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Vendor spotlight: Erica Phillips (Cape Town, South Africa)

 The Big Issue South Africa 27 February 2019

Our vendor spotlight this month focuses on Erica Phillips (66), who has been selling The Big Issue South Africa for the last seven years, ever since she lost her eyesight and subsequently her office job. Selling The Big Issue in Cape Town has got Erica back on her feet and she is about to start her own business. (471 Words) - By Erica Phillips

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'It changed my life': long-time Big Issue vendor Erica Phillips. Photo courtesy of The Big Issue South Africa

"I signed up as a vendor in 1999. I had an office job but then I lost my eyesight. I did regain my eyesight after some time, but only partially. It became too much of a strain to continue my admin job, so I was forced to resign. I was left with no income and no clue what to do; it changed my life.

While I was out walking one day I came across a notice saying The Big Issue offered a job opportunity and I decided to give it a go. Since then I've learnt that I love working with people - with The Big Issue staff and my fellow vendors, as well as with the customers.

I've been at my pitch at the Kenilworth Post Office for about seven years. I've gained so much and found people that have really supported me. They notice my determination and my outgoing personality.

A customer who has stood out the most for me is one gentleman who has said that he will always support me. He always buys from me and he really enjoys the magazine. He said he could see my determination and "spark". I'm not just a vendor to him; I'm a friend. I'm fortunate to have many other customers like him.

I've had my story about how I lost my sight and got back onto my feet through The Big Issue told in a book called Then Light went Black. The Human Rights Media Centre published it and it's a collection of stories about people who are visually impaired. I always carry the book with me.

What I most admire about The Big Issue is how it's run. They have so much going for the vendors. They don't just expect the vendors to go out and sell the magazines; there is a support system in place for us.

I'm on the verge of starting my own business. Through The Big Issue I've been given the opportunity for financing and I should be starting it in June. I hate to think where I would be without this job. It has given me determination to carry on. I would probably have given up, but it helped me see that there is hope.

I would like to congratulate The Big Issue on the work they have done so far and wish them all the best in the future. I hope that they'll be able to help more vendors, as they've helped me a tremendous amount."

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