Let me start with some history of my parents: my father’s Chinese, born in Russia; my mum’s Russian, born in China. And they met over here, and they had me. I am their only child, but on my mum’s side, I’ve got a sister, and on my dad’s side, I’ve got two brothers.

When my parents were together, there was always fighting. Growing up, my dad had a successful business – and a gambling problem. They separated when I was around seven. I lived with my mum, and my dad had custody of me over the weekend, like once a fortnight.

School was traumatic. I was very introverted, I kept to myself. I had zero friends at school – just some bullies that would pick on me. Growing up, through primary school to Year 8, I went to school about 30 per cent of the time. I would just wag school and play arcade games by a local deli. But from Year 9 to Year 10, I moved in with my sister – she was 17 when I was born. I went to school every single day and got an award for attendance. Then in Years 11 and 12, I moved in with my father, in a granny flat at the back of his house. I passed Year 12, just narrowly.

After school, I started taking it easy. I had to get some sort of income, so that’s when I first started working for The Big Issue, back around 2002. I was studying on and off, and pretty much playing video games and enjoying my hobbies. I like Street Fighter, Need for Speed and Tekken. I also quite enjoy playing Community Street Soccer. I love being goalkeeper, and try to be the best goalkeeper I can be. I recently got an award, a plaque, for being most fairest and best.

A year after graduating high school, I moved in with a friend for a little bit and then I moved back in with my mum. I looked after my mum until she had to go to a nursing home – then I got granted her Housing Trust home. My dad died in 2008.

About three years ago, I decided to do The Big Issue again. It gets you out of your comfort zone – I like the sense of confidence you build up, talking to the public. Often people call me by my first name. It feels great, like it makes me feel important. And I like that little satisfaction when you sell a magazine.

At the moment, I’m saving up for an e-scooter so I can get around easier. I have language courses that are paid for with Big Issue income. I’m currently studying several languages in class, to get better at them: I speak Mandarin and Russian, as well as Vietnamese. I have peer support workers I see regularly. I own my own Housing Trust. There’s lots of positive things happening in my life.

It might sound corny, but I really want to bring world peace to this place. I understand that I can’t change the world, but I can definitely change the world for one person at a time. I don’t get into deep conversations with every customer, but I’m always positive and they’re always delighted to see me and see my happy, chirpy self.

Simon sells The Big Issue at Semaphore IGA, The Parade, Hindmarsh Square and Adelaide Arcade, Adelaide

Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by Ben Liew

Published in ed#711