Over 200 Big Issue vendors participated in Aspirations Week this August. Aspirations Week is a fantastic nationwide initiative, running across nine cities in the UK, geared towards enabling our Big Issue vendors to work towards turning an aspiration of theirs into a reality.
It is not discussed often enough that The Big Issue Foundation’s tremendous success of enabling its vendors to work their way out of poverty, primarily by selling The Big Issue magazine, is coupled with advice and training sessions throughout the year. The ultimate aim is to reintegrate Big Issue vendors back into main stream society, and one way that The Big Issue Foundation achieves this is through its themed weeks; Health Week, Sales and Money Week, and Aspirations Week.
Aspirations Week is packed with workshops and activities, largely facilitated by supporting UK businesses and charities who understand that ending homelessness can be a complex process. Coming from a background of homelessness, and with a large majority of our Big Issue vendors having previously been or continue to be rough sleepers, our vendors’ aspirations have ranged from getting back in touch with family, securing employment, or simply visiting a beautiful garden or museum.
The wider aim of Aspirations Week is to encourage long-term thinking and planning amongst our vendors, with securing accommodation and employment as a key milestone in a vendor’s life. From the moment a potential vendor walks through our doors, we aim to include them in our strong network of support and guidance. With tall hurdles to overcome, Aspirations Week offers our vendors a chance to step away from vending for a moment and focus on what they want out of life – their future:
A Bath-based Big Issue vendor was able to secure a chef position at Beaujolais restaurant in Queen Square, Bath, following advice and support from The Big Issue Foundation. His determination to put an end to a life of homelessness and poverty has also prompted him to reconnect with his family.
Birmingham-based Big Issue vendor, Dinah, wrote about Aspirations Week with The Big Issue Foundation and her visit to Martineau Gardens in Edgbaston in her blog: “Some people pay good money to go out for a whole day and take a break and have a change, but it was simply a couple of hours spent in good company among natural things and, speaking for myself, it did me the world of good”.
An increase on last year’s figures, amongst our Big Issue vendors who participated in Aspirations Week this year, a majority reported higher levels of confidence when working towards achieving their goals. In line with our motto, “A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out”, The Big Issue Foundation continues to encourage Big Issue vendors to participate in all activities and workshops on offer, and therefore provides a realistic method of ending the cycle of homelessness.
The success of Aspirations Week in 2012 is evident by the overwhelming positive response The Big Issue Foundation has received from our vendors and partner organisations. Without the help of organisations, charities and companies across the UK, Aspirations Week would not be possible. Our volunteer and corporate partners provide additional inspiration, guidance, resources and support to ensure that Aspirations Week not only provides a week of enjoyment for the vendors, but further guidance and motivation for them to continue to set new goals and reach them.
Vendors Adrian and Dinah at Martineau Gardens, Birmingham
Birmingham: The Little Brothers exhibition, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Vendor Ollie at Crisis Skylight Exhibition, Birmingham
Vendor Josh participating in a gardening session at the Big Issue offices, Nottingham