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A good call for The Big Issue

The Big Issue magazine provides employment to hundreds of disadvantaged, homeless and marginalised people, but selling the magazine on the streets is not a safe or viable option for many women, particularly those caring for children or fleeing domestic violence.

In 2010, The Big Issue established the Women’s Subscription Enterprise (WSE), to provide support, training and work opportunities for homeless women in a safe, secure, female-only environment.

In the beginning the WSE employed women to pack magazines for subscribers and in 2014 a call centre was launched in Melbourne. Today, WSE employees make outbound calls, to thank subscribers and renew their subscriptions.

30 volunteers from Origin’s call centre in Melbourne have played a critical role in training up the WSE employees. ┬áIn fact, every fortnight Origin volunteers have been joining the WSE women to provide ongoing training, mentoring and support. Working alongside Origin volunteers has helped WSE employees develop on-the-job skills that can be used for outside employment. One WSE call centre employee explained “you get an idea of how they engage with someone who is busy, it’s helpful to know what to do when we get calls like that”.

The WSE is proving to be a real success story. It provides ongoing work and regular income and helps the women develop skills and confidence that increases their options for employment outside of The Big Issue. For the magazine, it makes great business sense: subscription renewals have increased by 40%.

The work of the Origin volunteers has not gone unnoticed. “The WSE women have hugely benefited from the skills that Origin employees have shared, it’s been a great year and Origin was a huge part of that,” said Louise Gray from The Big Issue.

But it’s not just The Big Issue and marginalised women who benefit from the WSE. Volunteering in the program has had a marked affect on Origin employees, too. Bonita Kapitany from Origin’s collections team enjoyed meeting and talking with the women, and found it gave her a perspective that she has brought back to the workplace. “In my role I deal with a lot of people who struggle and meeting these women has really helped me understand different circumstances.”

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Meet some of the women from the WSE