Repairing More than Broken Items

In a world where more and more things are seen as disposable, it is refreshing to experience an environment that promotes a circular economy.

The Repair Café North Saanich (RCNS) does just that by offering a space where skilled volunteers help mend broken items, giving them a new lease on life.

Getting Started

On an otherwise ordinary afternoon in 2020, two women met in a local café to discuss a topic dear to both of their hearts and that is how RCNS came to be.

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Modeled after the original Café in Amsterdam, the neighbourhood Repair Café follows the simple principle of community members working together to help one another by repairing broken items and in doing so, keeping those items out of the landfill.

After recruiting a handful of volunteers with a wide range of skills, the first RCNS event was held in July 2020 at St. John’s United Church on West Saanich Road.

A Community Hub

Four successful years later, the Repair Café operates out of Deep Cove Elementary School and has a roster of more than 50 volunteers. Each event draws dozens and dozens of people during the three-hour session.

The “fixers,” as the volunteers are fondly called, bring an amazing variety of skills to their workstations while others with a more administrative bent, usher people and their items to the appropriate tables.

If you brought in a broken piece of costume jewelry, Kathryn was there to help. Geoff and Greg were there to tackle any project that involved electrical work and electronics.

Need a repair to a garment? Sherley was there. Bicycles, clocks, garden utensils or knives that need to be sharpened—the skills and equipment were on hand.

The success rate is impressive. Last year, 75 percent of the items brought in for repair went back out the door in working order.

Taking time to chat between jobs, all the volunteers shared their enthusiasm for Repair Café explaining how they enjoy the atmosphere and the work.

Good Growth

The power of like-minded, good-hearted people working together always generates positive energy and RCNS has grown beyond the regularly scheduled monthly sessions. This year, some of Camosun College’s marketing students will become involved by using their recently acquired knowledge to generate plans to increase the Cafe’s exposure. And members of Sidney/North Saanich Library’s Teen Advisory Group are looking forward to the Café’s return visit in April during the week of Earth Day when they will be on hand to shadow the fixers and learn new skills.

Showing Support

School District 63 is supporting RCNS by offering the space at Deep Cove Elementary, as well as staff to help out. Repair Café and school staff look forward to finding creative ways to foster local citizenship and involve the students in repairing, recycling and preserving the world’s limited resources.

Principal, Philip Jungen is excited about this partnership and sees it as a natural and positive extension of the school’s long history of ecological concern. This shared focus is evident in a Repair Café lunchtime club for the kids. Jungen explained that the partnership also complements the School District 63 plans by stressing the importance of students becoming globally-conscious critical thinkers.

By embracing repair culture and adopting mindful consumption habits, we contribute to a more sustainable future and we might even learn a little something along the way.

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