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Vendor Profile: Tapiwa Chemhere of Australia

Wed, Feb 13, 2013

Tapiwa Chemhere

Tapiwa Chemhere travelled across the Indian Ocean with his mother, three brothers and a sister, to escape the violence and political repression in his native Zimbabwe. Today he sells the The Big Issue Australia and says that chatting with customers is the highlight of his day.

“I came to Canberra in 2005. We left Zimbabwe because of the economic situation and the violence. I lived in the city, but it was still very violent at the time. You were forced to support the main party, and if you didn’t support it they would bomb your house or kill you.

My mum was in Africa in September to visit our family. She says she wants to go back in five years.

After I came to Canberra, I soon got a job caring for old people. I lost it after being admitted to the Psychiatric Services Unit of the Canberra Hospital. I was smoking a lot of weed. I don’t smoke any more – it has been two years since I smoked weed.

I love Australia, and I love The Big Issue. I have been selling since 2007. I was told about it by a friend, a youth worker.

I go to the office for [edition launch] barbecues or to see [the managers] Julie or Stuart – they are very helpful. They give me a lot of support, such as writing letters for applications.

I have put in an application for TAFE [Australia’s leading vocational education and training provider] next year, to study Business Information and Technology. My reading and writing skills are good, but I need help with English words. I learned English in my country, but the vocabulary in Zimbabwe is different.

I sell at the Canberra Center in Civic, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. When I sell I make a target, and then I go home to do a business project online, where I sell things. I work for my customers, because some say ‘I’ll see you on Thursday’ – so I make sure I’m there.

I like going camping and hunting for rabbits and wild pigs in the bushes out of Canberra. I use my mate’s rifle. We go to a property, near a national park, where there are feral animals.

I think things are going OK for me at the moment, and I would like to thank my customers – my loyal customers – for helping me out. Sometimes if you chat with someone like me, selling The Big Issue, if you smile at me and talk with me, it makes my day. I feel very encouraged. I just want to thank all my customers for helping me.”

Written by Peter Ascot,
The Big Issue Australia

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