Do you have a bit of spare time? And do you want to spend it in a meaningful and pleasant way? You can follow in Manon Thijssen’s footsteps and become a volunteer for a Repair Café.
Manon earns a living as an education manager for the Pharmacy programme of the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands). But the last Saturday of every month, she spends the afternoon working selflessly for Repair Café Utrecht-Oost. There she’s a fabric volunteer. “I repair clothes, but also pillowcases, bags, curtains… all sorts of things are brought in”, says Manon.
Visitors get a task to do
“Usually, there are two fabric volunteers at our Repair Café. It’s fun to brainstorm and work out what’s the best way is to repair. Often it’s a bit of a puzzle.” Manon also includes the visitor in the repair process. Manon: “I give visitors a task to do. They can, for example, help pinning the seams of the trouser legs.”
I’m finally doing something useful, Manon thought when she first entered the Repair Café more than three years ago – her first time volunteering ever. She knew about Repair Café by the stories her partner Maurice told her. He works for Repair Café Utrecht-Oost as a repairer of electrical appliances. Manon: “He told me after every repair meeting what kind of appliances visitors had brought in. Or he proudly told me that he had completed a difficult repair.”
Learned when young
When one of the seamstresses left, Maurice asked if Manon wouldn’t be up for doing some sewing for the Repair Café. Manon: “I don’t repair clothes at home, but I can make my own clothes. I learned this skill as a child by watching my mother doing it.”
Manon likes volunteering for the Repair Café. “People are so happy when you repair something for them. Especially when they’re attached to it, and that, in turn, makes you happy. Once, a woman came to me with an old rag; one of those spit cloths for babies. It was worn to the bone! Yet that woman wanted to have it hemmed. She used the cloth for the dog and didn’t want to throw it away. As that’s what she wanted: I put a hem in it.”
Always a fun afternoon
Manon finds the repair meetings ‘super enjoyable’. “I always have a fun afternoon there. The other fabric volunteers and I have a great time together. This volunteer work is relaxing and stress-free, also because it’s just one afternoon a month”, says the enthusiastic volunteer.