Paul Magder, a retired electronic technologist along with his wife Fern Mosoff, retired civil servant, and Wai Chu Cheng founded Toronto’s Repair Cafe in 2013. At a Repair Café, people are invited to bring in their broken items like lamps, radio, blenders, hair dryers and zippers, computers, jewelry, bikes and other electronics – and to sit down with a volunteer who won’t just repair them, but also show them how to do it themselves – all this free of cost. Repair Café has been involved in St. James Town for a while and currently have a program running at The Corner 240 space every Monday. We spoke to Paul to understand more on Repair Café, its origin, and how they are able to consistently provide this amazing service to the residents of Toronto.
What inspired you to start Repair Café? Why choose the concept of Repair?
We wanted to find a way to work with our communities to stop the dreadful waste and growing damage to our environment. We heard about the Repair Cafe concept from an article in the New York Times which talked about the original Repair Café in Amsterdam. We decided to try one here and it was an instant success.
Can you share a little about the Café’s history and how it has evolved over the years? What does it mean to you personally?
We started in our neighbourhood of St. Clair Ave. West. Our councillor, Joe Mihevic, connected us with an organization called Skills for Change that had free space for us to use. We spent a couple of months promoting it at eco fairs and other community events and looking for volunteers. The first event was small with about 8 volunteers and 15 items to fix. Many people asked when the next one would be so we said “next month”. The second one was twice as busy with more volunteers and so we kept going every month. After six years, we now travel all over the city with a trailer full of equipment and host all kinds of events. Last year we did 83 repair cafes and we have a volunteer list of over 700 people.
Personally, I love the activity of fixing. Also, I have met many wonderful people from all parts of the city and all walks of life. It is great to know there are so many people who are trying to build up and do good and to be part of the eco-movement in Toronto.