Barbara Oleksiw checked out a damaged chair at the Inner Sunset community of San Fransisco’s Fix-It-Fair. (Photo by Niana Liu)

Barbara Oleksiw checked out a damaged chair at the Inner Sunset community of San Fransisco’s Fix-It-Fair. (Photo by Niana Liu)

Sarah Simpson Column: If it’s broken, why not fix it?

So many people are addicted to cheap stuff online and throw them away after a short period of time

In late June I was tooling around on Instagram when I came across a post liked by a friend of mine that I found to be quite intriguing. Mind you, it was for a type of event I am in no way willing to volunteer to organize but I do think there must be somebody somewhere in this community that would find it to be right in their wheelhouse.

The post was for a free Fix-it Fair in the Inner Sunset neighbourhood of San Francisco.

“Bring your wobbly, loose, broken, frayed, splintered, torn, ripped, cracked, severed item,” said the post. “We’ll try to fix anything — except electronics, and relationships — for free! Yes, for free. No hidden charges, no fees, no gobbledegook.”

They even joked that participants would get “Twice your money back if you’re not satisfied.” I’m not going to lie. It took me a minute to realize what that actually meant….

“We will re-wire, sew, re-plant/re-pot, clamp, glue, screw, nail, solder, stitch, sand, adjust…whatever we can to make it useful again,” said another post about it.

What a novel idea!

How it worked was those with fix-it skills and a giant name tag pinned to their chest, set themselves up at tables with a sign advertising what type of skills they had; some sewed, some fixed old appliances, some worked on furniture, others fixed bikes, and so on. Then, people from around the community brought their treasures to the fixers, and voila! The fixers fixed, the fixees saved some money and the bonus was a bunch of previously broken stuff was useful once again and avoided the landfill.

But it wasn’t just that — people came together for the event. People chatted and laughed and came together as a community for good, as opposed to what seems to be happening all over North America and likely the world these days — people clashing on every corner. The whole event seems inherently good.

I saved a photo of the post in my phone thinking I’d write about it at some point, and well, here I am, saving you from another week reading about my kids.

I eventually caught up with the Fix-it-Fair’s organizer Barbara Oleksiw. She happened to be in Scotland at the time and was actively trying to avoid her computer and her phone, but being a pillar of her community (I know we have quite a few movers and shakers of our own around the Cowichan Valley) naturally, she found somebody else to chat with me about the event.

That person was volunteer Niana Liu.

“When Barbara organized this, we had no idea what to expect. We were even a bit worried that no one was going to show up. So many people I know are addicted to cheap stuff online and throw them away after a short period of time especially if they are broken or imperfect,” Liu said. “Who would bother to come to the event and line up waiting to have their stuff fixed? Who’d have the patience and skill to fix things nowadays?”

Those questions got answered very quickly.

“We were really surprised that not only tons of people showed up, some of them even traveled from another town just to check out this rare event,” Liu said. “It turned out that we didn’t have all the tools and skills to fix everything people brought over, and we referred them to professional services, but no one seemed to be disappointed. As a matter of fact, people even enjoyed waiting in line so that they could have a nice chat with other humans, which we missed so much during the pandemic!”

Oleksiw hired a cook to feed the volunteers, too, and everybody knows food makes an event a party.

“I was helping with registering people’s names and their items at the door, but I had to be a sewer on the side too because we couldn’t keep up with the demand. So many passersby asked us when is going to be our next Fix-It Fair, they either have stuff that need to be fixed or they want to be volunteers,” Liu said. “We are shocked that our little tiny neighbourhood event got 2.5 million viewers on Instagram and thousands of people told us how they love this and they want to organize something similar too.”

The San Francisco neighbourhood group has planned another Fix-It Fair for Sept. 25 though I’m thinking this might be a trend that finds its way into communities in many other places as well, hopefully including right here in the Cowichan Valley.

“If the customers are happy, volunteers are happy and our planet is happy, then we must be doing the right thing,” Liu said.

ColumnistComedy

 

The Inner Sunset community of San Fransisco captured the attention of many with its ingenious Fix-It-Fair idea. It was so popular they’re doing it again. (Photo by Niana Liu)

The Inner Sunset community of San Fransisco captured the attention of many with its ingenious Fix-It-Fair idea. It was so popular they’re doing it again. (Photo by Niana Liu)