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7 February 2019


Vendor Les


Les sells The Big Issue in Brisbane.

I was adopted from the Philippines by a family in Norway where we lived until I was 17, when we moved to Australia.

In general I live my own life my way. As a teenager I spent the whole time travelling around the backcountry snowboarding with all my friends. I was always at the snow, that’s how I was able to get so good. Backcountry snowboarding – that’s jumping out of a helicopter and going down the ungroomed and unmarked slopes. I’ve been skiing in 50 places in Asia, 10 places in Canada, 10 places in America.

When I first came to Australia I was still snowboarding, I was travelling all over and was in and out of the country. It was also when I started to learn English. You should have heard me!

When I was 22 I had three operations on my shoulder because it kept dislocating. After a while I gave up. I’ve also got three screws and one plate in my knee – it was operated on after I crashed into a tree.

Losing my snowboarding career wasn’t necessarily hard, but it was a bit weird for a while. It was strange to not have snow under my feet. I was able to keep motivation up though by keeping on travelling.
Up until I was about 25 and before I was homeless I was travelling every three months. I’d work enough to be able to travel and would repeat over and over. When I’m back on my feet I’d like to travel.

After the injuries I started working in construction in Sydney. Then I came over here to Brisbane, but my boss went out of business and I lost my motivation to work. I’ve been on the streets now for four years. It’s not like I’m choosing it, but I’ve found a safe place.

If I could do anything I’d go back to being a bartender. I used to be a bar manager at one of the popular bars in Sydney. I also once worked as a waiter at the Queen of Norway’s birthday. That was the most insane work I’ve done. It was in the castle. I’ve met the King many times because of my snowboarding.

The Big Issue has made a lot of a difference to me. It’s because of the people I’m meeting. I’m making a different life for myself. When I’m selling I’m a little more smiley, then I get attention from people.

Since I started working for The Big Issue I’ve got a lot more money. I don’t need to go to food vans every single day. I can go buy my own food. The cafes around my regular pitches are nice to me.

I’ve got a gym membership, too. I really like training. It’s funny ’cause all the staff think it’s my second house! I go in at six in the morning. It’s good because I can change clothes and take a shower.

The reason I like to do what I do is the kindness of my customers. They’re always nice to me. I really appreciate it. When it was my birthday all my regulars came to buy the mag off me and a few gave me gifts. It was one of the best days of my life.

I am saving all the money I can to get an apartment. That’s my goal. I’m not unhappy, my motto I live by is ‘live day by day’. I don’t take anything for granted.

Photo by Barry Street

Interview by Stephanie Young
Les sells The Big Issue at Creek and Queen Sts and in Toowong, Brisbane.