Repair Cafés Help with Fixes, Build Community
At the Repair Cafés organized by Bolton Local, everything centers on making repairs. By promoting repairs, Bolton Local wants to help reduce mountains of waste. Organizer Ray Pfau says, “We throw away lots of things that often have almost nothing wrong with them, things that could easily be used again after a simple repair. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that they can have things fixed. Repair Café wants to change all that.”
Repair Cafés are also meant to put neighbors in touch with each other in a new way, to help people save money, and to help people discover that a lot of know-how and practical skills can be found close to home. Pfau says: “If you repair a bike, a CD player or a pair of trousers together with a previously unfamiliar neighbor, you look at that person in a different light the next time you see them. Jointly making repairs can lead to connections in the community.”
Unlike a “fix-it” shop, where people might drop off items to be repaired and continue about their day, Repair Cafés are meant to get people involved with the repair process and help them connect with others in the community. People bringing in items for repair are asked to stay while their items are being fixed. They can either help with the repair, watch, fix the item themselves with help from volunteers, or just have a snack and visit with neighbors.
The Repair Cafés are staffed by knowledgeable volunteers, who help make all possible repairs on things like small appliances, computers, lamps, bikes, and clothing—free of charge. (Some small parts may be supplied, such as wire or thread; other parts will be paid for by the owner of the item.) If the owner of the item knows what part or parts are needed, it will save time if the owner can obtain the part ahead of time and bring it to the Repair Café event.
The Bolton Local Repair Café is supported by the Repair Café Foundation. This Amsterdam organization has been organizing Repair Cafés in the Netherlands since 2010, and since January 2011 has provided support to local groups in and outside the Netherlands wishing to start their own Repair Cafés.