Monica, 30, Co-op, Wanstead, London

Monica’s home was flooded in July, meaning she lost furniture and she and her children would wear masks indoors due to the smell. One of her customers raised a sum of money to allow her to move house.

I’ve been on this pitch for a very long time – more than 10 years. I like selling the magazine here in Wanstead. Everybody knows me here and there are nice people who care about you.

It’s not just about the money from selling the magazine, they ask me how I’m doing, how my five children are. They are always so nice to me.

I decided to sell the magazine because I didn’t want to be on the street doing nothing. Selling the magazine changes your life – it’s like a job. I feel like when I go to my pitch I’m going to see my family. I have very good friends there and they care about me and look after me.

But it has been a hard year. Being off my pitch was very hard. I don’t want another lockdown and to be off my pitch again because I had no money as I wasn’t able to sell the magazine.

My customers missed me as well. At the start of lockdown my customers were calling me asking me where I was. They were like: “Where are you Monica? You are not here?”

Some of them would bring me food parcels during lockdown with packets of rice and other stuff in them. I was so pleased and grateful for the help. I was very happy to get back on my pitch!

Back in July my home was flooded in flash floods and I lost lots of things. The water made everything dirty and it was so hard to live there with the children. I have asthma and I was struggling to breathe. The smell was very bad. We lost furniture to the water and we were even wearing masks while sat at home.

Monica has been selling on her pitch for more than a decade. Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer/lhschiefer.com/2021

One of my customers found out about my situation and organised a fundraiser to help me move. It raised around £3,500. I could not believe it when I found out they had raised the money for me. I thought it was like a joke. I feel like it is my dream.

Moving house went well. Everything was okay and is fine now. Thank you to everyone who has donated money – it is something special in my life.

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My plan for the future is to help my children have a good life and to get a good job. I want them to do a job where they don’t have to be outside all the time like me. I’m out in the rain, the snow and the cold, the summer. I am outside all the time.

My oldest son is coming up to the time when he is going to be old enough to have a job and I want him to get something indoors. I want the best for my children. As for me, I would like to get a job as a cleaner one day.

Away from my pitch I want to learn how to read and write. My boys are teaching me how to.

I know how to write my name and my children’s names now but before that I knew nothing.

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We have leave to remain in the UK – we got it in July. England is a different place to others I have seen in my life. The people here have always been nice to me, they are always helping me. It’s a great place for my children to go to school.  It’s where my friends are and my family. I am from Romania but I have no family there any more. I am settled in this country but I feel like wherever I go I have something to prove.

The Big Issue changes my life every day. It helps me to get up in the morning, to go and work and helps me look after my children. For that, I give thanks every day.

Thank you so much to my customers. I am happy and I am thankful for everything they do for me.

Monica was speaking to Liam Geraghty

Co-op Food - Wanstead, High Street, London, UK