THESE days, people are more inclined to replacing a faulty household or electronic item instead of repairing it.
This is either a result of the younger generation having inadequate handyman skills to fix faulty items or the high costs involved in getting it repaired.
However, the option of discarding the items increases the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
In a bid to cultivate the habit of repairing and reducing waste, Johnson Lam, 38, formed a movement called Kaki Repair.
Kaki Repair is not a shop but a group of volunteers who teach people how to repair things, for free.
Lam said the public could bring any items, which they could carry using their hands, to the monthly project locations and volunteers would teach them to repair the item without charging any fee.
“Among the items often brought in for repair are electrical items such as notebook adaptors as well as children’s toys.
“We also teach people to mend clothes and furniture such as wobbly stools,” said Lam who grew up in Batu Kurau, Taiping.
He added that the group should not be mistaken as repair shop assistants and those who want their items fixed must be involved in the process.
During his childhood, Lam gravitated towards tools and enjoyed repairing items.
It was natural for him to cycle to neighbouring car workshops and learn how things were done.
“I was modifying my own bicycle when I was 10.
“As I got older I even taught myself how to repair cars.
“These days, I realise that many are not able to even put wires together. Such handyman skills are valuable,” said the Computer Science graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Lam said Kaki Repair was also inspired by traditional values which centred around reduce, reuse and recycle.
“Any senior citizen will encourage you to reduce wastage and we want to bring these values back to our society through Kaki Repair.
“In Hokkien, kaki means doing it yourself so we decided to call our movement Kaki Repair,” said Lam, who has a full-time job as a programme director in a telecommunications company.
He also hoped that the movement would create more innovators in the country in the future but for now, he wants to impart simple handyman skills and inspire people to reduce waste.
Backbone of Kaki Repair
Lam said Kaki Repair volunteers were a group of like-minded youths, mostly with information technology or engineering backgrounds.
“We have 800 members in our Kaki Repair movement.
“Some of us are long-time friends with the interest and passion for repairing items.
“We have also met experts who were willing to share their knowledge and help others during our events,” he said.
Volunteer Darween Sabri, 25, said it was a good feeling to be able to repair something and make it functional again.
“We once helped an elderly man who brought a broken toy penguin from the 90s.
“We managed to repair it and he took it back feeling truly happy.
“People often bring nostalgic items such as radio cassette players.
“Sometimes, if an item cannot be repaired we seek the owners’ permission to keep some of its parts as spare for our future repair works,” said Darween, who has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Universiti Malaya and owns a machine building company.
Another volunteer, Mohd Fikri Mohd Amin, 29, said after completing a Computer Engineering degree in Universiti Malaysia Perlis, he worked in India for a month where he learned how to repair computers.
“I went to a place called Dador in Mumbai, which is like our Petaling Street, and worked in some of the repair shops.
“People in India do not throw away their faulty belongings such as computer printers. They will find ways to repair it.
“The problem with most electronic items are the capacitors so, once that is replaced, the item will most likely be able to function,” said Fikri, who also enjoyed helping others.
He hoped that people would be more friendly and not hesitate to seek help as well as offer help to others.
“In some parts of the world, people manage their lives with minimal belongings because they function together as a society and help each other.
“I hope we can also do the same by being able to ask around for help for our broken items instead of just throwing it away,” said Fikri, who has helped to repair hair dryers and speakers.
Volunteer Kok Chee Khean, 30, owns a customised engineering solution and builds machines for a living.
He has created 3D printers which are used to print parts to replace the faulty ones.
A 3D printer can also be used replicate a missing component of a product.
“Kaki Repair uses these printers to print missing or faulty parts that cannot be sourced elsewhere,” he said.
Vincent Chong, 36, said by volunteering at Kaki Repair, he noticed that people do tend to keep their faulty items for months.
“People sometimes want to repair these items but the workmanship cost puts them off and they also lack basic repair knowledge,” he said.
Some of the best electronic spare parts, Chong said, could be found in SS2, Petaling Jaya, as well as in Jalan Pasar in Kuala Lumpur.
As a hobby, Chong fixes computers, carries out woodwork and paints his house.
Items fixed, skills gained
Lau Chooi Ling, 37, managed to repair her special-edition Hello Kitty toaster with the help of Kaki Repair volunteers.
She admitted that it would have been easier to go online and buy another toaster but she wanted to hold on to it due to its sentimental value.
“I went on YouTube to learn how to repair the toaster but I did not have the correct tools.
“When I went to Kaki Repair, they helped me and we managed to identify the problem and got it fixed,” she said.
Jane Tung, 31, managed to repair her Macbook adaptor. She realised that the volunteers may not know it all but they helped figure things out with each other’s help.
“I am someone with no knowledge in repairing things but I was excited to go through the process,” she said.
Tana Terrene Tanabalan, 39, could not repair his faulty kettle but was excited to have met all the interesting and helpful people at Kaki Repair.
Support from venue
Tetap Tiara Sdn Bhd, the developer of Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, has provided a platform for Kaki Repair to help the community reduce waste.
Tetap Tiara executive director Charles Wong said he was impressed by the movement and invited the group to carry out its projects at The School in Jaya One.
“Recycling and reducing waste has several dimensions to it.
“With Kaki Repair, the public can learn the science of recycling.
“This positive movement also brings communities together for a good purpose and we encourage this,” he said.
Wong said waste management was a costly affair and he wanted to encourage those working and living in the vicinity of the mall to reduce waste.
“When the process of going green is interesting, people embrace the culture.
“I see children are more environmentally conscious these days because they learnt about it in school.
“We can also teach our children to be more hands-on with repair works and who knows, we could have our own innovators,” said Wong.
The next Kaki Repair will be held on Jan 28, at The School, Jaya One in Petaling Jaya from 1pm to 4pm.
For details, visit KakiRepair @ The School Jaya One on Facebook.
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