#VendorWeek 2019 interview: From Australia to Québec, two street paper vendors become fast friends

Cindy sells The Big Issue on the streets of Adelaide. Lynn sells L’Itinéraire on the streets of Montréal, Canada. The blazing heat has officially hit Cindy’s city, while Lynn shivers through snow and ice. Sitting in vendor offices on either side of the world, they stare into computer screens and greet each other ahead of #VendorWeek.

Cindy: My name is Cindy, and I am now 39 years old.

Lynn: So close to me! I’m 41! Where are you from?

Cindy: I grew up in Hobart, Tasmania, a little island state. I moved to Adelaide in 2011 and then I went to Brisbane for a few years, and then I came back to Adelaide because I was quite happy there. It’s been an adventure, but it’s been good.

Lynn: How did you become a vendor for The Big Issue?

Cindy: I participated in The Big Issue’s Community Street Soccer program in Hobart. When I went to the nationals in 2010, I met a vendor who was in the Adelaide team and he suggested giving it a shot. I’ve been selling ever since. How did you get involved?

Lynn: I had the luck of an introduction to L’Itinéraire by one of my neighbours when I was living in a rooming house – he saw I was having troubles and so he came by and talked to me about selling. I was like “who’s gonna buy a magazine, especially from me?” – and he said “give it a try because it works and it will help your confidence and it’s a good magazine”. So, I bought one and read what it was about and I was a vendor the next month after.

Cindy: I was quite blown away with how many different sorts of people there were that actually buy The Big Issue! From a mother with a young tot in a stroller to office workers – people are so socially minded and they just want to help you get along, and I am really quite pleased about that.

Big Issue Australia vendor Cindy talks to Lynne via video chat (Credit: Nat Rogers)

Lynn: Adelaide is pretty similar to Montreal. The cost of living is about the same, the population is about the same. The biggest difference is the weather and the seasons. It’s summer for you guys right now and it’s winter for us. We get lots of snow and the temperature drops down to the minus 20s and minus 30s. It’s hard for the vendors who work outdoors, but it’s even worse for the homeless people.

Cindy: Do you have digital payment options for your magazine?

Lynn: Not yet, but we are looking into it.

Cindy: We had our launch just recently. It actually helps with the sales – I had one person last week who’d said “I’m sorry I don’t have any cash” and I said “well, you can tap and go?” and I showed him the device and he bought one! So I was really over the moon that I have that option.

Lynn: That is great. Do you find it’s easy to sell?

Cindy: Look, I don’t like asking people to buy a magazine, but when I have the cap and the vest on people know straight away and they know to come up to me and I don’t have to actually ask people, which is good.

“People are so socially minded and they just want to help you get along, and I am really quite pleased about that.”

Lynn: I find it hard doing the whole “would you like to buy…” thing. It was kinda hard at first because I’m a very closed person and I wasn’t used to being very social. It was hard for me at first to break out of my shell. It took me about six months to get used to it – I’ve been selling now for a year and three months.

Cindy: How much confidence has it given you?

Lynn: A lot! I went from somebody who had trouble sleeping in her home to being able to walk around the block! I wouldn’t go to the corner store alone; I wouldn’t go shopping alone. And now I have so much motivation and so much self-esteem that I can do that all by myself.

Cindy: Do people treat you better?

Lynn: So much. Because they saw before when I was running the streets and I was homeless – and now they see me and I’ve got a job and I take better care of myself. A lot has changed.

Cindy: Do you have a pet?

Lynn: I do – I have a cat. I saved her from the streets, she was abandoned and I heard her crying for two days and I’m like “this cat is starving, I can’t leave her alone”. I’ve had her for five beautiful years.

Cindy: I’ve got a beautiful little bird, I got him when I was living in Brisbane.

L'Itinéraire vendor Lynn talks to Cindy from the street paper's offic ein montréal (Credit: Josée Panet-Raymond)

Lynn: Isn’t it comforting?

Cindy: Yep! He’s the biggest smooch. He rubs his head on me because that’s his way of giving me cuddles and he’s got the most beautiful personality.

Lynn: How do you motivate yourself?

Cindy: My bird. My bird is always the one that gets me going. He doesn’t eat normal bird seed; he has pellets which are quite expensive for a little bird. He has annual check-ups and he might get sick – so I always want to make sure I’ve got money for him.

Lynn: When you really don’t feel like going to work – what propels you to go?

Cindy: It’s the routine of it all. Today my motivation is soccer. There’s a soccer match tonight and I really want to go, so I always have those little things that I like doing and if I don’t sell magazines, I can’t go. I also love to travel, so I always want to make sure I can save to be able to go on holiday. They don’t happen that often, but I make sure I have a good one when I do it.

“One time when I was working at the beginning of winter a guy gave me the gloves from his own hands – I was so touched! I could not believe it.”

Lynn: How do you spend your downtime?

Cindy: I have a laptop and I love being on the internet. I go to watch soccer, go for bike rides. What do you do with your spare time?

Lynn: I like to spend my time doing research and taking care of my cat. I like the computer too, I’m on social media. Most of the time, though, I spend trying to manage the basics of work and play.

Cindy: What are your goals for the future?

Lynn: I would like to become a social worker. I’ve been helping people for most of my life. I’m just feeling stable enough emotionally to venture to college so I’m hoping to go back to study and come back here as a worker.

Cindy: I’ve got my learner’s licence and I want to learn to drive and later on I wouldn’t mind trying nursing or social work. I just want to be able to learn a job that I can do. To get qualified.

Lynn: I feel the same way – to get a backup plan. Do you sometimes get donations of things from customers?

L'Itinéraire vendor Lynn at her pitch (Credit: Alexandre Duguay)

Cindy: Yes, a woman brought me a jumper once when I was cold. And a woman in Brisbane every Christmas would give me a food hamper. It never ceases to amaze what people will do, I don’t think I’ve seen everything yet.

Lynn: One time when I was working at the beginning of winter a guy gave me the gloves from his own hands – I was so touched! I could not believe it.

Cindy: People do notice.

Lynn: There are so many good people to meet doing this. I’ve met so many wonderful people. I find them so loving, it’s like a big family.

Cindy: It is like a big family, because we all get along and we stir each other up like family members.

Lynn: I wish I could give you a big hug. Let’s hang in there together to keep up our posts and never give up on ourselves!

Cindy and Lynn are now friends on Facebook, and have plans to chat again, no matter the weather!

Read more coverage of #VendorWeek 2019 here.