I was on the tube reading a copy of The Big Issue Magazine when I came across the advert looking for a Christmas volunteer. I graduated from Uni in the summer of last year and had decided that I wanted to look for work in the charity sector.
I came to the UK last year with my family from Romania. Soon after we arrived, I heard about The Big Issue through my church. Because I always wanted to do something useful for me and for the people around me, the opportunity seemed perfect and I asked if they need a volunteer.
I came from Romania to the UK in December 2013 to do care work. After nine months, I became a Care Coordinator. I love my job as I love to help people and when I saw The Big Issue Foundation was looking for translation volunteers I really wanted to get involved.
I first came into contact with The Big Issue during my childhood when my mum would buy a mag each week, we would struggle to get hold of one in my small hometown so she would often visit a neighbouring town or city to get her hands on the latest copy. Her love for the magazine passed down to me and once I moved to Bath the magazine was more easily available and I would often visit a particular vendor for a catch-up and to grab the latest copy.
Having bought many Big Issue magazines from vendors around London, I became inspired by some of the stories I had read about homeless lives. After hearing about what the Big Issue does and how they help the homeless get back on their feet, I knew I wanted to be involved. I found the perfect opportunity to volunteer at the Big Issue when my sixth form requested that students do a work placement week related to our subjects. As I am studying Sociology as one of my A-levels, I thought a placement at The Big Issue would be perfect.
I first came across the trust fundraising role when browsing through The Big Issue Foundation website. The role came to my attention as I wanted to gain experience and understanding about trust fundraising, which I understood to be a fundamental component of fundraising, yet I knew very little about the process and skills it involves. I also had a huge desire to learn about the main causes of homelessness and The Big Issue Foundation.
I’ve always seen Big Issue Vendors dotted around my university. I’d never bothered to fully research or understand what The Big Issue Foundation was actually about until I came back from a holiday aboard to India. This was where I was exposed to the extreme difficulties and issues that homelessness causes. Realising that there was little I could actually achieve there, I came back determined to understand how I could help to make a difference - no matter how small. I came across the volunteering position on the Foundation’s website and made a decision to apply - only later would I discover how significant and important this decision would be.
I came across a trust fundraising volunteer post at The Big Issue Foundation (TBIF) by fluke, when I was looking for summer jobs. I did not know much about The Big Issue at all but was frantic about the rising levels of visible homelessness which, as a Londoner, I was witnessing on a day-to-day basis. There is a wall of ignorance surrounding homelessness, even for well-intentioned people. My main reason for applying was to learn more about the situation, and perhaps to plug myself into some of the networks which are actually doing something about it.
Margo, a university student doing her 3rd year placement with the Big Issue London Street Team, produced a poster for a student fair on what she had learned from her experience. She is hoping this will encourage future Bath University students to get in touch and do their placements with TBI.
After finishing my degree in Sociology and Politics I found myself with a month left on my accommodation contract and far too much time on my hands. One month was too short a period of time to get a job, but long enough to question how many episodes of Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black were healthy for the average human to consecutively consume in one day.
I am a student in Oxford and volunteered with the Big Issue for 6 weeks during the summer. I decided to volunteer as I wanted to find out more about the Big Issue and what it does. I would regularly see vendors selling magazines around the city centre, but knew little about how the Big Issue worked or the way it is more then just a form of income for the vendors. I also wanted to learn about homelessness in Oxford and the facilities which assist those who are homeless or vulnerably housed. As well as finding out if there was anything I could do to help.
I spent five or so weeks working part-time at the Big Issue Foundation and I loved every minute of it. Having worked in a few stuffy places before, the vitality of the Big Issue Foundation team soon rebuild my faith in the working world. What is more, the value of what they do is above and beyond anything you would see in a more commercial setting. The patience and commitment of those who work with some of the most shunned and excluded members of society was honestly inspiring (and I’d dare to call myself a bit of a cynic) and, for me, coming my university student microcosm, it was a profound yet healthy reality check.
Volunteering at the Big Issue Foundation has made a Big difference to my life. Anyone who does not have a full-time job will know that a lack of structure and team-work can take its toll, making your mind more wobbly than jelly. Mid-way through my part-time Master’s degree in Social Psychology, with a focus on veteran mental health, transition and military spouses I found myself needing to expand my horizons and gather experience in an applied setting. My passion to work on behalf of those facing homelessness had been burning for many years, and the opportunity to work on the side of justice sprung of the page for me as I scanned for jobs.
I began volunteering with The Big Issue last October. I had seen an advert asking for volunteers while I was working on the Olympics in London and was looking for an opportunity to join an organisation that worked with people. When I applied I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy the experience, how much I would get out of it and how many good people I would get to know.
I started volunteering for The Big Issue in January 2012 as a route back to work after falling on hard times and felt drawn to help those in a similar situation. I started off doing general volunteering activities, including outreach work and office duties, but also using my previous sales experience to help train the vendors on how to sell.
I had never done any volunteering before joining the team in Bristol. But after being shown what to do by the staff, it was easy to pick up and a really great way to start volunteering. Working with the vendors is always interesting, as you get to know a group of people that you wouldn’t usually meet. It’s always nice to go on outreach and see how they are doing on their pitches and to have a chat about how things are going. A lot of them are surprising characters, but in a good way.
Street Team leader Jenna Soame worked for the Big Issue for nearly 3 years. She began as a volunteer and while working for the Big Issue she was part of the volunteer team, made the vendors the focus, approached her work with dedication and supported and encouraged everyone she met. In her time with the company she brought through 107 volunteers and they will always be committed to the cause.
Full of Christmas cheer a group of Big Issue volunteers and ‘One Creek Road’ choir took to the pitches of Covent Garden. We joined 9 vendors throughout the morning, standing around their pitch, singing carols to the shopping public and promoting the Big Issue and educating the public.
Over the summer holidays I have had the privilege of working within the fundraising team for The Big Issue Foundation. Over the week I leant a lot about the charity and their aims and how they make a difference, while expanding my knowledge on the huge problem of homelessness. One thing in particular that I learnt to understand was the slogan, ‘ A hand up, not a hand out’, which I think is the unique quality that The Big Issue Foundation possesses, helping the vendors to help themselves so they make a long term difference, improving their lives and helping them get back on track.
Richard Mills began volunteering at the Big Issue Foundation shortly before Christmas 2011. His connection to our work and his commitment to his role was exceptional. Richard’s experiences helped him develop his skills and took his career in a whole new direction. We wish Richard well in his new job.