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By Lizette Salmon,  Repair Café Albury-Wodonga coordinator

It’s often said that volunteers are the lifeblood of an organisation. I disagree. At Albury-Wodonga’s Repair Café they’re the blood, the guts, the heart and the backbone.

Our Repair Café opened in November 2015 and keeps getting better, thanks to an ever-growing team of dedicated helpers. At each session we average 18 volunteers, helping 53 visitors with 64 broken items and a 77% repair rate.  We’re a free service, assisting folks to fix furniture, bikes, clothing, textiles, battery-operated appliances, books and jewellery, as well as sharpening garden tools.

Visitors love our repairers. They make glowing remarks about repairers’ skills, kindness, generosity, empathy and non-judgmental attitudes. One woman called the man who fixed her autistic son’s headphones a ‘miracle worker’.

Why do our helpers come back time and time again? Yes, they want to extend the life of consumables, bypass landfill and teach people the art of repair. But it’s more than this. When surveyed on what they liked best about helping out, common themes included the community spirit, meeting people, being part of a team and the happy atmosphere. One volunteer concluded “it’s always a good feeling to be able to assist someone”.

Indeed. What’s often forgotten in our busy lives is that we gain by giving. People pursue happiness, but happiness cannot be pursued – it’s a by-product of a meaningful life.  Meaning comes from contributing to a cause that matters to you.

After our February Repair Café session a repairer shared a touching story. She was asked by a visitor if she and the other repairers were paid. Upon hearing they weren’t, the visitor asked why they did this free of charge. Gillian responded “it’s pretty poor if we can’t do something for someone else”. When he heard these words the visitor’s face lit up and he spoke of his fifteen years as a volunteer fire fighter, saying they were the best years of his life. See what I mean? We gain by giving.

Repair Café is open the first Saturday of each month from 10am to 1pm at the Sustainable Activity Centre on Gateway Island. The next session is Saturday 4th March. We are a community-driven initiative proudly supported by Halve Waste, with morning teas baked by Birallee Neighbourhood House. For more information visit our Facebook page or find us on Ecoportal.net.au.