My name is Elena, and I am a Big Issue vendor in Bristol.
I’m originally from a small town called Mărășești in Romania. My brother dreamed of a better life and came to the UK, and soon my adult children followed.
Family is very important to me. I have four kids and five grandchildren and there was no point in being in Romania if all of them are over here.
When I first got here, my family helped me a lot and my brother allowed me and my husband to live with him and his family.
My brother told me that there is an organisation called The Big Issue that would help me to work to generate an income and to learn English.
Despite being the second most-common non-British nationality in the UK, there are still many misconceptions about Romanians in the UK. This often means vendors like Elena face even more challenges in daily life.
When I first started selling the magazine, I was shy and nervous. But The Big Issue staff were with me every step of the way.
I still remember my first day. I picked a pitch in the city centre in Bristol, close to the Big Issue office, because I didn’t really know the place and I was terrified of getting lost. I managed to make around £30, which I’m told is a lot for a first day. People in the office were really surprised with my performance and I was really pleased.
Now I am selling in the suburbs of Bristol, and I like it very much. I am selling all week except Sunday when I go to church.
I love Bristol. I feel that I am part of the community. The locals here genuinely care about other people’s wellbeing. If I have a bad day there is always somebody coming over to me. But I never take it personally when people don’t want to buy a magazine or don’t want to stop. The secret is to keep smiling, be polite and be nice to people.
Elena took the first steps to help herself. Supporting her not only helped her have financial independence but helped her integrate into Bristol life.
When I first got to the UK, my English was limited. The Big Issue helped me to register with a GP and arranged for me to have an interpreter while attending my first appointments. They also set me up with a phone to be able to connect with the support that I needed.
To help me with my English, the Big Issue referred me for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes.
I attended classes for 2 years. As well as improving my English, I made new friends, some of them I am still in touch with today. I really enjoyed those lessons and would recommend to everyone who needs to learn English. Not only has it helped me with selling the magazine but has really helped me become part of my local community.
Your donations enabled Elena to gain access to a GP and get set up with a phone, simple things we often take for granted.
As well as selling The Big Issue, I also have a job washing dishes in a restaurant. They call me when they need me and the extra money really helps. Sometimes I finish there at midnight and the next day I wake up early to sell the magazine. I’m tired but thanks to this effort, my husband and I recently managed to rent our own flat, so I’m very happy.
When I am not working, I am a proud homemaker. I like to cook, clean my house, and look after my family. I enjoy reading poems in church and I love to sing worship songs in church.
I feel like people have misconceptions about the Roma community. We are friendly and welcoming people, we might not have much, but we will offer the little that we’ve got to our guests. I am well known in my community and appreciated by my family for my tasty, traditional meals.
When I think to the future, all I want is to stay healthy, to be able to work. I don’t think so much about myself. My hope is that people will be kind to each other and there will be peace in the world.
Your support gives Elena hope for a healthy and happy future.
People think the Big Issue only helps people who are street homeless. They also support people who do not have a permanent home and people in poverty. Big Issue vendors are working hard to be on top with rent and to be able to buy other essentials. If you don’t work, you can’t make a living.
When I needed the most help, The Big Issue was there for me, and they looked at every aspect of my life to make it better. I will never forget the support that I’ve received from The Big Issue. It is so good to know that when I need help, they will be there for me.
People should support The Big Issue because they are making a big difference in vendor’s lives and they are with a vendor every step of the way.
Buy a Big Issue Winter Support Kit for £34.99, you’ll receive four copies of the magazine and vendors could receive immediate tools for survival plus access to vital training and employment pathways to escape poverty for good.