Alina Baboi, 25, Lloyds Bank, Stratford-upon-Avon

Selling The Big Issue allows Alina to earn money while working around caring for her three children

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I’ve been selling The Big Issue in Stratford-upon-Avon for about seven years. I started because it was a very easy way to start earning a living. When I had my first child and didn’t really have someone I could always rely on to stay at home, selling The Big Issue was really flexible. There are days when I can come to work and days when I can’t.

I was selling the magazine when I was pregnant. I had a bench near me so whenever I got tired I could sit down and my customers would bring me juice or some fruit over, which was nice of them. Now I have three children, aged seven, four, and two. Having three kids means that I have days when I get to my pitch late or have to leave early. Selling The Big Issue is just something that really fits in. It works really well.

When you’re selling the magazine, you get used to the people around you and start getting to know them better. You begin to feel like part of the community with regular customers. The town I’m selling in is a really touristy place because it’s where Shakespeare was born. But it’s not always great when loads of tourists are around because you don’t sell that much. Still, you’ve got the locals, who are very nice, and you’ve got the people from the villages that are close by as well. They’re very friendly and helpful and you can have a good chat with them. Then they start becoming your friends.

Some days the locals aren’t interested in buying the magazine, but they still support me with sweets or something for the children. Or even just by having a coffee together, literally just sitting on the bench next to me and having a good chat. I listen to them and they listen to me. The social side of selling the magazine is really nice. There are people who seem happy on the outside, but they have their own issues and problems. In a way, you get to understand people better working as a vendor and you get to understand life better.

People were very worried when I wasn’t able to sell the magazine during the pandemic, they get concerned about you. Everything was closed, so it was very difficult to sell the magazine. We did have support from The Big Issue which helped, but after things opened up, people were very, very helpful. Some customers took out subscriptions online to support me.

Although I sell the magazine in Stratford, I actually live in Birmingham, so it’s 45 minutes on the train to get here. My home is not a big place, but my son’s school isn’t far away so it works out fine and I’ve got friends and family to help out looking after the other two while I’m working. Stratford’s the total opposite to where I live. When I first came here it was like going into a new place, it was really different. I really like the community here because everyone kind of knows everyone.

When I’m not selling the magazine and I’m at home with my children, I’m always keeping busy. I try to get to church with the kids on Sunday whenever possible, but it’s not always easy dragging them there! I also like cooking when I have the time. I enjoy cooking traditional food and desserts as well as experimenting a bit. It’s nice to try new recipes and other new stuff.

Lloyds Bank, Bridge Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK