Social Changers: The Big Issue

[This blog has since moved to bybethanyjae.com. Head on over to check it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised… x]

“The Big Issue Australia is an independent organisation that develops and operates social enterprises and creative, sustainable solutions to homelessness; providing opportunities for homeless and marginalised people to positively change their lives.”

The Big Issue is a major social changer when it comes to the lives of those affected by poverty. Founded by John Bird and Gordon Roddick in London in 1991, it’s since spread to eight countries from varying social climates (Kenya, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Japan, Namibia, Ireland and Australia).

In Australia, the main program that they’re known for is The Big Issue Magazine. Released on a fortnightly basis, it’s produced by professional journalists and sold by street vendors – which is what makes this non-profit so special.

The street vendors are what many would consider ‘marginalised’ because of their circumstance. Some are homeless, others have physical disabilities, and others are struggling with addictions; but they all want to improve their lives.

Each magazine only costs $5 with half of the sale going directly to the vendor ($2.50 per issue). And since starting in Australia in 1996, 6 million issues have been sold with vendors receiving $13.2 million.

The vendors are incredible people and if you look at the website, you can read about some of their lives. Check it out here.

Another program the enterprise runs is The Women’s Subscription Enterprise.

Flowing from The Big Issue Magazine, it works on the model where for every 100 magazines subscribed to, a woman is employed. These women are employed by the enterprise to work as Dispatch Assistants, sorting, collating and inserting magazines. But more than that, they are given opportunities to receive training and ways to develop their skills in a great environment. Learn more about it here.

They’ve also started a community initiative called the Street Soccer Program.

With a simple mission: “To use sport as a means to promote social inclusion and personal change for homeless, marginalised and disadvantages people, creating healthier communities.” Participants are able to make friends, get fit and healthy in the process, receive support and advice, find employment, and become part of a community. [Note: Watch the video below on it, amazing.]

The last program run by the enterprise is The Big Issue Classroom.

With the purpose of breaking the stereotypes surrounding homelessness, students learn about not only about it, but also have their level of social awareness developed. This is done through lesson plans, excursions, and the opportunity to hear from someone whose experienced homelessness.

The Big Issue Enterprise is a great social changer. They value, educate, provide, support, encourage, and include those that society may have otherwise overlooked or ignored.

Next time you’re in the city and see a vendor, how about you stop, smile, chat to them for a bit, and buy a magazine (or two). That’s how simple it is to make a difference in their life.

“The Big Issue Australia is proudly non-judgemental and welcoming to all, treating all people with dignity and respect, and promoting independence and self-reliance”.

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