On the last Sunday of every month I find myself heading down to my local repair cafe. It’s part of my regular routine now, but it wasn’t always.
The first time I went I wasn’t sure what to expect, even though I’d emailed my queries ahead. I certainly didn’t expect the extent of the warm welcome and inclusivity I found there.
I was asked to fill in a form detailing what I’d brought to be fixed: its weight and its problem, the name of the repairer and whether it got repaired.
I hadn’t anticipated the hive of activity I found there, so I’d arrived too late to get into the queue. As I was asking about the next session a cup of homemade soup was pressed into my hand. This is when I started to realise the full function of this place as a social and communal hub.
Staffed entirely by volunteers, the roles fit into three main categories:
- The organisers (handling forms and initial enquiries),
- The repairers (the practical men, many who have worked in trades and tinkered in sheds for decades; and the practical women, behind sewing machines that whirr and hum for hours, mending items and creating boomerang bags), and
- The kitchen staff (making the plunger coffee and brewing loose leaf tea, cutting up the homemade cakes and heating the homemade savouries – all cooked by volunteers – and doing the dishes).
This space is full to capacity for the four hours of its opening.
My second visit coincided with the cafe’s first birthday. Chris Hooper, the main organiser, gave a speech which informed me that in one year more than 200 kilograms of stuff had been saved from landfill by being repaired. That’s admirable! I’m impressed!
This place is a slice of heaven for a person like me, who doesn’t even know where to start when my electronic equipment and wooden things stop working: I don’t know the specifications of what I’m looking at, and I certainly don’t know how to start troubleshooting.
For many – who live quieter lives than mine – it is equally important as a social hub, a forum for conversation missed because they no longer work, or have been sick, or are otherwise socially isolated. Within this space I’ve run into old friends, and made new friends…all the while increasing my confidence in what to look for and how to start troubleshooting on my own. As with Nick Angelo from Central Vic Electronics the terms used by the ever-patient volunteer repairers sound foreign to my ears…but I’m pleased to say they’re less foreign with each return visit.
My mother is also a fan of our local repair cafe, even though she’s never been. She lives two hours away but it’s far easier, logistically, for her to give me her items and for me to take them in, than it is for her to source local repairers or send things to the relevant manufacturer’s warehouse. For the cost of a donation it’s also more affordable. Every broken thing she’s given me to date has been returned to her functioning smoothly again. In this way we reduce (our carbon footprint), reuse (beloved kitchen items that have graced her kitchen for up to sixty years) and recycle (knowledge and know-how).
My overwhelming impression of my local repair cafe is of its warmth and nurturing kindness: I feel incredibly ignorant and stupid with my supreme lack of practical know-how, but no-one has made fun of me for that. Rather, I’ve been gently guided across this foreign land, so that I can traverse it more confidently. And it’s ever so pleasurable!
The everpresent broad smiles and happy conversations, gentle busyness and socialising – and especially the satisfied people who leave happy, fixed household items in hand and with hearty, healthy food filling their bellies – fill my heart with warmth and gladness which endure all day, and longer.
For more about this repair cafe visit: https://m.facebook.com/groups/438594566532674/