Vendor Profile: Pat

29 March 2015 Peter Ascot

Vendor Profile: Pat

Photograph by Ross Swanborough

Peter Ascot, Ed#479, March 2014

"I’m from a Buddhist family in Bangkok, but I became a Christian at 11. I married an American-Australian and came to Perth in 2006. Things went wrong six years ago: he was diagnosed with bipolar and separated from me, kept his businesses, sold the house, would not communicate… Finally I became homeless. I believe marriage is not just a [piece of] paper; it’s a covenant. We are not divorced, I keep my marriage vow. I didn’t tell my family in Thailand what’s gone wrong here, it doesn’t do any good. 

My husband gave me money at irregular intervals, but I struggled to pay rent each week. I rented a room from a member of my church, but there were complications. Eventually, I chose my path to solve the problem – get help from Centrelink, then move on. I would feel guilty if I just only sat waiting for income support to come every fortnight to survive. Centrelink put me on Newstart Allowance, so I moved into the city to find work.

The cheapest accommodation in the city I could get was [at a] backpackers’, where I got bedbugs, scabies. I moved to another backpackers’ and had my stuff stolen, got verbal abuse, racism.

I passed an interview for transitional accommodation at St Bartholomew’s House. Their program helps females over 50 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It’s a real blessing, peaceful to be there. At St Bartholomew’s, I found a Big Issue brochure. I thought it’s better to try, even though I’ve never trained in any career in Australia. I thought The Big Issue might provide some income and restore my dignity, self-esteem. I started to be a volunteer at Chung Wah Association as well, and attend a Thai ladies’ Bible study group.

My first day selling I felt very excited. I got three free magazines, sold them in half and hour. A Malaysian lady came to talk to me and ask about my story. I told her what happened to me, and she gave me $10 to encourage me before she left. 

I sell at Raine Square on Saturdays (10am–4.30pm) and other pitches when I don’t have volunteer duties. When I sell The Big Issue, I find mercy shines through the hearts of people.

I’m doing an aged care apprenticeship for Certificate III. I passed my work experience, so now I can be put on part-time as a carer when work is available. But I will continue as a Big Issue vendor.

Selling The Big Issue is my delight as well. I can look after my own small business, be part of a big picture. Thank you, Big Issue. Thank you, Australia and her people. You enhance my opportunity in life, restore my strength and dignity. I’m really proud to be Australian."

Pat sells The Big Issue at Raine Square, Perth.

» Interview by Peter Ascot, The Big Issue's Vendor Profile Editor.

This article appeared in Ed#479 of The Big Issue magazine.