Change is in your pocket

The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme.
PITCH:  Cnr Kloof and Long Streets, Cape Town
AGE:  36


What is your best quality?
It has to be my smile. I have been told by customers that I have a nice smile.

What’s your favourite time of the year?
Summer time and the summer holidays because I get to spend time with my children.

Chwayita Desemele

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Chwayita first joined The Big Issue in 2008 and had no previous working experience before arriving at the magazine.She had been living with her mother and sister, who had been supporting her.

The Big Issue has been Chwayita’s saviour as it has helped her gain independence and provide for her family. She’s at her pitch every weekday, between 10h00 and 18h00.

We sat down with her to find out how becoming a vendor has changed her life.

“Before joining The Big Issue in 2008 I was unemployed. I had no confidence in myself because I had dropped out of school when I was in Grade 9. I felt sad and hopeless because my mother and sister had to support me and my two children.

I found out about the magazine through friends in the neighbourhood. They had already been Big Issue vendors. I never thought I could do it because selling the magazine meant that I would have to approach strange people and talk to them, something I had never done before.

The other reason why I was too scared to join was because I cannot speak English.* It has hindered me in a big way when it comes to job opportunities and finding work. One day I decided to just try my luck and go to The Big Issue offices.

To my surprise, people assisted me in isiXhosa. Everyone was so helpful and kind, I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. I was delighted to hear that they could help me and that I could start immediately.

Selling the magazine hasn’t been easy, but the other vendors have given me loads of tips to help me. At the moment I rely on my body language to sell magazines. I have learnt a few words, but not enough to hold a conversation.

I like being part of a team at The Big Issue. The vendors aren’t mean to each other, we help each other and we have healthy competition. It feels like a working environment and I think it’s great preparation for when I get a permanent job.

Once I have learnt more English, I would like to work as a domestic worker. I am originally from the Eastern Cape and I currently stay in Khayelitsha with my mom, sister and two kids.”

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