How’s the last year been?
It has been a very hard year. Very hard to make money. I have needed a lot of support and the Big Issue North office has helped me a lot. I will never forget what they did for me, putting £10, £20 in my account when I needed it.
‘I’ve been applying for different jobs but not had answers back’
And how are things now?
It is good to be back on my pitch selling the magazine and the people here are very good to me. To me it’s like a family here, especially the Spar that I sell outside of – they really look after me. They are so kind, so wonderful in Crosspool. I know many people here and they all know about my life and my struggles to get my wife and my son here to England, which I have been doing for a long time now.
Why has that proved so difficult?
It is hard because I do not have a proper job. The magazine helps me but I do not earn enough to get them over here. I have to prove I can take care of them. That is why I am looking for a new job. I have a customer who has written up my CV for me, a very kind lady who has a job in a local school here and who helps me a lot. I have been applying for lots of different jobs, but I have not had answers back. My main problem is that I cannot read and write.
Did you go to school?
No, I didn’t go to school. I was born in Bradford but my father died when I was a child and we moved back to Pakistan and I grew up there. It was a very poor place that we lived. My mother only had a very small pension, she got a few hundred rupees every three months. I used to help her cook rice and chickpeas that we would sell outside the school to make money. When I was a teenager, my uncle brought me back to England for a job in a factory.
What other work have you done before?
I have worked as a chef in London. I am very good at cooking. I really enjoy making food and then eating with other people.
Tell us a bit more about your family.
I have two sons. One is 14 and he lives with me, and my other son is four, but he lives with my wife and they are in Pakistan. I last saw my wife and my youngest son about two years ago. It was very hard to be so far away from them during the pandemic and I worried about them a lot.
How long have you been married?
A long time. I was in my early twenties when I got married and I am 53 now. My mum and my step-sister arranged the marriage. I was married in Pakistan but then I lost my job and I couldn’t get my wife over here because of that. I came to Sheffield to look for work and that is when someone suggested that I try Big Issue North to make some money.
Do you have a message for your customers?
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you all for helping me. It really means a lot. The people here are like angels to me.
Photo: Spar store manager Jordon says Mohammed is part of the furniture. Mohammed says the staff are like family