TODAY |

Bonding over broken toasters and ripped jeans answer to repairing fragmented communities

"There’s so much waste," explains retired electronic service technician Nigel Champion, as he examines a broken silver goblet.

"Often people throw things away, especially electrical goods, and it’s just a minor issue, like a broken contact or corroded battery. It's a tragedy the amount that's wasted."

Nigel is one of nearly two dozen volunteers gathered together on rainy Saturday morning at an Auckland Repair Café.

He’s here to share his expert electrical skills with members of the North Shore community who need help to repair and fix-up their broken and damaged goods.

21 local North Shore experts volunteered at the Repair Cafe held in April
21 local North Shore experts volunteered at the Repair Cafe held in April Source: 1 NEWS

It’s a concept that started in Amsterdam in 2010 and has spread to 1818 locations in over 30 countries.

The intent of the cafe is to bring people together to share repair skills, reduce waste and enhance societal connections.

"This is our fifth Repair Café," says Highbury House community manger Angela Spooner.

"We've got sewing, woodworking, electricians, we've got jewellery repairs. And the community can come in and get their items looked at and hopefully repaired, free of change."

"At our last one we had 130 items repaired, and when looking at the value of the items repaired - it was nearly $8000."

Today, the rain pattering on the porch blends with the rhythmic beat of a sewing machine, and the rasp of a knife grinder.

Often people don't have the sewing machine or spanner set required to do the repairs themselves.
Often people don't have the sewing machine or spanner set required to do the repairs themselves. Source: 1 NEWS

Conversations buzz as consultations are held over soldering irons, pliers, sewing needles and hammers.

The ladies manning a row of sewing machines share a wicked laugh as they dissect a ripped pair of trousers.

"I was just fixing the crotch, which obviously somebody has stretched a bit far or, they've grown slightly large," quips the machinist.

"People these days don't sew or repair, that's part of the reason why we're here," she adds.

Tucked at the end of the room jewellery enthusiast Gemma helps Lee fix up his wife’s necklace. As she deftly repairs the broken catch she recounts a previous repair.

Jewellery enthusiast Gemma loves transforming broken jewellery into heirlooms to pass down to the next generation.
Jewellery enthusiast Gemma loves transforming broken jewellery into heirlooms to pass down to the next generation. Source: 1 NEWS

"There was a lady, and she had this beautiful crystal necklace and it was in so many pieces. And she just wanted for me to make a bracelet using the bit and pieces for her granddaughters. So, I was able to do that, and she was just thrilled because those beads had been in the family for several years. It was a really buzz to do that for her too."

It's easy to sense the enjoyment that’s shared as pieces are put back together, friendships are formed, and the community builds stronger relationships.

"It’s really satisfying, it’s like anything that you restore or repair, it's just real satisfaction," says Roy as he glides another dull knife over his grinding stone.

Highbury Community House on Auckland's North Shore holds a Repair Cafe twice a year.
Highbury Community House on Auckland's North Shore holds a Repair Cafe twice a year. Source: 1 NEWS

He’s volunteering for the third time and his knife sharpening station is the most popular in the room.

It’s clear that they’re a skilled bunch, with the team managing to repair 70 per cent of the 77 items that are brought in.

Knife sharpening is the most popular station at the Repair Cafe
Knife sharpening is the most popular station at the Repair Cafe Source: 1 NEWS

"A lot of [people] are quite surprised that the items are able to be repaired," says Angela, and "it’s not just the repairs, it’s the community connection. We provide a space where people can sit down and try can talk and connect. It’s very valuable to the community."

Find out where your next local Repair Café event is here.