The Homeless and Hungry in Ramadan
Issue 95 August 2012
Being a time of reflection and sacrifice, Ramadan seems the ideal time to think about how we can help those in need and those who are the most vulnerable in our society. The Ramadan Festival is bringing individuals and organisations together to share ideas and start new projects that can carry on throughout the rest of the year.
The Big Issue Magazine
One partnership is with The Big Issue, the magazine and charity that works with homeless people in London and other towns and cities across the UK. Julie Siddiqi, co-coordinator of the Ramadan Festival, talks to Stephen Robertson, current CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, who has been with them since July 2007. Prior to that, he worked for 13 years at the homeless charity, Shelter.
“I left a large organisation to join a small one because of my desire to use my commercial skills and overall experience as close to the front line as possible. There are around 2000 vendors in the UK, all of whom are people who have slipped through pretty much every safety net imaginable. I have always been inspired by people who choose to help themselves, no matter how extreme their circumstances.”
“The Big Issue vendors’ journey begins when someone chooses to invest a little of their cash and starts to buy and sell the magazine. It is often true that people can ‘earn’ more cash through begging. The decision to start a small business and work your way out of your situation is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of homeless and vulnerably housed people. Vendors have to use their own cash to buy the magazines. They have to manage their time and their finances if they want to stay in business. For everyone involved, this is a very honourable endeavour compared to begging.”
But, as Stephen explains, vendors are not always treated well and can be at the receiving end of prejudice and harsh stereotypes.