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The Big Issue Changemakers of 2023: Health and wellbeing

When in crisis, often the first thing we neglect is our health. These innovators are our 2023 changemakers – working to help their communities stay well

Manny Singh Kang

Manny Singh Kang. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Association from Citroën

These are The Big Issue’s Changemakers going over and above to improve health and wellbeing for people across the UK and the rest of the world in 2023.

Find the rest of the series on the links below and pick up the magazine from your local Big Issue vendor.

Jon Brown, North Herts & Stevenage Community Transport Service

Changemakers: Jon Brown
Jon Brown, North Herts & Stevenage Community Transport. Photo: North Herts & Stevenage Community Transport

North Herts & Stevenage Community Transport Service is a dedicated team of volunteers who use their own cars in their own free time to drive people wherever they need to go. 

What is it that you do?  

We’re a community car service covering the whole of Hertfordshire and Stevenage.  We have about 60 amazing volunteer drivers. We’re supporting vulnerable local residents with their transport needs. These are people who obviously don’t drive, are maybe elderly, frail, have disabilities, mobility or mental health struggles. People who can’t access other forms of transport for various reasons. They’re a lifeline for people who are struggling to get to very important health or medical appointments, but also by taking them to their social clubs and groups.

Why is your work needed?  

There is a huge gap between transport provision and people with particular needs. We are a completely different service to a taxi. We’re very personable, friendly, caring, supportive people. It’s not just about getting someone from A to B. It’s much more than that – it’s social interaction that we provide. Our drivers could be the only person that our clients talk to that day. It’s a very sociable experience for both the client or the passenger, and the driver. 

It’s a vital service, especially in these days that we’re living in. It’s obviously a much more cost-effective option as well. We’re combating loneliness and isolation, and we offer peace of mind for people who are anxious about getting to health appointments. 

We were very fortunate and got some additional funding to pay for people’s transport to Covid vaccinations, and we probably helped in excess of a couple of hundred, and we’re still taking people to their boosters. So that’s been a hugely important part of helping people through the pandemic. 

What are your plans for 2023?  

As the manager of the service I’m very ambitious to try and grow to help more people. Last year we did over 4,600 bookings and supported nearly 5,500 people. And we want to do more. It’s difficult sometimes because we’ve only got so much funding, but we want to continue to grow. A big part of what we try to do is recognise and celebrate what our volunteers do. They are special people. 

Manny Singh Kang

This volunteer ambassador for Dementia UK has raised over £168,000 for the charity – a figure that reaches £225,000 when you add in Manny Singh Kang’s efforts for other charities. He’s become known around Wolverhampton and the wider footballing world for his Samosa Saturdays fundraising initiative, which he hosts on matchdays at Molineux, the home of Premier League club Wolves. Last year he even walked 125 miles from the stadium to Stamford Bridge… only to watch his team lose 3-0. This year he’ll be taking on the London Marathon for Dementia UK. 

The People’s Vaccine Alliance

At the time of writing almost 70 per cent of the world’s population have received at least one Covid vaccine. However, when considering the global distribution, only around 25 per cent of people in low-income countries overall have received at least one dose. This is a great inequity – and one of the core reasons behind the formation of The People’s Vaccine Alliance. A coalition of organisations and activists, their major goal is to see Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, tests and other medical technologies to be available freely as a global common good. Their members around the world have mobilised to protest, write and speak out for vaccine justice for all. 

Mike ‘Puffa’ Jones

Newport-based Mike Jones, also known as ‘Puffa’ Jones on social media, has repaired more than 2,000 bikes for free to give to struggling families and local schools, and has helped hundreds of kids learn to cycle by simply providing access to a bicycle. Jones believes “every child should own a bike”, which is why he started out on this mission, asking for people to donate unused or old bikes so Jones can fix them up and give them a new lease of life. Jones will continue this project for as long as he can, and is hoping to give away even more bikes in 2023 – all while being a full-time carer to his wife. 

Sister Supporter

Founded in Ealing, west London in 2015, Sister Supporter has been campaigning for – and winning – the right to get abortions without intimidation. The group has a history of successfully lobbying for ‘buffer zones’ to be established around clinics, meaning authorities pull legal levers to ban anti-abortion groups from harassing those trying to access abortions. Thanks to their work, pressure was on central government to take progressive action – and in October last year, MPs voted in favour of rolling out buffer zones across England and Wales. It’s expected to become law early this year. 

The Big Step

Changemakers: The Big Step campaign

In the UK, the gambling industry spends £1.5 billion a year on advertising, and 60 per cent of its profits come from the five per cent of gamblers who are either already problem gamblers – or at risk of becoming so. The Big Step are working to end all campaigning and sponsorship in football. Led by people harmed by gambling, the campaign went from strength to strength in 2022, gaining support from figures across politics and football, from Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to players in the FA Cup, the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup and the Women’s Championship. Teams donned yellow laces on their shoes to raise awareness of the campaign which seeks to place pressure on the government to take action. The UK government also ruled in 2022 that gambling ads featuring sports and TV stars are to be outlawed – a step forward, but a bigger one is needed to fully sever the ties: The Big Step will continue to see this realised.  

Pausitivity

Pausitivity is a campaign to make sure people are informed about the often under-discussed symptoms of menopause, and the help they can get.  

“Menopause nearly destroyed my life. I used to go down to the Thames at lunchtime and wondered why I didn’t throw myself in,” founder Elizabeth Ellis told The Big Issue. “I’m educated, and I had no idea that all of the symptoms that I had gone through were menopause,” she adds. “I realised that there’s a huge swathe of people who don’t go to GP surgeries.” 

It led to her partnering with The Big Issue Foundation on a project which helped vendors of the magazine learn about menopause. Posters with signs and symptoms, and where to get help, were sent to all Big Issue offices to be displayed on notice boards for vendors, and were translated into Romanian for the first time. In 2023 she’s working to get the message out to even more marginalised groups, including people in prisons and those forced to use foodbanks. 

From Babies With Love

From Babies with Love’s mission is to support abandoned and orphaned children around the world. The social enterprise does this by selling innovate products and services that create a new source of income for children in care. Money from Big Issue Invest is allowing the organisation to expand its staff and help them achieve their goal of donating £1 million profit per year to their partner charities, empowering over 100,000 vulnerable children.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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