NARROWSBURG, NY—When members of the community visit Tusten’s Repair Café, they’ll bring items in need of repair: lamps that need mending, window screens that need patching, …
NARROWSBURG, NY—When members of the community visit Tusten’s Repair Café, they’ll bring items in need of repair: lamps that need mending, window screens that need patching, jewelry that needs fixing and more.
They’ll leave not just with a new lease on life for their objects, but also with a new perspective on the importance of repair.
The repair café movement began in 2010 with the founding of the Repair Café Foundation, later renamed the Repair Café International.
A repair café is a free meeting that revolves around a shared process of repair. Local experts volunteer their time and their expertise, offering their knowledge and their skill in the art of repair.
Anyone can bring in a broken item for these experts to repair, within their areas of expertise. But visitors to the repair café don’t just drop off their items and come back later once they’re done. They work together with the volunteer experts to make the repairs, a process that speaks to the movement’s goals.
The modern world throws away a lot of garbage. According to a report from the U.S. Public Information Research Group, the U.S. alone threw away over 292 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018. Throwing something away and buying a replacement is considered normal, even with items that could be easily repaired.
“Unfortunately, repairing is no longer part of the system for many people… That is why there is the Repair Café!” reads material from Repair Café International. “People with repair knowledge get the appreciation they deserve. Valuable practical skills are transferred. Stuff is made usable for longer and does not have to bey thrown away.”
By involving visitors in the process of repair, repair cafés help pass on the knowledge of how to do minor fixes, and helps instill the mindset that broken items can be fixed, not just thrown out. The impact is far reaching: Repair Café International lists 2,627 active repair cafés in dozens of countries worldwide, involving an estimated over-39,000 volunteers and an estimated over-47,000 items repaired per month.
“In the Repair Café, people learn to look at their things in a different way… This is necessary to make people enthusiastic about a sustainable society,” according to Repair Café International.
The Hudson Valley and the Catskills have proven fertile grounds for the idea of communal repair. The area has approximately 30 cafés active, depending on how it’s defined.
The first repair café in the Town of Tusten happened in January 2019, said Jill Padua, the café’s local organizer. Padua had previously met Elizabeth Knight, co-author of the book “Repair Revolution.” Knight’s co-author, John Waxkman, first brought repair cafés to the Hudson Valley, and Knight founded the Warwick Repair Café. Knight encouraged Padua to start one in her area.
Padua had connections to local crafters and repair experts who proved more than happy to help. The local community has been very supportive, she said. “I’m so grateful for the wonderful volunteers that we have that come out time and time again to do this.”
The Tusten Repair Cafe is still looking to fill some holes in its repair knowledge: Padua mentioned the need for someone ot sharpen knives and tools, someone to do laptop repairs and guidance, and someone to do ceramics repairs. The café is also looking for young people to join and become part of it. Almost everyone who helps out is retired, Padua said, leading to issues in the future if their skills aren’t passed on.
That’s where the full impact of the repair café movement lies: not just in the individual items repaired, but in the community of repair-ers it helps create.
The Tusten Repair Café will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 18 at the Tusten Town Hall, 210 Bridge St. For more information, find Repair Café Tusten on Facebook or email email@example.com.
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