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Viana Dumitru, Co-op, Bedale, North Yorkshire

Viana likes the close-knit community in Bedale. And when she’s not working, she likes watching movies with her family

I have been selling The Big Issue since 2015. The job has helped me so much.  I have a lovely family and a great work ethic. We first came to England in 2012. This was my first job. My husband Ciprian sells too. In 2017 he had to have a liver transplant. That meant that we had to isolate and be very careful during lockdown since he was in the vulnerable category. Throughout that time, staying in contact with staff from The Big Issue was important, just hearing a voice. We appreciated the support. 

I have seven children: they are 21 then 20, 19, 16, 12. My youngest daughter is eight and my youngest son is six. My oldest girls work now, and my sisters help with the rent. We’re getting there. We came to England in 2012 because we wanted a better future for the children. They are all going to school, they are learning and they are happy. They are making me proud. David, who will be 17 this year, would like to be a footballer but is concentrating on his GCSEs at the moment. He is studying English literature and maths and he helps me with my English. 

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Sami, who will turn 13 in August, has kidney problems. My customers know that if I have days off it’s because he is not feeling well and I have had to take him to a doctor’s appointment. The treatment from the NHS is good. Last year I slipped off a kerb and smashed my ankle. I was out of action for a while and I was worried I wouldn’t get out for Christmas, but I did. 

My husband and I first started off selling in Knaresborough, a little town not far from Harrogate. I worked in the centre and Ciprian had a pitch on a retail park. That is unusual because most retail parks are privately owned. But he got on well with people there. He used to get invited into the shops when they were having Christmas meals. But we lost those pitches. I was absolutely devastated because I had been there for years and I had built up good relationships with so many customers. There were people who made it become intimidating to work there so The Big Issue found us some other pitches. 

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For a while I sold in Northallerton. But there too there was abuse. A member of the public even called the Big Issue office to tell them about a man who was shouting at me. He had two dogs that were scary.  Now, in Bedale I am happy. If you treat people with respect you get it back. I sell outside the Co-op and the lady who works there is very nice. She always helps me and brings me coffee. It’s a close-knit little community. Everybody looks out for each other here and they look out for me. Every time they go past they always ask about my day and how my son is doing. They make me happy every day. 

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my family. We watch movies together, just whatever is on TV. And we like to go out to eat somewhere sometimes when we can afford it. McDonald’s. We like cheeseburgers. 

Interview: Steven MacKenzie with thanks to David Dumitru

Co-op Food - Bedale, Market Court, Bedale, UK