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Narcisa, Sainsbury’s, Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, London

Being a single mum, Narcisa puts in a lot of hours so that she can support her family, and she likes her pitch because she feels part of the community

I have been selling The Big Issue since 2018. I didn’t have a job and was finding it really difficult to find one. I have two little kids – they were just babies then – and I’m a single mum. I needed to be able to support us and look after them. I was living with my parents at the time and needed a way to get a home for me and my kids. I didn’t know what I was going to do so realising that selling The Big Issue was an option for me was a big relief. It was really helpful. I was born in Romania but came to the UK with my parents when I was young and both places feel like home to me. 

I started on this pitch in Muswell Hill in November and it has been really nice. The area is good and people are really friendly and welcoming, I feel very comfortable here. I don’t really have any regular customers, all types of people come to buy the magazine from me. Local people like to chat to me and I like to chat to them, I enjoy that part of the job. 

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Being a single mum means it can be hard to find time to talk to other adults. So being on my pitch, and local people asking how I am, that is nice. I feel like I’m part of the community here. Some days I’ll sell a lot of magazines, other days not as many; I have to be ready for that. But I’m on my pitch a lot [eight hours a day, six days a week] – it’s important to me to work hard. I put a lot of effort into it. If I don’t do that, I can’t sell The Big Issue and I can’t earn money. 

The Covid-19 lockdowns, when we couldn’t sell the magazine, were really, really difficult. Financially and because we couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone. But The Big Issue team kept talking to us and gave us money every two weeks to help us keep going. That made a really big difference for me and my kids.  

We have our own flat now, which I have been able to rent for four years while earning money as a vendor. It’s OK. The main thing is that we have somewhere to live but sometimes I find it very difficult to pay my rent. The cost of living getting higher has been so difficult. I used to sell The Big Issue Thursdays to Saturdays but when all my bills got even more expensive, and food too, I started working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to cover it. I don’t mind working hard but it means less time with my
children. Everything is so expensive now and it’s extremely stressful. 

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I don’t have family nearby who can help me now, but my friends support me. They look after my kids when I’m on my pitch and are really kind. Other kinds of childcare are so expensive. When I’m not selling The Big Issue, I like to spend as much time with my kids as possible. We eat, we relax, we just enjoy any day we have together. They like to play and, like lots of children now, they watch a lot of YouTube! 

In the future I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m happy doing The Big Issue. I enjoy it. It helped me when I didn’t have a job or anywhere to go and it still helps me now. My dream is just to be able to pay my rent without any worries and to stay at home and look after my kids. 

If I could send a message to my customers, it would just be: thank you. I’m thankful for them, they’re really helping me and my kids every time they buy a magazine.  

Interview: Hannah Westwater

Sainsbury's, Fortis Green Road, London, UK