Repair Café’s Three Reasons for New Year Optimism

We carried on with our community service and education work at Repair Café Toronto (RCT) in the past year. During this second year of the pandemic, we continued to keep in-person repair cafés on hold, as we have been following public health measures, and Covid safety for our volunteers remains our top priority. We are grateful for the resilience, kindness and generosity shown by our many community partners and volunteers. We believe the work that we achieved this year, along with that from the previous year, is paving the way for a brighter new year.

2021 Highlights

RCT Fixer Andre repairing a toaster at St. James Community Hub this fall.
  • Offered modified community repair services, which have kept us busy throughout the year:

    People who contacted us for help with fixing their broken household items were assisted with email or online consultation. In addition, our fixers have been volunteering their repair services for the items collected from the three drop-off/pick up locations, including, Creative Reuse Toronto, St. James Town Community Hub, and Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market.

    RCT has also been providing a repair service for the Rexdale Women’s Centre and sewing machine repair at The Neighbourhood Organization in Thorncliffe Park.
  • Provided online workshops to a variety of groups and received excellent feedback from participants:
    • On-going troubleshooting workshops for apprentices at the St. James Town Community Hub.
    • A workshop series for Ralph Thornton Community Centre in April with our fixers: Frank on sewing machines, Alvin on computers, André on troubleshooting and Alan on bikes.
    • A workshop series for the Woburn Community Residents in Scarborough in spring, including sewing machine repair, troubleshooting, basic electricity and electronics theory and computer maintenance.
    • Two workshops for the Rexdale residents in summer on troubleshooting and electricity/electronics theory.
    • “Sew for Sustainability” workshop in June organized by the student club, Enactus, and Mission Zero at Sheridan College presented by RCT fixer Liz.

  • Participated in community events hosted by other groups:
    • St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Waste Reduction Group’s Remarket in August – RCT fixers repaired dropped-off items on-site for pick-up on the same day. We dealt with 39 items of which 70% were fixed. It was a terrific time for all in a pretty deluxe ‘distanced’ situation. We aced the “pilot” event and learned a few things.
    • Double Take Thrift Store’s Upcycling Studio in November – RCT fixer Jannette led an engaging dual in-real-life and live-on-Instagram Visible Mending workshop. Jannette’s handout is informative and can be downloaded from our website’s Resources section on this page.
    • The St. James Town Community Hub and Newmarket Library in-person Repair Cafés in October and November – RCT fixers supported both events.
    • Global (Intergalactic) Fix-it Clinics with RCT fixers participating in the monthly events.
    • Global Fixers Discord site where participating volunteers perform around-the-clock around-the-world repairs – Our fixer Alvin has been involved in developing and maintaining the platform in collaboration with Fixit Clinics and other community repair groups. To join the site, click here.


Our salutes to the outstanding groups and individuals:

  • to these diligent, undaunted, energetic, committed community partners who managed to keep the repair wheels rolling through 2021.
  • to Dave for his ongoing behind-the-scene’s work in anticipation of what’s ahead.
  • to Sandra and Monica for keeping our social networks informed.
  • to fixers Alan, Alvin, Andre, Bennett, Daniel, Dave, David, Didem, Frank, Gail, Jacquie, Josie, KD, Khadije, Meejum, Moshe, Pauline, Peter, Rene, who always seem to outdo themselves on their tireless fixing work for fellow community members. Their awesome, ingenious, generous contributions to community never cease to amaze us and warm our pandemic-stressed hearts.

Looking Ahead

Our experiences from this past year have proved that not only can we handle challenges but we also are adaptable and flexible. We see a better year where we will finally turn the corner and get ready for reopening. These are the reasons for our optimism:

1. The fire is still there, and it is getting bigger

Thanks to the wonderful support of our dedicated volunteers, RCT was well established before the pandemic hit in early 2020. During the last two years, we heard many of our volunteers asking, “ I really miss Repair Café. When will RC return?” As you can see, many of our volunteers continued to contribute their time and energy in support of our initiative in the past year. We know many more will come out and join us when it is safe to offer repair cafes again. To date, there are 2,234 Repair Cafes worldwide, which is quite a growth from about 1,300 recorded from just a few years ago. The rise of online repair events in the last year has likely helped spread the repair movement globally. Here in Toronto, we have been observing a steady growth in the interest from young people and the general public for organizing repair cafés and participating in repair workshops. For example, we have been receiving emails from the general public enquiring about how to volunteer with us. And just this fall, we were contacted by the students from two universities, York University and University of Toronto Mississauga, expressing interest to learn about starting a Repair Café.

2. Repair Café is poised to operate with a more accessible model

The pandemic has forced us to re-imagine how repair cafes can be organized.  While virtual repair events can never match the vibe one can experience in in-person cafes and the distance between the object and the fixer can add fixing challenges to the “hands-on” nature of the occasion, virtual events have a unique advantage. That is, they can offer access to anyone participating from potentially any part of the city or even any corner of the globe where the internet is available. This possibility makes the future of Repair Café even more exciting. Perhaps in the near future, we could start to offer in-person cafes integrated with selective remote consultation service. We could also connect repair cafes taking place simultaneously in different parts of the world.

3. Repair Café is a leader in the shift to a more sustainable economy

Repairing rather than recycling or discarding has become more appealing these days. One of the reasons is that there have been supply shortages and rising prices for many products during the pandemic, affecting everything from toys to video games, to chips to bikes to sewing machines. So it is wise to be able to hold on the old ones and keep them in use as long as possible.

RCT was invited to speak at two virtual conferences this year on the Right to Repair discussion in Canada. It is clear that even before the pandemic, more and more people have an increased awareness of their right as consumers. It is a waste of money and precious resources to purchase a smartphone that lasts less than two years. Clothes are frequently purchased that in the end are not worn much. More consumers are also asking ethical sourcing questions, such as where products come from and how workers are treated. More people are understanding the connection between their consumption choices and the impact to the environment. People are increasingly opting for a more sustainable lifestyle by reducing their personal carbon footprints.

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We need to work together to shift our take-make-dispose economy to a circular economy. Repairing our broken items to extend their lifespans — sewing the missing button for a shirt, for example, or fixing the malfunctioning switch for a lamp — are just two simple alternatives to shopping for new ones.

We can’t wait to see more people joining the Repair Café initiative in 2022! We look forward to working with our community to mend our world after the pandemic, one repair at a time!