The Repair and Reuse Workshops at Emmaus Åland
One of many activities at Emmaus Åland is the Repair and Reuse Workshop, where used clothes or new clothes that do not fit well get a new chance and a new life. The idea behind this project is to offer people a social community and participation, primarily through group activities but also ongoing activities at Emmaus.
Emmaus Åland invites, on a regular basis, the customers, and local people to their shop and to their sorting premises in Mariehamn, Finland to bring stuff they keep at home and offer help to repair them. By doing this we can learn from each other, get to know new people, and save the planet by shorten a pair of too long jeans or to repair a loved t-shirt that has a small hole in the fabric.
We are not repairing the clothes for the customers. The customers themselves will do the work, but we advise, assist, and we often need to show them how our old sewing machines works, says Ragnhild Wideman. She became a volunteer at Emmaus Åland for almost twenty years ago and she has been a keen seamstress during the spare time all her life. She is not a professional, but she knows how to use needle and thread and she likes to meet new people.
Camilla Karlsson, responsible for the social projects at Emmaus Åland, sees a lot of advantages with this kind of workshops. It is an intergenerational activity where older persons pass on their knowledge to younger people and they not only learn from each other; they get to know each other as well. The social aspect of bringing people together is important and this is all align with the Åland Development- and Sustainability agenda. – Everybody can contribute what they are good at, says Camilla. This gives an added value to our work. People get together and they help each other to find a solution to various problems and they solve them the during the workshop.
This workshop is also good for the environment. We want people to value their belongings. Instead of throwing away and buying new stuff, we must be better at taking care of what we already have in our wardrobes. To produce a new pair of jeans the production chain will use about 11.000 liter of water and 1,4 kilos of chemicals. To produce a new t-shirt demands about 2.700 liter of water.
A pair of trousers that was too long will now continue to serve in a happy man’s wardrobe in Mariehamn and the yellow t-shirt with a small hole on the chest will have a longer life.
In another part of the Emmaus premises a Carpentry Repair and Reuse Workshop is organized. From the basement we can hear saw blades mixed with laughter and lively conversation. Both female and male participants in various ages are having a good time together. Every Wednesday volunteers, staff and interested local people gather for a few hours to create new products from broken furniture and other old wood. The bird houses, the Christmas goats with a wooden body decorated with spruce twigs and other new products will later be sold at the Emmaus shops and contribute to the solidarity budget.
The people who have participated in the workshops so far are customers, unemployed, elderly, newcomers, EU migrants, people with functional variations, people with mental illness, people with addiction problems, people who have fallen out of the system, asylum seekers and people from the criminal sanction authority. The idea is to include and integrate the project participants in the daily activities at Emmaus. It contributes to a sense of participation among the participants at the same time as it contributes to a sense of meaning in a social context. Depending on the participant’s personal goals, the tasks may also vary. The goals are to be achieved through group activities where the participants get to work with what they are good at, and then move on with more challenging tasks. Discussion groups and workshops can be formed depending on needs. The purpose is to break the feeling of loneliness and the feeling of exclusion.
The need of activities like this, has increased with the Covid-19 pandemic. We can state that the labor market situation today looks different and that the group of unemployed and vulnerable has increased significantly in a short time. The corona pandemic and its restrictions have a visible negative effect on our participants’ mental and physical health. Extremely important factors in maintaining good health are social community, meaningful activities, physical activity, and good eating habits.