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Mark Richards, 46, Waterstones, The Hayes & The Riverside Market, Cardiff

Cardiff Big Issue vendor Mark Richards struggled at the start of the pandemic for both personal and financial reasons. The Big Issue was there to help him with both.

Each Monday I post out the corporate subs to organisations and companies who support us through a subscription. I check there is the correct amount of magazines going out, paying close attention to detail to make sure no one is missed. I get it all ready for postman in time for collection.

They go out to Australia, America, Japan, France – all over the world really. Then I have some time to practice on computer a bit. I send emails and it helps to read and write a bit better. I carry out some online courses too, and am looking forward to learning more as time goes on.

Working in the office gives me something to do and look forward to. It’s nice to be talking to the team and be less isolated.

It gets me out of flat. Sales are hard on the street, so it’s particularly important that I have regular money coming in from this job to help me survive and buy food and pay bills. And when the weather is bad it’s especially nice to be in the office!

Mark richards, 46. Photo: David Wagstaffe Photography

When the pandemic hit it was awful. I lost a close friend, and I couldn’t sell on the streets and make a living. I was stuck in my small flat alone with little money.

Luckily The Big Issue staff were on hand to have a chat with, and they also helped me with regular food vouchers and paying my electricity bill. They helped me get through it and I’m not sure what I would have done without them.

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Now things are looking a little better. I’m back in the Sheltered Employment Programme, and back selling part time on the streets. I’m just grateful to have a roof over my head, and to be well. As my boss said to me, this is a year to be thankful and appreciate what we do have, and not what we want to have.

I would like more people, organisations and companies to get involved and support where possible so we can open this sort of opportunity up to many more people like me.

Thank you to every subscriber for all your support through this pandemic.

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Waterstones, The Hayes, Saint Davids Centre, Cardiff, UK

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