Repair Kopitiam sessions are bustling affairs. Full of buzz from people chatting over the sound of machines humming away. Of Repair Coaches busy with screwdrivers, sewing machines and saws, while participants ask questions and try their hand at the work involved. It attracts a lot of attention and that is a good thing, because it invites the community around to become curious and hopefully become part of the effort.

On her way back from the market, Jenny Lee walked past Block 425 Jurong West and noticed activity going on. Curious, she stopped a Repair Coach in his green apron and asked what the event was about. Was it a roadshow? A garage sale? What was going on?

Once the concept of Repair Kopitiam was explained to her, she approved of the idea but did not think she had anything that she needed repairing. But she would keep it in mind if she ever did. And as she wheeled her bicycle with groceries away, it occurred to her that she had been having problems with her bicycle. Turning back, she asked one of the Repair Coaches if it was something we could help her with, and it turns out we could.

Mrs Lee, a housewife, has been using her bicycle for over 10 years. It is not a gleamy, shiny new model, but a trusty bike that still has plenty of life in it. The trouble Mrs Lee had was that the brake grips were too tight, making it cumbersome to cycle. When she took it to her local bicycle repairman, she was told that the bicycle was so old that it was not worth repairing and she was better off buying a one. But Mrs Lee didn’t want a new bike. She wanted to continue using her old one. So she did, even with the problem with the brakes.

The Home Improvement team took a look at it, and it turns out that all Mrs Lee’s bike required was a squirt of WD-40, as parts of it had rusted. While the deruster spray was deployed over the affected parts, Mrs Lee also learnt about the importance of maintaining mechanical parts from constant wear and tear, facts that she was not aware of. She even learn that greasing her bicycle chain – a task that she paid her bicycle repairman to do – was something that she could do herself at home. The Home Improvement team also saved her bicycle lock; the rubber link had detached from the lock mechanism and Mrs Lee was on the verge of throwing it away but some deft hands and tools fixed it and saved her a few dollars.

With her bicycle now improved and armed with new, useful do-it-yourself knowledge, Mrs Lee was all smiles. She reflected on the fact that in her younger days, she was quite active in repairing and saving household items, but over the years she became lazier and a bit apprehensive of new technology. Now she knew that repairing is something that people can do for life. It is never too late to learn and she named a whole list of things that she could bring to the next Repair Kopitiam session. It would have been easy to just walk past Block 425 Jurong West and ignore the activity there, but Mrs Lee was glad that she did stop and that the day taught her something new.