If you could give your 16-year-old self advice, what would you say?
“I would say study very hard so that you can become something. I would say education is very important.”
If you could change anything about the world, what would that be?
“I would change poverty.”
Elaine de Jager is a friendly woman who came, like so many others, to Cape Town looking for an opportunity to earn a living. She found a position but after a few years was forced by a change in circumstances to leave her old job. A friend steered her to The Big Issue and she’s made her way with the TBI family ever since. We asked her how her life is now.
“I’m from Pretoria and came to Cape Town in the 1990s. I came here to look for work. My friend Graham told me about The Big Issue.
I was a casual ‘handy lady’ at a locksmith’s before I came to The Big Issue. But the boss at that place started to work from home because he was getting older and I could not handle the travelling to his house because it was too expensive – that’s when I started looking for something else to support myself. Now I’ve been at The Big Issue for about seven years.
In the beginning I had to practise selling and it didn’t come easily. It can be tough talking to customers when you aren’t used to it. You worry if you’re doing it wrong or saying the wrong thing. But I came right by doing it. I still get nervous but I can see our customers are nice people.
What I like about The Big Issue is I’ve got my regular customers and I get new ones. And I make money and I don’t have a problem – my magazines are selling nicely. Selling makes me feel good.
I’m just supporting myself with this money. The Big Issue is my life. I don’t see myself going further than selling the magazine. I’m making enough money to survive, and I’m happy here. It’s nice to be part of something.”