In the Cape Town Big Issue I was always impressed with the stories of those who were “Moving On” and with the assistance given to vendors in terms of information and training. When making my will I realised that my young relatives were all doing very well for themselves and did not really need to inherit my money…
In 1965 I travelled down to Cape Town from Kasama in Zambia where I had spent a year teaching under the British Voluntary Service Overseas scheme. I totally fell in love with the beautiful city.
Some years later I moved to Cape Town to live and work spending much time in the wonderful mountains and kloofs of the Western Cape. Reluctantly in 1985 I returned to England to spend time with my parents who were getting older and whose siblings were dying. I only expected to be gone for about three years but the time there stretched into 17.
When I did get back to England I was shocked to find people begging on the streets and sleeping rough. It happened in Cape Town with its many poor people, but in England! It had not been the case when I left 10 years previously. I learnt of the many causes: people made redundant and no longer able to pay their mortgage bond or rent, couples splitting up and the man forced to leave the matrimonial home to his wife and children, those from deprived and abusive homes who had been taken into care and those who had left the armed forces and who could not cope with civilian life. Many were brought to homelessness by addiction to drugs and alcohol; many who joined them on the streets soon became similarly addicted as they faced a life of despair and hopelessness. After the big mental hospitals were closed down in the 1980s many of the previous inmates joined the ranks of homeless people.
In 1991 John Bird – who had both slept on the streets and been in prison – worked with the husband of Anita Roddick, who founded the Body Shop, to launch the very first Big Issue in London. The aim was to give people a hand up not a hand out. For many sellers it gave them back some self esteem. They were doing a job and earning money, not just begging. Some have moved back into mainstream society and other employment and some will always sell the street paper Others probably succumbed to drugs and alcohol. Sister papers now exist in many countries around the world.
In the Cape Town Big Issue I was always impressed with the stories of those who were “Moving On” and with the assistance given to vendors in terms of information and training. When making my will I realised that my young relatives were all doing very well for themselves and did not really need to inherit my money. It could more usefully be used in helping those who previously had never had a chance or who had fallen on hard times, to give someone a chance at obtaining a qualification that they would not otherwise have. What better recipient of the proceeds of my apartment after my husband and myself had died than the Big Issue who could train and uplift so many with the money. Leaving charities a legacy is commonplace in England. Perhaps it should be so here.
UK “swallow” and Big Issue supporter
Recommended reading: Unsettled. The Story of a Big Issue Seller by Graeme Walker publishes by Faragher/Jones 2007