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Big Issue Taiwan vendor Chu-fang Chuang: “Selling the magazine is my responsibility”

By Yu-ruei Lu, The Big Issue Taiwan

Chu-fang Chuang stores her stack of current issues, water bottle, fan, umbrella and towel in a stroller that she uses as her trolley. “It was given to me by my friend who no longer needs it,” she says. “It takes me 20 minutes to travel here on foot with the stroller. I take my time and walk back home when I’m done.

“Selling [the paper] is much better this month than last month. Probably because of the pandemic and the rain, I only sold a handful of issues on a daily basis last month. That was a tough time!” she continues. “But you can tell it’s better this month; I’ve got three issues sold today already.”

Chuang sells The Big Issue Taiwan in East District (a shopping area in central Taipei). Her work has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and particularly during the months when everyone was told to stay home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But Chuang has remained dedicated to her work regardless. “It’s my responsibility,” she tells me. “The magazine publisher was kind enough to offer me the job, and so I feel obligated to do my work to my best ability. I come to sell magazines in the evening, until about 9 pm, almost every day.”

Chu-fang Chuang, The Big Issue Taiwan vendor in front of the Chunghwa Telecom shop at VieShow Cinemas square, Hsin-yi District, Taipei, Taiwan. [Credit: Yu-ruei Lu]

Chuang has been working as a vendor for over two years. “I live on my own and rely on myself,” she explains. “When you get older, you’ll realise that you’ve got to go outside and keep yourself busy, and not just go days without doing anything!”

She was introduced to The Big Issue Taiwan when she offered to go to the hospital and buy a batch of magazines with a disabled vendor. They talked a few times and she found that her values aligned with the work that The Big Issue does, so she became a vendor as well. “I’m a volunteer for three different organisations at the moment, so I’m only able to sell magazines in the evening,” she says. “As a volunteer, I go to the hospital with people in need, and I guide visitors in a design research institute during the day.”

Chuang has lived alone for a long time. Her kids all have their own families now and although they want her to rest at home, she likes to create her own schedule and make the most of her time. She does volunteer work daily. She volunteered both at the Flora Exposition and at Universiade. What a busy woman!

Ms. Chuang carries her issues, water bottle, fan, umbrella, etc. in the second-hand stroller served as her trolley. [Credit: Yu-ruei Lu]

You can find Chuang selling copies of The Big Issue Taiwan between 6 pm and 9 pm every day. If it is raining, she can be found under the pedestrian arcade. She doesn’t have many long-term customers at her pitch at the East District shopping area; most of her customers are young people who are out shopping. She believes that its only if she goes to work regularly that she’ll have the best chance of meeting customers old and new.

Business this month really does seem to be improving. Chuang sells some more copies of the magazine before our interview ends and all the while, street artists’ rock music drifts over from the pedestrian zone.

Translated by Sunny Tseng (Taiwan)