Claudia Călin, Waitrose, The Podium, Northgate St, Bath
Claudia likes the flexibility of selling the magazine, because it means she can always be there for her children when they need her
I must have been 10 years old when my family moved to the UK. I have been with The Big Issue for seven years now. In my first two years I sold the magazine in Bristol, but for the past five years I have sold in Bath. Previously I worked in a warehouse packing cereal. It was easy and enjoyable. As soon as I started there my baby was unwell, and my other child injured himself at school, so I had to take time off. Because of this, I was laid off two weeks after I started the job.
I told some of my friends that I got fired, and they recommended I sell The Big Issue, because this is the best job to earn enough to make a living and it is also a job where you’re not asked to commit to work every day. Back then, I didn’t have a passport so I couldn’t find another job to work in retail, for instance. My children were little at the time, so I had to find something where I could work a few hours a day. So I registered with The Big Issue and I have enjoyed it ever since. I like The Big Issue because it is flexible. If my children get ill or I am unwell, no one will force me to work. They might check in on me from time to time, but I am not being scolded.
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Some of my clients are extremely generous, but other members of the public discriminate against me. I’ve been asked, “Why do you come here?” more than once. I was told that “I am just a beggar” and that I am embarrassing their country.
I always try to be nice and explain that this is my livelihood and that I work on this pitch whether it is sunny, whether it rains or snows. Once this person started swearing at me and a lady who was walking past came up to me and told me to not pay attention to these people, many are judging you, they don’t understand the work you do and they know nothing about your life.
There are good days and bad days on the pitch. Since the beginning of this year I’ve had many people tell me they can no longer afford to buy the magazine, so this year has been slower than previous years. There are some days where I don’t even make up the money that I have spent on buying the mags.
The Big Issue has helped me every time I needed something. They gave me a badge when I didn’t have a passport, but I did bring my Romanian ID at a later date. I was given fuel vouchers to help with my electric bills. Especially during the pandemic, when we could not work, The Big Issue supported with clothes, baby formula and essentials for my children and I am so grateful for this. When I’m not working I spend all my time with my children. I love playing with them and making them happy, taking them to the park. I want to offer them something better. I would like to relax a bit more, have at least one hour to myself, but this is what I enjoy most, spending time with my children.
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If it wasn’t for The Big Issue, I would probably work as a cleaner. I have done it before and it is flexible, I used to have customers who’d just call and ask if I’m available on the day. I’m taking this opportunity to thank my customers, because they are really kind to me and make me feel good. They ask me all the time if I need anything and have bought me things for my children. Two of my customers have been unwell lately, and when I asked them if I could help with anything, they told me to pray for them. Me and my children pray at night, before we go to sleep, and I asked them to mention my clients in their prayers. Last week, one of them came to my pitch, and he told me he’s already feeling better and I just couldn’t hold back my tears. I cried with joy and I said, “So there is a God after all.”
Interview: Paula Gombos