‘My dreams are becoming reality’

A former Big Issue North vendor is celebrating after securing a job thanks to a new scheme in Liverpool helping Roma people expand and reach their aspirations

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Leventica Marin, who has sold Big Issue North on Smithdown Road in Liverpool for the last few years and who has three children, has never been frightened of hard work.

“When you have children you don’t think about yourself anymore,” she says. “You just think about offering your children a better future. Even if you have a very difficult job, you have to put yourself there, bring that money home, whatever it is.”

She describes her time selling the magazine as “difficult but good”. She reports getting abuse, verbal and physical, on her pitch, including a time when she was kicked by a passer-by.

“Some people ask: ‘Why don’t you work? Why are you here?’ And you start to think ‘I am a stupid person’ and ‘I cannot do anything else’. But after that, when people come and buy a magazine, or give you some food or some nice words, your heart is opened again and you feel better.

“Selling the magazine is how I learnt my English. It’s how I met so many good people. There are some people who judge you, but you have to ignore them, because at the same time there are people who want to help you.”

Things have not been easy for Marin. She grew up in Romania with her aunt, while her parents worked in Spain and sent money home. She says Roma children are treated differently and do not have the same education as other children in Romania. She herself barely went to school.

“Life in Romania is difficult and it is more difficult when you are Roma,” she says. “They do not accept you there.”

Marin, 27, moved with her aunt to London when she was 16 and, realising she needed an income for herself, started selling The Big Issue. In 2011 she and her parents moved to Liverpool, where she met and married her husband, who persuaded her to move back to Romania. But he became violent and she fled.

“I would not like to remember again what I have been through. It was very difficult,” she says, her voice dropping low. To get through those difficult times Marin used to imagine what her life would be like if she had a job and a house for her children. “To live as a family together, to have what we need, never to say again: ‘How are we going to eat today?’”

Marin returned to Liverpool and started selling Big Issue North. It was through her contact with the magazine’s sales office that she learnt of the Fair Work event.

“Selling the magazine is how I learnt my English. It’s how I met so many good people.”

Set up by two lecturers at Liverpool John Moores University business school, Helen Collins and Dr Tricia Harrison, Fair Work followed on from their establishment of the Liverpool Roma Employability Network and Roma Education Aspiration Project. Working with Granby Toxteth Development Trust, Collins and Harrison aim to promote equal access for the Roma community to education, training and work. They aim to “raise aspirations that Roma people can do more, that they are capable of more,” says Harrison.

She cites a recent government report that highlights how Roma people, along with Gypsy and Traveller communities, are among those with the worst outcomes of any ethnic group in the UK across a range of areas, including employment. There are a number of reasons for this disparity, Harrison says. For a start, Roma people are often “stigmatised and stereotyped negatively, perceived as lazy or thieving”. And then there is the fact that Roma people tend to move around and rely on well-established social networks to secure work, entering into the same kinds of employment as their friends or family members have. There is also the lack of education.

Accompanied by Lindsay Rimmer, Big Issue North Liverpool’s senior coordinator, Marin attended the Fair Work event where, working with a student from Liverpool John Moores, she completed her CV and applied for a level one interpreting course. Armed with this CV and new confidence in her abilities, Marin dropped into various businesses on her way home, including a local fast food restaurant, where she got an interview and then a job. She’s currently on six months’ probation and limited hours, but she’s determined to make the job work.

“I just want to work normally,” she says. “I love it – just to feel like a normal person, have some money and have a good future for my children, so that they do not have to go through what I went through.”

Marin worries about Brexit and what the future will hold for her family. She knows that if she were to return to Romania, life would be very difficult.

“In my country nobody will offer me a job like I could get here. Here you can get a bus into the city centre to look for a job but in our village, there is nothing, no work, no buses to go anywhere.”

But despite these fears, her ambitions have started to take shape. She’s keen to continue her interpreting course and plans to learn to drive.

“When I come here in the Big Issue North office, I never felt like I needed to close my heart. I never felt scared, I never felt different. I was always welcomed here. I love the people in the office,” she says. “My dream has always been to work and to bring a better life to my children. For years I did my best, and thanks to the support I got from the Big Issue North office, this year was mine. My dreams are becoming reality!”

Interact: Responses to ‘My dreams are becoming reality’

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    03 Dec 2019 19:35
    […] causes cited is employment policy. An example from our research is illustrated by the experience of Leventica Marin, a self-employed Big Issue seller, living in poverty with no access to holidays, pensions or sick […]
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    27 Nov 2019 19:10
    […] causes cited is employment policy. An example from our research is illustrated by the experience of Leventica Marin, a self-employed Big Issue seller, living in poverty with no access to holidays, pensions or sick […]
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