How do you motivate yourself when you’re feeling down?
I don’t see my situation as bad – I’m actually really blessed. I have a job and I make money. That’s all I think about when I am having a rough day.
What’s your best asset?
My handsome smile [laughs]. I think I have a great sense of humour. I laugh when I’m having a bad time – that way, I trick myself into feeling better.
Jakoef Gallant has lived a life of crime – for most of his life, that is. He grew up in District Six, where gangsterism was glamourised and the anger due to oppression made it almost acceptable to act out. He’s been in and out of jail more times than he can remember… but in 2002, he decided to change his life for the better.
I decided to make a change in my life because I didn’t like the direction in which it was heading. I was basically a professional thief for most of my life. I had no regard for others’ belongings. I didn’t care about getting caught, as I was no stranger to the inside of a jail cell.
My last stint in jail was really where I decided to make a change. I didn’t want to die that way. I didn’t want my family to see me as a disappointment. Deciding to change was easy. But making the change happen… now that was hard.
After being released from prison, I sat in the street close to The Big Issue offices, but never knew what was going on there. One day, I saw an old friend walk out of the building. He told me about The Big Issue and how I could become a vendor.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been a vendor for 12 years. I have tried to find other jobs, but people aren’t interested in hiring an ex-con. I am happy selling the magazine because I have met so many great people at my pitch and I have been able to provide for my wife and kid.
I now understand the concept of working for something I want. Before, I would just take because I hadn’t worked for anything and didn’t understand the meaning of hard work. I thought I was free, but I was actually trapped in a dangerous mindset.
I am proud to be a Big Issue vendor, because it’s a job just like any other. I work from 09h00 to 17h00 just like any other person and I am in the office every few days. I attend meetings and workshops in order to improve myself and it is much better than being in jail.
To all the customers that have supported me over the years, I would like to say thank you. Your money is only a small part of the blessing. I value the time the customers take out of their day to stop and smile. To help me, a stranger on the street. It warms my heart every day.