For those not familiar, The Big Issue is a unique magazine which addresses the problem of homelessness by offering the homeless the opportunity to earn an income. For over 20 years, the organization has helped thousands take control of their lives, and currently works with 2,000 homeless across the UK. In order to provide work for the homeless, they offer the opportunity to become a Big Issue vendor and actually sell a fixed amount of issues. Last year, Big Issue offered positions to more than 5 million individuals and provided an alternative to begging!
The Big Issue has paid particular attention to the living conditions in the UK throughout the years and, in order to improve these conditions, the magazine has created The Big Issue Foundation. As a registered charity, the Foundation links vendors with vital support and services. The organization also offers advice and referrals in four keys areas (housing, health, financial independence and aspirations) and relies almost entirely on voluntary donations.
Aside from the constant charitable good, the magazine has become synonymous with challenging, independent journalism, and renowned for securing exclusive interviews with the most elusive of superstars. It currently circulates over 105,000 copies every week.
The popular Bag Issue (launched in 2011) has attracted a number of celebrity supporters, including Sting and Eddie Izzard. The Bag Issue is a cooperative effort between The Big Issue partnered with Karm Marg Orphanage in New Delhi, India that assists children to generate income. The Karm Marg orphanage was set up in 1997 to give disadvantaged kids in India shelter, care, medical support and education, plus the skills and knowledge to create an income and build them a better future.
“For quite a few years I wanted to produce a magazine that had another use. A bag that you read and use seemed to be a good combination. The first Bag Issue has the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights published on it – a document that recognizes poverty as a human rights issue. This may all sound pretty obvious, but it is surprising the number of organizations and governments who do not see that poverty is an abuse we should be moving heaven and earth to eradicate, in the same way that we eradicated smallpox. I hope you enjoy reading and using The Bag Issue, starting with this searing piece of journalism, beautiful in its fairness the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the best of places to start.” -John Bird, Big Issue Founder
Bird had envisioned ways to produce magazines that also serve functional purposes and decided that a bag that can also be read would be perfect. The bags, which are 100% recyclable and composed of elephant dung, banana fiber, jute and hessian paper, are made by impoverished women in the local village and designed by the children of Karm Marg. The first bag that has been released features the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights screen-printed on it, which recognizes poverty as a major human rights issue. Some of the UK’s most well-known stars, including Sir Richard Branson, have signed up to add their own personal touch to the Big Issue’s annual Bag Issue to benefit the Indian orphanage. The bags will be sold alongside The Big Issue on UK streets and can also be purchased through the publication’s office. To be a part of the cause visit bigissue.com.