so unreal.” outdoor patio, so that vendors can continue producing art. We’ll soon hold an auction for the sale of works, generating additional income.” The social work team added that food security is the biggest concern for the communities their vendors come from. People are being encouraged to create their own vegetable gardens and using skills they’ve learned selling the street paper and applying it to selling arts and crafts, and even food items, to earn extra income. “This year was hard having little food, no work and my family suffering,” says Shadrack. “I hope and Big “If it hadn’t been for [financial] help from the government, I would be at the bottom of the river,” says Ariel, who has been renting a room from a family who live near the Vélez Sarsfield football team stadium. “[Hopefully next year] we can let this crap go and start a normal life again.” Austria In Vienna, things are looking a little better for street paper vendors now compared to the initial March coronavirus lockdown. The local magazine Augustin has learned how to continue selling even as restrictions remain in place, for example moving those who sold in bars, restaurants and cafes to busy spots on the streets. Issue South Africa vendor Shadrack Rolihlahla. [Courtesy of The Big Issue South Africa] pray that COVID-19 goes away and that next year work will be better and life will have more opportunities.” Argentina “Emotionally, the pandemic has not really affected me – I was not locked up much!” says Carlos Ariel Amadeo. “It’s been the same normal worry that anyone has. No depression, just worried that this will get worse, and with a little fear about the illness and uncertainty about the economic situation. No one is safe. But yes, I feel safe. I am not obsessed with it; I live a normal life.” Ariel is a vendor for Buenos Aires magazine Hecho en Bs As, a publication which has dealt with an extremely strict, prolonged lockdown and the sudden death of its founder Patricia Merkin. Despite the potential for instability, it has continued to support those it works with. “We have been in permanent contact with vendors,” says vendor coordinator Ángeles Mezzera. The street paper’s ties to a parallel food project – ‘A cultivar que se acaba el mundo’ – which trades in organic food, advocates fair trade and employees socially excluded people, many of whom are also vendors, meant that Hecho staff could respond to any urgent needs. “From there [the food project’s space] they were given access to food, subsidies were managed that the Argentine government had provided to all people with self-employed jobs, and some vendors were distributed unsold magazines that they could deliver,” adds Mezzera. “We also moved our art workshop to the food project since it has an Augustin vendor Susi. [Courtesy of Augustin] Augustin’s social workers also pointed out that social isolation of their vendors – both from their colleagues and from Augustin staff – has also been a worry. “I hope my partner can get back to Austria again,” says vendor Anna, 59. “He was deported to Nigeria and I miss him very much.” 60-year-old vendor Susi adds: “I’m very sad I can’t visit my family. My dad is more than 80 years old and I haven’t seen him in a long time now. Right now, I’m thinking of the Augustin stall where we usually sell pear cider during the Christmas season. I love working there, but we can’t do it this year. “I wish everything would get back to normal. I would like to visit the vendor lounge at Augustin to drink coffee and talk to my colleagues. And, of course, I wish more people would buy the paper again and we could talk One issue that persists is how the lockdowns has affected refugees and asylum seekers, a cohort of which make up Augustin’s vendor group. This community rely on street paper income and it has been severely hit due to sales restrictions and drops. They have also been unable to go back and forth from their home country due to tighter border restrictions, and fear sanctions from local government. An already precarious living situation has been made more uncertain by the pandemic. properly without distance. I’m feeling a bit lonely.” USA 66-year old Al Mayfield continues to sell Street Spirit in Oakland. The tragedies of coronavirus are nothing new to Al. He lost two brothers at a young age – one to medical issues and another to a motorcycle accident – and, after being violently robbed in 1994, fell into a coma. He survived, but had to have a plate installed in his stomach and his leg amputated. He has been shifted around homes due to circumstances outside his control and bandied about homeless shelters. Through it all, there has been support – the Citizens Neighborhood Assistance Program, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and Street Spirit. He now lives in subsidised housing with one of his surviving brothers in North Oakland. Most of all, he has missed church during the pandemic and hopes to be back. “Church is in my heart,” he says. Despite a life full of losses and grief, and now this global disaster, Al is an optimistic person. He is still selling street papers and living his life. “Try to grasp hold of the good stuff and be happy about it,” he says. Canada Most will now be familiar with the term ‘pre-existing health conditions’. Dealing with a personal medical emergency at the same time as a global medical emergency seems an unfathomably difficult task. 69-yearold Roger Perreault, who sells L’Itinéraire in Montréal, has been battling breast cancer which has spread to his liver and lungs. He also has glaucoma, lymphedema and a hernia. His outlook for the diagnosis provides a lot of food for thought when making our own optimistic approaches to life right now. “Apart from all that, things aren’t too bad!” says Roger. “Psychologist, Brigitte Lavoie once said: It’s in the case of extreme suffering that human beings find unsuspected sources of strength that were inside of them all along and they didn’t know it. Give yourself the permission to do what makes you feel good, she said. “For example, I put all my efforts into saving up for a trip last summer. I was planning on going to Spain and Germany. So much for my plans! At least for this year… “I started going out for long walks that soon became discovery adventures in my city. It sure beats being bored and asking myself what I could have done if only. Those activities allow me to really enjoy the present moment, rather than dream of it. Why live life based on an uncertain future? When I wake up in the morning, I don’t ask myself what I’m going to do anymore, but what I’m going to do with what is offered to me. At night I take a moment to appreciate the chance I’ve had of living that day and what it’s brought me. And you know what? I feel a lot better.” *** Across the country, in British Columbia, Megaphone vendor Peter Thompson is feeling cut off from his family and heritage due to the pandemic. But he has also relied on the history and traditions of his community (Peter is Nlaka’pamux Nation) to get through. “My traditional medicines have played a big part in keeping me healthy during COVID-19,” says Peter. “I regularly smudge my home and I cook for myself to keep healthy. I have been using lots of garlic and lemons, and eating a lot of oranges and apples to keep my health good. I make a hot lemon, ginger, and garlic drink that keeps my immune system strong. “My hope for 2021 is that the pandemic will end so I can see my family in person again. I am especially missing my family that live on my traditional territory near Lytton, B.C. Normally I go back home every summer to see family and re-stock my traditional foods, like pine mushrooms, venison, fish, and moose meat. I also gather my sage and cedar supply for the year. I wasn’t able to go this year, so if I can just see my family and visit home in 2021, I will be happy.” Macedonia Hearing from vendors, social isolation has been almost as troubling as loss of income. “Working for me means not only earning money, but communicating with different people, making friends, getting familiar with strangers,” Igor Shajnoski, 32, who sells Lice v Lice in Struga and lives with his family in a house in the nearby village of Radozda on the banks of the UNESCO protected Lake Ohrid. L’Itinéraire vendor Roger Perreault. [Credit: Adil Boukind] “Those thoughts on resilience changed my way of seeing things, made me adopt new behaviours and understand the world differently. I should never be blocked by the things I cannot do, by what I may never do. Igor has had long periods of not working this year because of lockdown, but feels good to know he has a position with the street paper and takes much pride in his work. “My wish is for the best sales at the magazine. I am working for that and I know in turn it will improve my life.” Page 9

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