Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’, an old playground response to verbal bullying; a brave retort to those who wish to put you down, to punish you for something that comes from perceived difference and fear.
Too frequently these differences stem from poverty, no money and poor life experiences leading to poor choices, addictions and mental health challenges, obstacles that can often mean that the only way is down.
We are living in a shifting landscape, an environment in which the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is becoming a yawning chasm; a steep-sided abyss from which anyone would struggle to escape.
So think for a moment what it must be like to hit literal and metaphorical rock bottom; to stand up, look up and begin to work your way out of the abyss into which you have fallen.
‘Winos’, ‘tramps’ and ‘meth’s drinkers’ – words that have disappeared from daily use, stigmatising stereotypes that are not now often applied to people experiencing homelessness.
When you decide to become a Big Issue seller, the words ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘business person’ are not those that immediately spring to mind for the many that you will encounter as you ply your trade on the street. The language has changed but it so needs to change more.
We are The Big Issue Foundation and we’re here, with your backing, to help vendors scale the challenges they face. Climbers come in all shapes and sizes; strength, resilience and endurance are required and choice plus sustainable change is the goal.
We are here to help if you slip and fall back. We will equip you with the ‘chalk’ that you might need to help hold on along the way. The ascent is not easy but, as you gain altitude, you gain perspective. You can see further, have more strength and your personal landscape opens up around you.
We have the ambition to ensure that our vendors get the best possible deal in business and in life. We want to ensure that each deal is personal, it is not for us to ‘tell’ you what you should do but it is for us to help you choose what you would like to do.
The newsletter that you are holding in your hands highlights how we weave these strands into the ropes that support the journey ahead. I believe that you will agree Paul’s story is a testament that embodies the very spirit of transformation.
This newsletter shows how your personal support and the support of your work colleagues and friends creates personal stories of change that inspire and give hope where hope was so often lost.
There is much more to be done. We need to keep shifting the focus, changing the language, changing the landscape and improving the possibilities that will help eradicate the poverty that has bought us into being.
This work is only made possible through the generosity and belief of our donors. Our work is independently funded and every gift is much needed. Please do accept my thanks and sincere appreciation for all that you have done and will go on to do.
Wishing everyone a happy, warm and safe festive season and every strength for the winter months ahead.
Stephen Robertson, CEO, The Big Issue Foundation