Kitchener's repair café helps save broken items...
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May 24, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Kitchener's repair café helps save broken items from the dump

Waterloo Region Record

KITCHENER — Jacob Havelic decided to bust out his trusty scooter on a warm spring day a few weeks ago.

The eight-year-old boy was zooming down the street when one of his handlebars suddenly fell off.

"I was just so puzzled," Jacob said. "So my dad put duct tape on it, but it just came off again."

So Jacob and his mother, Eva Havelic, decided to bring the sad, broken scooter to The Repair Café on Sunday afternoon with the hopes of reviving it.

The Repair Café, held at KwartzLab on Kent Avenue a few times a year, encourages people to repair broken items rather than just throw them away.

"It's one way to try to reduce waste," said volunteer Alex Long.

The global Repair Café movement started in Amsterdam as a way to reduce consumer waste and has spread throughout Europe and North America.

It hopes to change the tide in a consumer culture where society throws away broken items instead of trying to fix them.

Kitchener's Repair Café offers hot beverages, tools and handy volunteers with the know-how to fix busted vacuum cleaners, troublesome toasters and finicky computers.

It was a bit of a slow start Sunday afternoon with only a handful of drop-ins.

Long examined the handlebars on Jacob's scooter and noticed the screws were missing. He went to a back room and sifted through handfuls of screws to find one that might fit.

Jacob tagged along to see how Long would try to fix his well-loved scooter.

Long tinkered with one screw after another and pondered on how to hold them in place.

"Everyone has different skills," Long said as he tested different sized screws.

"We encourage people to learn how to fix things so they can do it themselves at home."

The local Repair Cafés were launched two years ago by local eco-conscious non-profit Transition KW.

Long is a member of the non-profit group and said: "we are trying to educate our generation on how to live a more sustainable life."

The concept of Repair Café's waste reduction values appealed to the group.

They sought out a space for their occasional cafés and local membership-based makerspace, KwartzLab, had just the spot for them.

Their makerspace at 33 Kent Ave. is packed with machines, gadgets and all the tools needed to mend broken items destined for the dump.

"Many (people) don't live in houses or have garages or workshops," Long pointed out.

There is a sewing machine where volunteer seamstresses assist with mending unyielding zippers and rips.

A furniture station in the back room has an array of tools where carpenters can fix a broken chair or table.

Neil Eaton is a volunteer who tinkers with pretty much everything. He also has carpentry skills and can wield a hammer or saw. He said the furniture fixes were usually the simplest.

"It's amazing what a little glue and wood can do," he added.

"Sometimes people bring in things that just can't be helped, like a 20-year-old rusted kettle we can't even get open," he added with a chuckle.

But they try to fix everything, even the hopeless items.

Jacob watched intently as Long had his "aha" moment. The determined fixer found a thin wooden brush with a long handle he used to insert a metal nut inside the scooter's neck to hold new screws in place. It was the final touch needed to fix Jacob's scooter.

"Yes!" Jacob yelled out. He promptly took his scooter outside for a spin on the sidewalk. All was well again.

"He will probably be the fixer in the house now," Jacob's mother Eva said with a laugh.

For more information on Transition KW's Repair Cafés, visit www.transitionkw.com/initiatives/repair-cafe.

alatif@therecord.com , Twitter: @LatifRecord

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