Last winter, Tony Jeffers flew to Cambodia. He knew there was a big demand for English teachers there. He figured he could find work. The only hitch was that he was on a blacklist in the Philippines. Because Cambodia, along with the Philippines, is a member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he worried that Cambodia might honor the Philippines’ blacklist.
Tony had gone to the Philippines in the first place to marry his fiancée, whom he’d met online. He had to leave her behind when he couldn’t find work there. She is unable leave the Philippines because of some legal and financial problems. Tony thought it might be easier for her to get to Cambodia than to the United States. That was another plus to the Cambodia plan.
To make sure he could get into Cambodia, Tony paid for an expedited visa to enter the country, rather than getting an ordinary visa when he arrived in Phnom Penh.
“When I arrived at the airport, there was a long line. The instructions for the pre-approved visa said there’d be a separate line.” He asked a guy who looked like a security guard, who said, “‘Are you alone? Well, come on.’ We got down there and they took my picture and I thought, ‘Wow, they’re giving me special processing.’ Then the leader announces, ‘We do not welcome you! We have our reasons.’”
Tony didn’t have a return ticket. So he had to pay a lot of money to go back. “I definitely recommend if you go abroad, always have a ticket. And they wouldn’t let me choose a different U.S. destination.” He got to Seattle on a sunny January day. “I got a ticket for Mexico right away. I had given away all my warm clothing and my mat at the shelter.”
Now he’s back in Seattle again, “doing my Real Change selling, trying to stay in contact with my wife, sending her money. That’s where most of my money goes: savings or sending to her so she can live.”
Tony’s degree is in graphic arts and design. “I’ve tried to get into an art career, but it hasn’t had much success.” He sold a drawing on Etsy, but doesn’t have time to do the necessary marketing. “I only have 90 minutes on the computer per library day; I don’t have my own computer.”
Tony worries about how he might appear to potential customers. “People look at me, and then they go on.” He wonders if they think something like, “‘If I go near him, what’s he going to do? He’s going to want money; he’s going to want to get all my information so that I can get solicited for donations.’ I don’t do that. If they ask about the paper, I tell them a little about the paper. I don’t try to keep them from leaving.” Still, he’s grateful Real Change is there. “Immediate income. You’ve got a profit on your first paper.”
Tony is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. Check out previous Vendor Profiles.
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