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On a mission to fix your beloved household items

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Repair Kopitiam promotes sustainable living among Singaporeans by repairing your broken treasures.

We all have that one item that is broken but too precious to discard. In Singapore's buy and throw away culture, it seems almost impossible to find anyone willing to repair our broken items.

But every last Sunday of the month, Repair Kopitiam sets up shop at two void decks in Jurong West and Tampines to fix these broken items.

Youth.SG attended their session at Jurong West last November and met their passionate co-founder, Farah Sanwari, 28. Farah is also the CEO of Sustainable Living Lab (SL2).

"We started Repair Kopitiam in November 2014 to address the waste issues that we face and start thinking about what sustainability is really about," Farah said proudly.


Farah believes there are various methods to reduce our consumption.

The void deck was extremely lively by the time we arrived at 11am, although it had only started an hour earlier. Residents aged 7 to 70 crowded around the different stations to get their items repaired.

There were eight repair coaches in total at the different stations, such as electrical appliances, home improvement and fabric repair.

In the midst of all the electric appliances being repaired, what caught my eye was one of the repair coaches helping to sew up a little boy's teddy bear.

The boy was kneeling on his chair, leaning closer to watch with anticipation as the repair coach brought new life to his old friend.

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Each station specialised in different areas of repair, such as this electrical appliance station.

With the huge range of items being repaired for free, I could not help but wonder how Repair Kopitiam managed to find people with the skills to fix them.

Farah, who studied Industrial and Product Design at the National University of Singapore, explained that the solution was not in finding one person with all the knowledge, but rather in sharing what they already knew with each other.

She explained: "We had the repair coaches contribute how to repair their own stuff and we learned from each other. When residents come down to get their items fixed, we don't just repair but teach them as well. In the end, we all learned from it and it became a collective effort on how to repair items. "

Farah herself has picked up repair skills, especially when it comes to repairing appliances that she is not familiar with.

"I'm not that well versed in electrical appliances, which is why it's a constant challenge for me. However, I do love exploring how the appliance works," she said with a laugh.

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Between 30 and 40 people of all ages attend the monthly sessions at each location.

Farah started looking for volunteers to become repair coaches, through Facebook, at the end of 2014 and continued her search through early 2015. At the time, she had already been a part of SL2 for two years.

Her first few volunteers were from different backgrounds, consisting of families who wanted to spend time with each other and even expatriates looking for something fun and hands-on to do on Sundays.

Even now, Repair Kopitiam has still maintained its tight knit community.

However, Farah feels there is still a long way to go in convincing Singaporeans to adopt a more sustainable way of life.

"In the long run, what we hope Repair Kopitiam will achieve is a society that perceives repair as the best option before throwing away. Ultimately, we imagine institutions having repair as part of curriculum, or repair as an activity at a seniors' activity center," Farah said.

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Farah is also a mentor at the Caltex Fuel Your School - Tech Jam 2017, a programme where she is able to promote sustainable living to primary school students.
PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/DEXTER LIN

By 2.45pm, the activities for the day wind down. But what surprises me is that many of the items brought to Repair Kopitiam were not successfully fixed by the end of the session. Some were due to the fact that they were missing the parts needed or they were already beyond repair.

Farah acknowledged this with a sad smile, saying: "Unfortunately, 60 per cent of the items don't get repaired."

She added: "Next time they buy something, they would have to consider whether this item is repairable in the first place, or whether this item can last a long time."

Repair Kopitiam is held on the last Sunday of every month, at Block 444 Jurong West Avenue 1 and Block 890D Tampines Avenue 1, from 10am-3pm.