Maple Ridge Repair Cafe

Troublesome toasters, lopsided lamps, and bungled bikes were renewed at a repair cafe event in Maple Ridge, where volunteer seniors with repair skills fix things. At the Tinkerbell Station girls are encouraged to get familiar working with tools. It’s part of fostering a culture of repair rather than throwing things away.

An old VHS tape is snipped with gigantic scissors during the repair cafe ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre in March, where dozens of broken items were paired with experienced volunteer fixers.

“A repair cafe is a space where people can bring their broken stuff. There is tools and materials and experienced fixers who can teach them how to fix it,” explains organizer Leanne Koehn of Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. She adds, “People really are the key. We’ve had 30 people step forward and say, ‘I know how to fix something’.”

Repair Heros

A federal seniors-focused grant helped fund the event and the community responded by becoming volunteers or bringing in items for repair like clothing, jewellery, and bikes. “Seniors have a whole lifetime of experience. Maybe that was their profession, so we have a lot of over qualified people here that know how to fix things and they become repair heroes,” says Koehn.

The Tinkerbell Station featured a range of objects and tools for attendees to try their hand at tinkering, dis-assembling and imagining alternate configurations and uses. “The name Tinkerbell Station is designed to encourage girls to get hands on with tools,” explains Koehn.

Repair Process Demystified

This hands-on approach demystifies the repair process while creating space for the sustainable community to flourish.  “So much can be recycled, fixed up, it is just a matter of knowing how to do it and that is what we are here for, to help,” said Andrew, a volunteer fixer.

Koehn says the longer term goals are to keep items out of landfill and to support a resilient culture and repair mentality. “This teaches you to invest in the long term. If I buy something I want to make it good quality, make sure it is repairable. I want to value it. I want not just something that comes into my life and leaves again. It is something I want in my life.”

More Repair Cafes are planned to continue through 2018.

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