Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Maria, I’m married, and I have three children – two girls and a boy. I’ve been selling Big Issue North at Tesco in East Didsbury for a few years now. I speak Spanish, Romanian and now a little bit of English. I moved to England eight years ago with my family, after living in Spain for 12 years.
Why did you first come to Big Issue North?
In Spain I worked outside, picking onions, but things didn’t go as well as we hoped, and we decided to move country with the whole family. We had a sister in England who helped us to move and settle here. We were thinking of our children, to offer them a better chance to learn English and go to better schools and maybe have a better life. When we first came to the UK it was very difficult. I tried to find jobs and even found something for a few months in a bread factory, then in a towel factory, but that only lasted for a few months. Because I was not speaking English, it was very hard for me to find jobs. Then my brother-in-law brought me to Big Issue North in Manchester because he was selling magazines.
How are you finding selling at the moment?
When I first started it wasn’t easy. It was difficult for me to understand my customers. I couldn’t sell many magazines and I started crying and was worried, but I didn’t give up. I had to keep going and things started to improve. Now a lot of people know me, buy magazines from me, stop and talk with me and even help me to learn more and more English to be able to have a chat with my customers.
How has the cost of living crisis affected you?
Things are not easy. We have to pay rent, which has increased from £550 to £700. We have to pay the bills, which are going up every month. We have to work even harder to be able to keep the level of living decent. We are worried about the winter time when the bills will be upon us and we are thinking about how to prepare for it, making some savings where possible.
How has Big Issue North helped you?
The support that I have got from Big Issue North staff has been huge, starting from the very first day when they registered me and gave me everything I needed to start, including a badge and bib. They explained to me how things work and what I need to do to improve my selling. They also gave me a card reader but I found it difficult to use and gave it back. Selling the magazine has been a really good opportunity for me. It’s been the only way to earn some money for my family.
What is your message for your customers?
I want to thank them so much for the help they give me, buying the magazine from me every week. I want them to know that their help is huge for me, their support means a lot to me, and I appreciate that very much and I am very grateful.