Sat, Mar 2, 2024 10:00 AM

Restoring community spirit


William Woodworth

A monthly volunteer repair shop’s bid to keep waste products out of landfill is fast becoming a bastion of community spirit.

The Repair Café, set up in Marlborough by Gerrie Mead, Stephen Leitch, Richard Dyer and Konrad Cross, sees volunteers put their repair skills to the test.

And the once-a-month fix-it feature is taking off with both volunteers and people keen to see if their broken items can be saved,

The Café runs on donations for the service, with volunteers working with a variety of items from electronics, power tools and home appliances to sewing repairs and blade sharpening.

If an item cannot be repaired, parts are retained and reused in other projects where possible.

Organiser Stephen Leitch says he has always had a fascination with how things work.

“My father and brothers were engineers and while I’m not, the fascination of taking stuff apart was something I was always interested in, and that lends itself to putting things back together again too,” says Stephen.

“The sense of purpose you get of putting something back together for someone and seeing the relief and happiness on their face when the hairdryer starts blowing again or the drill restarts is so worthwhile.

“…seeing people come in to volunteer, get repairs or just for the sense of the community helping with greeting and coffees and chats is exactly what we wanted.”

Marlburians looking to get something fixed sit alongside and chat with those doing the fixing. Photo: William Woodworth

Many Café volunteers say they were originally invited along to get something fixed but have since been recruited in to help with repairs and decided to volunteer their services for the community’s benefit.

Councillor Deborah Dalliessi, was at the Repair Café to get a torn leather jacket sewn, and found herself recruited to help recycle a coffee machine.

“Both Repair Café and Crossroads bring together our community in an amazing way where they make the absolute most of what they can and help educate and provide Marlborough with ways how not to be a ‘throwaway’ society”, she says.

“When taking something to get fixed in stores costs nearly as much as getting something new, reusing is really vital to helping our entire region’s recycling programme.

“It’s a positive way to use the community’s skills to help one another.”

Deborah says that the Repair Café gives an incredible cross-section of Marlborough, because the conversations between people crosses many community and intergenerational boundaries.

“The two portfolios I decided I wanted as a councillor were community engagement and recycling and waste management, and I believe our community has the solutions to many problems.

“Places like the Repair Café, Jack’s Kitchen providing meals, and Crossroads crop swaps are living proof of community spirit in action.

“It’s so more than just dropping something in and leaving, you’re invited in for a coffee and a chat with the person helping to fix what you brought, and it inspires you to start looking around and go “oh, I can help with that”.

Repair Café takes over Crossroads every 4th Saturday of the month from 9am-midday.

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