Director’s Corner: At Megaphone, we’re connected with a community much bigger than just one corner. Celebrating #VendorWeek
You’re not alone when you’re part of our community
When I was first hired at Megaphone—five years ago last month—I gave selling magazines on the street a try. I was hired to support vendors, so I figured I’d better know the job I was signing people up for.
I borrowed a vendor jacket and made myself a vendor badge. I pulled on my Megaphone toque and rehearsed a few possible intonations for my sales pitch as I walked to the bus stop. Getting off the bus near Main and Broadway in Vancouver, I scoped out my sales spot. The strangest feeling was that of beginning. It took me a few laps around the block before I settled down enough to stop walking and try selling.
Honestly, it was terrifying. I’m an introvert as is, and there’s a real sense of vulnerability when you’re out there on the street. But then, soon enough, it wasn’t so bad. I relaxed a little, started to smile at people, muttered, “Megaphone” under my breath—tentatively at first, then with a bit of volume.
I remember how grateful I was for the smiles returned to me; how I bristled at the blank stares and non-responses; how the feeling of invisibility needled at me. I didn’t sell a single paper that day, but I learned a lot.
That experience reminds me how much I admire our vendors, who push through the discomfort to put themselves out there. It reminds me too how much I appreciate our customers. The easy thing to do is to walk by, but those folks who do choose to stop and buy a magazine can really make a vendor’s day.
It felt a bit lonely out there on the street. The work of vendors takes a lot of guts, dedication, and patience. But those moments of connection with the people you encounter on the corner can give you motivation to keep going.
And at Megaphone, we’re connected with a community much bigger than just one corner, one neighbourhood, or even one province. Pinpoints light up across the globe to 9,000 street paper vendors on any given day, in 34 countries, talking with their customers in 24 languages. Megaphone is a member of INSP (International Network of Street Papers), and every year in February, INSP members worldwide mark International Vendor Week, a celebration of the work street paper vendors do.
This #VendorWeek, running Feb. 5-11, we've been sharing special articles about INSP and our network of vendors around the world. And at Megaphone’s Vancouver Big Sell, local celebrities, business leaders, influencers, and politicians spent an hour as Guest Vendors, selling Megaphone Magazine alongside our homeless and low-income vendors to support them and raise the profile of poverty and homelessness in our communities.
I love two things about the Big Sell. One is its role as the great leveler. I’ve seen the most confident public personality flounder on the street corner. It can be a humbling experience for people—a reminder of how small you can feel when someone passes you by, even if you have everything else going for you.
The next thing is the solidarity we see from our Guest Vendors. These are people who have a lot going on—they’ve got demands on their time, there are a million other things they could be doing aside from getting humbled on a busy street.
But they take time to stand next to our vendors, to support their work, and to show their support in a really tangible way.
When things are hard, it helps to be reminded you’re not alone. And none of us in the Megaphone community are alone: customers supporting vendors, vendors offering encouragement to each other, guest vendors who stand in solidarity, and INSP worldwide, a global network of people building toward a world without poverty and homelessness.
Every vendor at Megaphone is part of something bigger. Every customer, too.
You’re one piece of a movement that stretches beyond Victoria and Vancouver, to Seattle, Chicago, Sydney, Munich, Tokyo, and beyond. Thank you for being part of the Megaphone community.
Jessica Hannon is Megaphone’s executive director.
Since you're already here: We’re working hard to create more low-barrier work opportunities while we build support to end poverty. The best way to help uscreate lasting change is by purchasing Megaphone Magazine every month from a vendor. Buying a magazine each month helps that individual vendor make ends meet, and it helps us build community power to make big-picture social change.