Vanesia Panaghita, Co-op, Cotteridge, Birmingham

Vanesia hopes one day to work in a beauty salon, and says everyone should follow their dreams

Before I started selling The Big Issue, I used to work as a domestic cleaner. But when the pandemic started, everything stopped. So I gave up that work – I had to travel a lot and it was making me pay a lot of money on that kind of stuff. That’s when people recommended that I started to sell magazines. I felt like that was much easier. I could catch the bus and go to sell the magazines much more easily. 

The pandemic stopped that when we were off our pitches but the people from The Big Issue were helping me, giving me vouchers to buy groceries. They were helping me to buy nappies and meals for my kids. They were there right beside me because I couldn’t see my customers, I couldn’t go out and sell my magazines or spend my time chatting to  them. It was a very hard time. I lost my grandad during the pandemic when he passed away. It made me feel terrible because I couldn’t go back abroad to Romania – where I’m from originally – to be at his funeral.

Sometimes it’s not a good day on my pitch. Sometimes it’s very busy like at Christmas and you can sell a lot of magazines. It was like that when I first started on 20 December in 2019. I like that I get lots of nice customers and it’s enjoyable to be with other people, talk to them and see how they are. I have some regular customers as well who can be lovely, but you do get bad people on your pitch too. People who tell you to “go back where you came from” or to “get a proper job” and this kind of thing. That makes me feel very angry and it’s disrespectful to my culture.

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I used to sell the magazine in Gloucester, but I have been in Cotteridge for about three months. Sometimes it’s busy, sometimes it’s quiet but it is a lovely place with lots of lovely people, especially the lady from the salon near me. She keeps my energy up. I once told her that her smile makes me never want to give up. She was with me one day when I was really sad and I was struggling. But when she turned up I smiled all day and I didn’t want to give up any more.

I’ve been in the UK for 11 years. I used to miss Romania but not these days. I only ever go back for summer holidays to see family over there. I prefer the UK because you can work and sell the magazines. You can do something for your future here. In Romania you can’t do that because there’s a lot of poverty. I have a girl who is nearly three and a boy who’s going to be one soon. In the future I want to see my kids healthy, my dream is to keep my children safe. They keep me busy. I spend my time with them going to the park and around town.

There are some days when I can’t even make the money for my rent. Then there are some days that are very good, where I can earn what I couldn’t do in the last three days in just one day. I try to save up for my rent, for food, for my kid’s clothes. Most of the time I can do it but sometimes I can’t because everything has gone up nowadays. I have to work hard to pay rent. One week I work for that, another week I work for groceries. That’s how I do it.

People should always follow their dreams. My dream is to look after my kids in the future and to find a job. My dream is to work in a beauty salon. Maybe it’s something I can do in the future? I wish all the best for my children. I give up everything for them.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Central Co-op Food - Kings Norton, Pershore Road, Cotteridge, Birmingham, UK