By Jakoef Gallant, The Big Issue South Africa vendor
I decided to make a change in my life because I didn’t like the direction in which it was heading. I was basically a professional thief for most of my life. I had no regard for others’ belongings. I didn’t care about getting caught, as I was no stranger to the inside of a jail cell.
My last stint in jail was really where I decided to make a change. I didn’t want to die that way. I didn’t want my family to see me as a disappointment. Deciding to change was easy. But making the change happen, now that was hard.
After being released from prison, I sat in the street close to The Big Issue offices, but never knew what was going on there. One day, I saw an old friend walk out of the building. He told me about The Big Issue and how I could become a vendor.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been a vendor for 12 years. I have tried to find other jobs, but people aren’t interested in hiring an ex-con. I am happy selling the magazine because I have met so many great people at my pitch and I have been able to provide for my wife and kid.
I now understand the concept of working for something I want. Before, I would just take because I hadn’t worked for anything and didn’t understand the meaning of hard work. I thought I was free, but I was actually trapped in a dangerous mind set.
I am proud to be a Big Issue vendor, because it’s a job just like any other. I work from 9-5 just like any other person and I am in the office every few days. I attend meetings and workshops in order to improve myself and it is much better than being in jail.
To all the customers that have supported me over the years, I would like to say thank you. Your money is only a small part of the blessing. I value the time the customers take out of their day to stop and smile. To help me, a stranger on the street. It warms my heart every day.
INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.