Vendor of the Week
Vendor of the Week: Yemane Berhe
Yemane Berhe is soft-spoken and kind. He talks comfortably with others, but doesn’t demand their attention. He is loyal to his customers and committed to his job. Even though he only started selling Real Change in December, he now sells more than 300 papers each month and has claimed a regular selling location.
But selling Real Change was not exactly what Yemane had in mind when he came to Seattle one year ago.
Born and raised in Eritrea, he left his home in the 1980s to move west to the neighboring country of Sudan. After five years there, he found his way to the United States, where he settled in and found his place in Washington, D.C. Work at a chicken factory gradually brought him further west once again, from D.C. to West Virginia to Alabama.
Finally, a friend offered him a job with his company in Seattle. With the promise of better work, Yemane packed his things and boarded a bus toward Washington. Upon arrival—and after a five-day ride from Alabama—he learned his friend had lost his position with the company, and no job for his friend meant no job for Yemane.
No, Real Change was not the job for which Yemane had taken a bus cross-country. He soon realized that for the time being, it was his only option.
“The first two months were very hard,” he remembers. “I don’t talk a lot and I’d never done this before. I didn’t have customers to buy from me, but it got better.”
One night, targeted as someone who might have cash from his paper sales, Yemane was beaten and robbed by two men. He was discouraged by the attack and by slow sales, he said, but he vowed never to give up.
Like many Americans hit hard by the poor job market, Yemane is now devoted to searching and applying for work. Real Change has given him enough money for the day-to-day essentials, and the rest goes into savings for his own apartment someday soon.
“I’m OK for now. It’s not hard,” he says. “All my customers—I appreciate them so much. They talk to me nicely and buy my papers. They always support me when I’m out here.”
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