Manuel, Harrogate

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How old are you?
I am 17. I have been selling Big Issue North since I was 16.

‘I like to help people. I sometimes help translate for other vendors’

Where are you from?
I am from Romania. I was born there, and then we lived in Spain and then I came with my family to England in 2014, when I was 14. We came to England to build our future, because in our community there is no future. There are no jobs. We came here to make our lives better.

Do you ever miss Romania?
Sometimes I miss it. But I am happy here. Here I earn some money. And things are better here. We sometimes go back to Romania but only for a short time. It is more like a holiday now when we visit.

Tell us about your family.
I live with my family in a house in Leeds. My father also sells Big Issue North. My mother stays at home with the kids. I have four brothers and five sisters. I am the youngest boy but I have younger sisters. My family is the most special thing. If I had lots of money but one of my parents died, money wouldn’t matter. I had a fun childhood. We were poor in Romania, we had no work, no money, nothing, but we had our family and I was happy, because my family always looked after me.

Why do you sell the magazine?
I sell the magazine because this is the job I can get. I am looking for other work but while I am waiting to work in a different job I do this. My English is OK. I went to school in Leeds when I was a teenager. I couldn’t really speak English before we came to England. I just knew how to say hello. In the five years since I have been here I have learnt to speak English.

What do you hope for in the future?
I would like to find a good job on minimum wage at least. I would like to be OK with my family, be happy. One day I would like to have good money – not to be rich but I want to be OK and then I would like to help people in Romania who are homeless. There is a lot of homelessness there. There are whole families on the street in Romania. When we come home from work, every day we put £2 or £3 in a box for homeless people in Romania. 

You seem to enjoy helping other people.
Yes, I like to help people. I sometimes help to translate for other vendors. This attitude comes from my grandfather. He always said that God helps you and you have to help others as well. I loved my grandfather. He raised me when I was a boy.

What makes you happy?
My family. They are very important to me. I have my brother’s name tattooed on my arm. He is my older brother. He is the eldest. Every time I see my family, it is the best thing in the world. I do my job and I am happy. I only get sad when we have sickness in our family or with my friends. Their problems are my problems. We are all very close. 

What do you do in your spare time?
I do not have a lot of spare time. I work from eight until five. Sometimes I work six days a week. It takes an hour to travel from where I live to Harrogate. So when I get home I am tired. I watch a bit of TV, eat and then I go to bed. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
I would like to say thank you very much to the people who buy from me in Harrogate, and the people who do not buy from me as well, but who smile as they pass. As long as they smile at me, that is good. 

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

  1. Buy our digital issue of this week’s magazine Buy
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