipad) was busy with greeting visitors.

3. Education outreach and youth engagement

a) Postsecondary education institutions

In March, RCT visited Seneca Polytechnic and supported the Repair Café held at their campus. Through the event, the students studying in different programs gained hands-on repair experience and learned how everyone can contribute to building a circular economy. The students were engaged and enjoyed meeting and learning from our experienced fixers. In May, RCT provided two workshops to the students at York University, one on sewing and the other on electrical repairs.

b) Youth volunteers

We continued to attract young fixers and volunteers joining our events this year. In our Repair Café held at Scarborough Centennial Recreation Centre, the teenage volunteers who are local residents assisted Paul, our co-founder and fixer. Together they successfully brought the electric toy bike back to life!

4. Regular Repair Cafés and weekly CRT storefront drop-ins

This past year, we offered four full Repair Cafés, some mini cafes and many weekly drop-ins at Creative Reuse Toronto (CRT). A visitor brought her favourite umbrella to our full Repair Café at Toronto Reference Library in July. Like many of our visitors, she discovered the different types of repairs done at Repair Café and was excited to share her experience through Tik Tok.

Our Repair Cafe is supported by the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association Waste Reduction Group’s REmarket event at the St. Lawrence Market Tent in January, June and September.

5. Recognition for RCT

a) Community award

RCT has received an appreciation award for our sustainable contribution to the St. James Town community. Our co-founder and fixer, Paul, gave repair workshops at St. James Town throughout this past year. He and our other fixers provided repair workshops at the community centre in the previous year as well.

b) Reader’s Digest

Paul was also interviewed by Reader’s Digest Canada in November during which he shared about the unique nature of Repair Café in fostering a sense of community.

Looking ahead 2024:

In the new year, we will continue to develop the distributed model and support our new leaders in offering neighborhood repair events. As well, RCT will support the pilot study of the Ralph Thornton Community Repair Hub (RTCC) development led by Seneca Polytechnic in collaboration with RTCC. Through this project, we are building a case for long-term repair programming offered by community organizations across the city. 

We encourage everyone to join the repair movement and look forward to seeing more people emerge as new leaders!