5. Becoming A Family

Day: Thursday, November 13, 2014


After interviews with the vendors on Monday we wanted to meet with them again on Thursday so that they could get to know us a bit more and also schedule times to visit their homes if they wanted. We planned to show the vendors pictures of our friends and families so they could start to understand that they would be bringing in the similar types of pictures for their vendor web-pages. The team was a bit nervous about how the meeting would go due to past reservations many of the vendors have shown, but we were excited to have another chance to make stronger connections and break down some walls.

Cast of Characters

  • Xolani– Big Issue Vendor, co-researcher
  • Zuliwe– Big Issue Vendor
  • Nosiphiuro– Big Issue Vendor
  • Leslie– Big Issue Vendor
  • Nolusapho– Big Issue Vendor
  • No-Senior– Big Issue Vendor
  • Lavista– Big Issue Vendor, co-researcher
  • Thelma– Big Issue Vendor
  • Fikiswa– New Big Issue Vendor, co-researcher
  • Themba– Big Issue Vendor, co-researcher
  • Zikiswa– Big Issue Vendor
  • Jakoef– Big Issue Vendor
  • Chelsea– American volunteer with background in street papers, film, and production
  • Scott- WPI Advisor
  • Steve- WPI Advisor


Conference room of The Big Issue South Africa Offices


We entered the doors of The Big Issue a few minutes before 10 with excitement for the day ahead. We were coming from breakfast with our advisors Scott and Steve and were ready to show them the hard work we had been putting in with the vendors. We were greeted by about four vendors stuffing their faces with cakes. They all seemed to be in a good mood so that made us hopeful. It was mainly women who were there to begin with so we tried our best to communicate with them despite it being difficult for them to communicate with us. Leslie sat in the corner so there was a lot of interaction with him to start because he speaks English. We decided to take out the cameras and let the women take pictures of the room and people around them. It went really well and some started interviewing their friends and laughing when they watched the footage over.

Teaching Each Other How to Use a Camera 
From Left to Right: Leslie, Nosiphiuro, Zuliwe, No-Senior 
Photo Credit: Nolusapho

Scott and Steve came in between the ladies taking pictures and they went around  introducing themselves to the vendors. Throughout this all the vendors seemed to enjoy hearing from Scott and Steve about their role in the project. . It was a busy day at The Big Issue with vendors coming in and out to buy the magazine, which caused distraction within our group. Because of this we decided to have the vendors go up to the conference room so that we could be in a closer, quieter space.


Enjoying Taking Pictures 
From Left to Right: Xolani, Nolusapho 
Photo Credit: Leslie

Seated around the table in the conference room, interactions between different vendors, Scott and Steve, and the team flowed naturally. We realized this is a better place to meet because everyone can see one another and we are closer, making communication a lot easier. We started the meeting by sharing presentations we had made with pictures of our homes, families, and friends with the vendors. Xolani helped translate for us and he did a great job explaining what we wanted to do, and translating back questions or comments the other vendors had. It was so entertaining to hear the reactions that the vendors had from the pictures, and even though they were speaking in Xhosa to one another we could sort of understand a lot of the expressions they were sharing. They were extremely interested in our friends, especially if one of the opposite sex was in a picture. This activity seemed to break any lasting reservations that the vendors had about us. This way they got to see who we are and where we came from. It really connected our group and allowed them to feel more comfortable with us. The best part was the laughing and the fact that people had questions about our photos and wanted us to explain more about them. It was great that we had our group plus Scott, Steve, and Chelsea share photos. This activity really helped because now when we try to explain that we want vendors to bring in pictures of their families, they have an example of what we mean. Only laughs could be heard from the room at this point and it was a great way to connect with all the vendors. We began having small side conversations with all of them even if it was difficult to understand, but everything ended in a laugh.


Enjoying WPI Student’s Family Presentations 
From Left to Right: Nadjia, Steve, Zikiswa, 
Fikiswa (White Hat), Thelma (Orange Shirt)

After the activity had ended we wanted to figure out where the vendors lived so that we could go with them and visit their homes if they felt comfortable with us doing so. Xolani translated for us that they could write down where they lived and draw their homes or families. At this point Fikiswa had joined the group and helped explain the activity more to the group that she was sitting with. It was great because she helped explain without much guidance from us, she said a few words and the other vendors got it right away. After a few minutes people were ready to share. Xolani just wrote down where he lived because he said he could not draw, which was funny because we had done an activity like this on one of the first days and he drew his house. We went around the table and all the vendors shared what they drew and where they lived. Apparently one of the women, Zuliwe, let Scott keep her drawing as a gift. It was funny that most of the vendors live in Khayelitsha, site B. It began to get so repetitive that all the vendors would just start laughing whenever someone else added that they lived in Khayelitsha…site B. The others live in Delft which is not far from Khayelitsha, so it works out. After that we wanted to double check and make sure we were certain of the people that wanted us to visit. Only 2 said that they did not so we were extremely happy. Then came the hard part.

Figuring out times and days to meet has been a constant challenge between us and the vendors. So for planning when we would visit their homes, we wanted the vendors to work with each other to come up with a day and time that worked. Xolani and Fikiswa started explaining this in Xhosa then all hell broke lose. The vendors began speaking over one another saying different days and times and how we would meet with them. At one point Xolani had to put his hand up to quiet them down, because they had questions for us but would not ask us directly. A main concern is how we would get there or how we would meet up with them. When we said we would meet them in Khayelitsha, the topic of discussion then turned into where and how. They started all talking over each other in Xhosa again for a while, we would be able to pick out some English words here and there, but it was difficult. At one point they kept saying police station over and over, so that was strange. Xolani and Fikiswa finally explained to us in English that they wanted us to be safe so they wanted us to meet at the police station and possibly have a police escort throughout the township. We thought that was a bit unnecessary if we had all the vendors with us and the bus to take us around, but it was really comforting to know that they were concerned about our safety. After a few minutes the group had come to the agreement that Monday would work for us to come visit and they would meet up with us at the police station. It then came turn for us to coordinate the bus and time with Scott. With a lot of input from Xolani, Themba, and Fikiswa we figured out a good plan of picking up Xolani, Themba, and Jakoef in Delft then heading to Khayelitsha with them around 9:45am on Monday. We all left the meeting looking forward to our next adventure ahead with the vendors.


Ari: I am very happy with how the day went today! It was very energetic and the vendors were all super receptive to our presentations about our families!! They were engaging and fun! It was a lot of good work that we have been missing! I especially loved that Xolani has begun to really understand being a translator and using it as a learning opportunity and takes it very seriously! Its good to know that he understands how badly we need the translations! It was very fun to begin learning about where the vendors live as well, there is a large group that all live around the same area which is great because it means that we will be able to visit them all together. There were so many successful things today! We even were able to talk to the new vendor and take her on as a co-researcher! I think that she will be a very valuable asset to our group and help us with brainstorming and getting a fresh perspective to the Big Issue. I am worried that we will be losing one of our co-researchers however. Lavista does not seem as energetic as he did the first day. He seems to be backing away for reasons that I do not really know. I hope that we can include him for as long as we can, but we can not force him to do anything.

Gianna: I am extremely pleased with how today went! The past 2 weeks have been a little bit difficult, despite our continued progress in gathering content. It has been difficult because although we have been gathering content, we have been lacking with the vendor input part of the project. We have been connecting with the vendors, but today we seemed to take a giant step forward in our connections. I was happy most of the vendors were laughing and interested in our family presentations. When it was their turn to share their families, they were extremely excited to share. This was empowering to me because I feel like we have really established an understanding and connection with them. I was a little hesitant to continue working with the big vendor group, but after today I want to try to continue to include them. Also, the fact that the majority of them keep showing up leads me to believe that they want to be a part of this project which makes me very happy. All but two vendors are interested in having us visit their houses. I was overwhelmed when they all were talking at once to plan the day but I was excited that they were so receptive to the ideas and wanted us to visit so soon. I am also extremely happy that Fikiswa has joined our group. Her ability to communicate with both us and the other vendors is extremely helpful. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she will be an excellent advocate to the project. I see her as the turning point for the project! I am also extremely pleased with Xolani, he has really stepped up as a translator and leader. He is becoming more confident in his abilities. Lavista looked distracted during the meeting. I am not sure if he wants to continue with the project, but with Fikiswa as an addition to the team I think it would be okay if Lavista wanted to stop. It would be disappointing, but okay. I am looking forward to our trip to their houses on Monday. I hope everything goes well.

Jordon: This was the first day that we had our advisors come out to The Big Issue to meet the vendors and see how we interact with them when we get them together and I’m extremely happy with how this went. We began our vendor meeting with each of us sharing intimate details about our lives such as our houses, families, friends, and significant others. The vendors really seemed to love us sharing our lives with them because, up until now, we were hoping that they would share a lot of this information with us even though we had never really gotten this personal. Scott and Steve even shared aspects about their lives and the vendors genuinely enjoying talking with them. After we shared our photos, we had the vendors draw their houses, families, and write out where they lived in an effort to figure out where everybody lives so we can go visit them on Monday. I feel like both of our advisors had just as much fun as we did with everyone. All of the vendors were excited and happy to share these aspects of their lives and I think that they’re going to be equally enthusiastic when we travel to their homes. I felt like we reached them on a much more personal level and I think that our advisors have a great understanding of how well we’ve connected with everyone we have the pleasure to work with.

Nadjia: I thought today went way better than I could have ever hoped for. From the beginning the vendors seemed the most open they had been throughout all the weeks. I was working with Nolusapho and having her use one of the cameras. She got really into it and would jokingly take pictures of peoples butts that would walk in front of her, which she thought was hilarious. We would joke with each other every time she took a picture like that. Just with that start I knew it was going to be a good day. We had the vendors move up to the conference room which was great because it got everyone to sit closer and intermingle with one another. The problem is that it is upstairs and a lot of the women take a longer time to get up there. It was funny because as  I was waiting to go down the stairs a lot of the women were coming up and they looked as if they felt bad that they were taking so long, so I would joke with them about being out of breath or things like that. It was the best when one of the women, No-Senior jokingly hit me on the arm and started laughing. Once we started the meeting and shared the pictures of our friends and family I was pleasantly surprised by how much interest all the vendors had in the pictures. They would make comments to one another and sometimes me about other group members’ pictures. I thought it was funny that when I had a picture with one of my guy friends, Zuliwe was extremely eager to find out who he was. I thought the day went really well, even with the somewhat chaos of the vendors trying to figure out what times would be best for us to visit their homes. I liked it because it got everyone talking and working together; which they do not normally do. I was able to talk with Jakoef, who came into the meeting late because he had a lot of trouble getting to The Big Issue. I asked if it was alright if we visited his home and he said of course and that he lives in Delft which is great because two other vendors do. When I was talking with Jakoef, Themba came over to talk about his house. Through that conversation Jakoef and Themba found out that they both live in Delft and are pretty much neighbors. It was really cool to see the connections that were being formed between vendors who have never even really talked with one another. It really shows me how much of an impact this project truly has.

Continue to Scene 6: Sharing a Coke with…Friends