Volunteers needed for upcoming SIRCH Repair Cafés
By Darren Lum
The public is invited to learn, share skills, enjoy fellowship and have fun at the first Repair Café, facilitated by SIRCH Community Services.
The free community event on Jan. 25 will be the first of six Repair Cafés held from this coming January to August.
“Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country on earth. Each Canadian generates approximately 2.7 kilograms of garbage each day,” a press release from SIRCH reads. “Communities across the country – including Haliburton County – struggle with an increasing amount of residential waste that ends up in local landfills. SIRCH’s Repair Cafés are a vital way to help reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of by giving household items a new life thanks to volunteer fixers.”
SIRCH’s Repair Café co-ordinator Chris Varga said this initiative is just the beginning.
After seven years, the repair cafés held in Toronto have started to see an evolution. The people who were bringing things in for repair and in need of help are now the ones returning to share their skills to help others, he said.
“They were inspired by that. The whole idea of the repair café concept is really to invigorate – not just have a series of events – but reinvigorate society [toward] fixing, the concept of fixing,” he said.
The residual benefit is diverting items destined for the landfill to be given new life. Rather than lamenting what can’t be done, this concept encourages positive change.
“When I saw this opportunity show up, it was exactly that: an opportunity for hope. Something that I could actually feel like I was doing something positive with because in today’s world ... there’s a dark cloud over everything,” he said.
Varga said this could be one of many ways to affect change and provide hope. The most important aspect of the concept is that it’s enjoyable, he said. Generally, people don’t like to do things they have to or feel shamed into doing.
The event offers opportunities for a range of people with different backgrounds.
“Some people are there because they want to save the world. And some people are there because they love tinkering and fixing. And some people are there because they have an affection for old belongings. It’s quite interesting,” he said.
He remembers the energy and camaraderie he saw when at a repair café in Toronto, with people cheering at the sound of the bell, which indicated repairs were complete. He also saw tears shed for items with sentimental value that couldn’t be saved.
Varga said he’s been passionate about repairing things ever since he was a child when he used to go to the dump to find bike parts being thrown away. It was due in part to necessity since he didn’t have a lot of money for new parts, but it was also, “Hey, look what I can do.”
Although there have been volunteers who have already committed to either be a fixer or an upcycler using articles in a different way at the repair cafés, Varga said more people are welcome and needed for the year.
“We’re looking for anybody who can fix or upcycle right now. We have started generating a list. I’m very pleased a lot of people have jumped aboard, but we need more because we’re going to have a series of six events. If we had 10 people maybe those 10 people couldn’t go to each and every event,” he said.
“We want to have this to go beyond the borders of our little cafés. We want to develop a community and connect people,” he said. “I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do this. There’s many people who deserve thanks over myself.”
He acknowledged SIRCH for their part in supporting this effort, but also credited the inspiration to Highlands resident Ted Scholtes of Thrift Warehouse fame. Scholtes sold his house and used the money to build an 8,000-square-foot warehouse, taking household articles such as furniture, which could not be taken by the 4Cs. SIRCH Community Services and TPS Haliburton Holdings are now partners. SIRCH manages the warehouse and provides staffing.
Among the listed items that cannot be addressed at the upcoming Repair Cafés: broken zippers, gas-powered engines, items containing hazardous waste such as gas, oil, chemicals and pesticides, large furniture, large kitchen appliances and single serve coffee machines made by Keurig and Nespresso.
Repairs are not guaranteed. Fixers are entitled to refuse to repair items.
Nothing to repair and cannot help someone repair? This event is also for you, Varga said.
The event is open to people just interested in enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and being immersed in a supportive atmosphere.
“It’s not just a fixer shop. The idea is to involve people in the process of fixing. Have them learn how to do it themselves. Really, what we hope is the people walk in and sit down with their item and fix it themselves, or collaborate and fix, or if they can’t do anything, sit and watch and at least share coffee and doughnuts and a positive conversation and get to know your neighbour. There’s a real strong social aspect to it. You develop close relationships. You find a common bond,” he said.
Varga said he is also looking for people in need of materials, who can repurpose things that can’t be repaired. This can include upcycle artists.
“We don’t just fix. We also want to showcase ... upcycling. Maybe something can’t be fixed, but they can turn it into something else of use,” he said.
Organizers are encouraging participants to come early to avoid any lines and that registration closes one hour before the end of the session.
Those interested in being a fixer volunteer can complete a volunteer application form at www.sirch.on.ca/repaircafe or contact SIRCH by phoning 705-457-1742 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.