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Your support is working
Big Issue Social Worker Melody Gombakomba emphasises how even the smallest contribution, such as buying a copy of The Big Issue, has helped change the lives of our vendors – please keep lending our vendors a hand up!
Words and image: Melody Gombakomba
At The Big Issue we have always believed in giving our vendors a hand up rather than a hand-out. It is of great importance to us that they get to a point of self-sustenance where they can look after their families all by themselves without expecting someone else to do it for them.
We understand that the money vendors earn from selling the magazines is not enough to afford their daily needs, and we always encourage our vendors to not only depend on magazine sales, but to expand their knowledge and practice different skills, too. Giving people a hand up rather than a hand-out instils discipline and a culture of hard work. We want our vendors to gain skills that can make them marketable and employable so they can take care of their families financially by having multiple streams of income.
Selling the magazine is not the easiest way of making money. Our vendors are on their feet the whole day and often in very uncomfortable weather conditions. Sometimes the magazine sales are so slow that the vendors stand at their pitches with empty stomachs. They are grateful that they can still make the little money that they will make at the end of the day, even though they are aware that the money will not last them as long as they would want it to. As an organisation, we aim to equip our vendors with skills that will enhance the quality of their lives. Some of our vendors are elderly, and they struggle to be on their feet for long periods selling the magazine. Some of them have medical and physical conditions that do not make them fit to be on their feet all day long, but because of their circumstances and situations at home, they are left with no choice but to endure.
Time and time again, I receive emails from our readers wanting to donate to our vendors that we have featured in our column, depending on what they have listed as their needs and wishes. It always warms my heart to see that in these times of economic hardship, where almost everyone is struggling financially, there are still people out there who are willing to give our vendors a hand up. There are readers who donate money to our vendors to start projects in their local communities, and there are readers out there paying for our vendors to attend various educational courses. We know and appreciate each and every one of you in offering our vendors assistance and affording them and their families an opportunity for some stability.
Through our sewing classes, we hope that our vendors will one day become independent entrepreneurs and be able to start their own businesses. We would like our vendors to still earn an income in seasons like winter when it is difficult to stand at their pitches selling the magazine. We want to afford them a chance to be with their families, because they are hardly able to do so when selling The Big Issue all day. With our maths class, we want to offer our vendors’ children a conducive learning environment so they can go ahead and chase their dreams and do not end up in similar jobs to their parents. We want our vendors’ children to grow up and become independent adults who are stable, can look after themselves and lend a hand in looking after their parents.
Our vendors are hard-working and so are their children. I am always in awe of their commitment and dedication to make their lives better even though they are met with so many obstacles on a daily basis. Our maths students always show up on time for their classes every Saturday and our vendors arrive timeously for their sewing classes, and are always eager to learn. There is also a readiness to take advantage of opportunities that can possibly change their lives for the better. I would like to thank our readers for your constant support towards changing the lives of our vendors, and I would like to urge you all to keep lending us and our vendors a hand up. In the words of best-selling author Mandy Hale, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for other.”