The Big Issue : Edition 554
46 THE BIG ISSUE X MONTH – X MONTH 2017 RETURN TO VENDOR INTERVIEWS BY AMY HETHERINGTON » PHOTO BY ALAN GAMBLE PHOTOGRAPHY NEXT EDITION OF THE BIG ISSUE ON SALE ... FRIDAY 9 FEBRUARY DEB We all love Rachael. She really draws you in with her personality, she’s always happy. When you get to know her, she will tell you some stories and you think wow, she’s come a long way. Everybody talks to her on their way past, you can’t get a word in. About three years ago the women at work decided to collect some money. We thought if we all put in $1, we can buy Rachael a handbag and fill it with toiletries. I think the first year we probably had $100 to spend on her, and then the following year it just skyrocketed. Everyone at work got on board because everyone knew who she was. About five of us went down in a group and handed the gift to her and we all cried, we cried with her in happiness RACHAEL SELLS THE BIG ISSUE TO DEB AND HER WORKMATES. THEIR FRIENDSHIP BECAME THE CATALYST FOR MAKING AN EVEN BIGGER CHANGE, RAISING FUNDS AND AWARENESS FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE IN BRISBANE. and sadness. And I thought, why don’t I start a group? We called it 100 Women MAD, because the theory was that 100 women could Make A Difference (MAD) by each putting in $1. Now we are just known as the mad women! We’ve got 320 members in the group now – and I thought we’d have like 10. We raised money, made 300 crisis bags, donated $600 towards a self-help group, $1000 to teenagers in crisis and we set up life-skills workshops in women’s shelters. Rachael was certainly the catalyst. She helped me realise that it only takes a few bad decisions for a person to end up in crisis. We had an end-of-year celebration with Rachael. On the night she was amazing. Her speech made us proud. RACHAEL I was terrified, I was on my own and I had nowhere to go. Domestic violence... I’d left the house and decided that it was the last time it was ever going to happen. I didn’t really know anyone. I met two Big Issue vendors in the city and they helped me out – they found a sleeping bag and told me all these things about sleeping rough. If it weren’t for those two, I don’t know what would have happened to me on the first night and first week. I ended up staying under the bridge for about three months and I started selling The Big Issue. I found it so hard to find somewhere to live for me and my son – he was 13. Once they knew he was in his teens they didn’t want to know. I just thought, I’m going to keep jumping up and down on the spot until someone hears, and that person was Deb. She treats me as an equal. The first thing she did was give me this really nice bag. She and a few of her friends had put nice things in it. The next year it went from 30 people to 130, and then at Christmas it was still going. They had a fundraising night for the group, and to make a fuss about me. We had a ball, we are still talking about it! Now, I couldn’t get through a week without talking to the girls – if I didn’t turn up some of them would be worried. All I wanted to do with my life was to help one other person and now it seems that I’m helping a whole bunch more because of how this started. Selling The Big Issue is not an easy thing to do. When I first started selling, I was concerned about my ex, and the last thing you want to do is put on a hi-vis vest and yell out “Big Issue”, but you do what you’ve gotta do. The Big Issue staff have just been the biggest support. We’ve been housed through community housing. I have four children, and my first grandchild is on the way. Now I’ve got a way that I can contribute to my family. DEB, RACHAEL (MIDDLE) AND (CO-FOUNDER) BIANCA CELEBRATING 100 WOMEN MAD.