Meet Kang Chiu-yen, Big Issue Taiwan vendor at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Taipei Bridge Station

Big Issue Taiwan

Big Issue Taiwan

Lin Yue-tung

  • News
Originally published:
The Big Issue Taiwan street paper

Navigating her electric wheelchair from Huashan 1914 Creative Park to the elevator at Zhongxiao Xinsheng Exit 2, through the crowded platform, she reaches the unobstructed first car. Transferring from the blue line to the red line, while waiting on Mass Rapid Transit, she proudly notes that the doors will soon open on the opposite side – she is familiar with several routes on the Taipei MRT.

Chiu-yen always greets people with a smile and shouts “thank you” when they buy a magazine. She is always seen with her electric wheelchair and a big bag of issues.

Due to congenital cerebral palsy and limited mobility, Chiu-yen has faced numerous challenges since childhood, including daily tasks such as using the bathroom and getting dressed. She has invested more time and effort than most in all aspects of life, big and small, to become the self-sufficient person she is today, able to go out and interact with others.

Even so, inaccessibility still made it difficult for her to find a job that was a good fit.

“If it weren't for The Big Issue, I might still be at home without a goal in life,” she says. After finishing secondary school, Chiu-yen stayed at home for over 10 years. It was not until a friend introduced her to work selling magazines that she regained her vital spark.

Her parents resisted the idea at first. They did not approve of her selling magazines on the streets as they were worried that she would be taken advantage of or put in danger. But she was determined to try it out.

Every day, she was out the door on time and steadily kept up her sales efforts. She managed to earn a small income, and gradually, she gained the acceptance and support of her family.

Chiu-yen lives in Tamsui, and every, day she takes the MRT from the Red Line Station to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Taipei Bridge Station.

If it happens to be a publication day, she stops first at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park for The Big Issue Taiwan’s alumni reunion. There, she chats with other sales staff, learns about the theme of the new issue, bundles the magazines, and then heads to her pitch.

As she arrives at Exit 2 of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Chiu-yen indicates the newly renovated Nanmen Market. Visiting daily, she has watched it reopen after being demolished and then rebuilt.

She dons her vest with a practiced hand and arranges the magazines across her chest. Passers-by come and go outside the station. Having sold magazines here for a decade, she has become a part of the scenery.

At Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Taipei Bridge, regular customers buy the magazine. But sometimes, due to bad weather or other circumstances, she cannot visit her pitch. She solved this problem by giving her LINE contact information to customers so that they can always reach out to find when she will be at a given location.

She found a message from a customer waiting for her on opening her phone. “It's been cold lately, so wear more clothes!” Like a friend, she smiled and simply replied, ‘OK’.

Sometimes, when friends visit Taipei from out of town and ask her to hang out, Chiu-yen has to refuse because of work. When she receives a bundle of magazines, she doesn’t take a break until she has sold out. Though her parents advise her to take the day off when it rains, she always goes out as soon as heavy rains subside.

When asked which months she sold out last year, she proudly reports a perfect record. She transformed some magazines, a vest and a hat into a career. With a fresh start and full of opportunity, Chiu-yen is able to work freely despite the challenges posed by her health and inaccessibility.

Translated from Chinese via Translators Without Borders

Courtesy of The Big Issue Taiwain /

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