1. Emotions Run High

Day: Monday, November 3, 2014


Today was our big day of meeting with all of the vendors throughout the day. Our plan was to brainstorm with them questions that they would want to be asked. Again our plans were changed when we got there.

Cast of Characters


The Big Issue South Africa Offices


Today we were planning on person to person interviews that would prepare us for the actual videos without video taping. We had four vendors coming in every two hours so that we could see all 12 of the vendors on Monday. Once we got to the Big Issue however, we realized that videotaping would be the most beneficial activity since it would allow vendors who wanted to, to be filmed and we would be able to interact with others for longer. Because of this we laid out a system in order to videotape interviews of one or two vendors from each meeting time and have written interviews with the others. At first this was a little difficult, we had no translator for the first hour so some of the women were very hard to understand and it was difficult to get across what we needed. As soon as Andy showed up things started going more smoothly. He helped us understand the vendors while also accurately relaying information to the vendors about the project and the questions we were asking. Since there were four vendors per 2 hour block we needed more translators than just Andy. This is where the vendors who spoke both English and Xhosa came in to save the day. Xolani and Themba helped us immensely by helping us gather information from the vendors and working with them to begin telling their stories. We ended up being able to videotape four interviews and wrote five other vendor’s interviews down so that we could reference it later. Each of the members of our team interviewed and talked with different vendors in order for us to be able to talk to each of them in the time provided. This means that everyone had a widely varied experience with the day. We all ended the day in saddened but uplifting moods because of the stories we had heard and the amount that each vendor had opened up.


This weeks reflections will be both personal thoughts on the day as well as personal encounters. Many of the interviews were done privately by individual members of the group and because of this each member can relay different information on the matter.

Ari: The day was a very important one. I thought that we were not recording and was a little frustrated that a decision was made to record instead of the planned focus groups and mini interviews we had planned. However it worked out very well. We got some very good footage of the vendors and were able to interact with them on a more personal level then even Trudy expected in such a short time. I was able to interview four vendors. Three of them were on camera:  Themba, Xolani, and Leslie. Zwkiswa was a written interview that was helped translated by Themba. In the interviews I found out a lot about the vendors. Xolani is building a house in Western Cape with three rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen, while being his own business man and thriving. Xolani also wants to own a spaza shop near his home in order to always be his own boss. Themba went to an event called The Homeless World Cup, which was an event in Austria where street papers sent representatives to competed in soccer games. He loved the experience and it opened up his life. He now works for the Big Issue and also gives tours to the local townships. Leslie talked a lot about his life and his plans. He loves working for the Big Issue because he gets paid more than his past job as a night security guard. His pitch is located outside a local grocery store and he had to apply to the owner in order to get the spot. He wants to see the Big Issue become bigger and better and hopes that this website platform will help it even more. Zwkiswa was a little more reserved than the other vendors I talked with. Themba helped to relax her, but it was harder to get her stories out. I did learn that she had Polio when she was little and has a limp now because of it. It makes it very hard for her to sell the Big Issue. She has three children; the oldest, 27, is a girl who lives at her own home. Her two boys are 20 and 15 and they help her out at home. This was all very emotional and intense. It was great to see the vendors open up to us and trust us enough to tell us these stories. Now we just need to figure out how to tell their stories to the world in the most effective and safe way for them.

Gianna: Today was a very difficult day. It was a rocky start. The vendors showed up late, only two out of the four were there at the beginning, and everything was a little disorganized. When we sat down with the two vendors to start our original plan, to brainstorm what they want to be asked, the vendors were not reciprocating. One was dressed in a suit ready to be interviewed. Because he was ready and was not reciprocating with our original plan, I thought we had to adjust plans. So I suggested that it would be good to start the interviews that day. That was not common opinion, but the rest of my team went for it. I had the opportunity to interview three of the women, Zukiswa, Nolusapho, and No-Senior. The women I spoke to knew very little English, so something I did before we began talking to break the ice was have the women draw their families. I would draw mine, then they would draw theirs. They would sometimes even put the ages of the family members as well. Something that I found interesting was that whenever I asked the ages of the children, the women would tell me the years the children were born rather than the ages. All the women had very troubling stories and it was a very hard day. I was also put into an awkward situation when one woman asked if I could help put her daughter into a better high school (she was asking for money). Something that I realized was that the women were very open about sharing the bad in their life, but not the good. Maybe it is because they don’t have a lot of good in their lives, but it puzzles me a little. I hope with more interactions with them, they will be more open to share the good in their lives. This day showed me how complicated vendor interactions will be. The language barrier is very difficult and so was the cultural barrier. I had the opportunity to work with Andy very closely. We begin to build trust in each other, and from the first interview to the last interview our teamwork became more in sync. He has a good understanding of our project now and is able to help me explain it. I cannot wait to work with the vendors more again!

Jordon: This day was really intense for me. Although I hadn’t interviewed any of the vendors one-on-one, I had worked on recording videos about the lives of the vendors who wanted to be interviewed on camera. The men who we had interviewed such a Xolani and Themba were very open about their lives and were happy the share the advances that they’ve made, as well as their future aspirations. Their stories were uplifting and exciting. Both of the men had spoken about their houses they had built/were building and why The Big Issue and their customers had helped them reach that point in their lives. As I was filming these interviews, we were also speaking with some of the more reserved vendors, particularly the women. I know I personally was very afraid that they weren’t going to open up at all. Much to my surprise, it sounds like they actually opened up to us very quickly and told us way more than we were expecting about their lives. This became apparent when we brought Nolusapho in for the video interview. I really had no idea what to expect as there was a strong language barrier and she didn’t really understand the format that we were using for the interviews so we basically just had to roll with it. The stories that ended up coming out had really hit me on a strongly personal level and made me realize that these women come from extremely battered and emotional backgrounds. The fact that I was recording and was unable to give any sort of reaction made it that much harder for me to sit there. After that interview, I really needed something more uplifting and enjoyable so I was glad that the only person that had showed up for our afternoon session was Lesley. He’s extremely enthusiastic about this project and just wanted to keep talking to us. Ari and I had a really good time speaking to him about his childhood, his job history, his living situation, and the things that he really cares about in life as well as his really insightful outlook on life. We only asked him 4 questions but he spoke for a total of 57 minutes. It was a really amazing conversation. I really hope that the remainder of this project has the same success that we’d had up to now as I really think we’ve began to connect with these people who only two weeks ago were complete strangers.

Nadjia: It was an emotional day I felt for both the vendors and our team. I think we had a rocky start when one team member decided that we would film, even though our plan was just to talk with the vendors in small groups and make them feel comfortable. But the change of plans worked because we got to work with vendors one on one and that really helped the relationships form. I talked to two vendors; Steven and Nosiphiuro. Steven was difficult because we did not have a translator at that time so his interview took a lot of patience and listening to fully understand what he was trying to say. However, I felt that we made a good connection. He talked about how The Big Issue is a great job for him because he can’t do manual labor or lift heavy items because his shoulders start to hurt. He also really loves to paint and make art pieces, he wants to get a certificate in art one day so he can show that he is passionate about what he does. I then went to interview with Nosiphiuro and Andy was with me to help translate. We started out by sharing things about me; such as where I come from and my family. After that Nosiphiuro immediately began sharing her past. I was surprised by how open she was, whatever Andy said to her in xhosa must have really helped. It was inspiring to hear how she’s been through such hardships but she still tries to help as many people as she can. She says she’s a people person and loves to see everyone happy. I got so emotional after our interview I had to give her a hug. The smile she gave me afterwards was probably the best moment of my day. I like to make people happy as well, and seeing her genuinely smile was heart melting.

 Continue to Scene 2: Vendor Mentor Pilot