Popular presenter and broadcaster Judi Spiers opened the latest new social enterprise charity shop for WESC Foundation in an official ribbon cutting ceremony at Sidwell Street, Exeter.
WESC Foundation (WESC), a school and college for children, young people and adults with sight loss is a specialist centre for Visual Impairment. The charity’s aim is to provide education and care for young people and adults with visual impairment, including complex needs, in their transition through school, college and beyond.
The Sidwell Street shop is the fifth social enterprise for the charity following the success of the other charity retail outlets in Heavitree, Honiton, Sidmouth and Exmouth, run by professional retail manager/trainers and assisted by a team of volunteers. The WESC social enterprises are much more than the usual High Street charity shop – they provide an excellent retail environment to help visually impaired learners to build confidence and encourage independence, working in a real environment. The learners gain a range of social skills and learning opportunities, including meeting and greeting customers, learning practical and operational skills, such as working the till and the day-to-day running of a busy shop.
Following the official opening by Judi Spiers, c.50 VIP guests, including local councillors and dignitaries, joined WESC staff and learners for a drinks reception. A number of presentations were made where guests learnt more about the services provided by WESC and how, through their social enterprises, visually impaired learners are given the invaluable opportunity to gain work-based skills.
Since her appointment as the first Ambassador for WESC in spring 2015, Judi Spiers has been proactively involved in many fundraising events helping to raise the profile and much needed funds for this local worthy cause. She said: “It is an extraordinary charity which constantly looks for ways in which to improve the lives of youngsters with visual impairment and all their complex needs, and what is more it finds those ways, the WESC shops being one example.”
The pioneering charity developed and introduced the very first specialised touch-screen tills used at all their social enterprise outlets which are colour-coded with large block buttons and icons incorporating a braille adaption for learners. It is believed that WESC is the only retailer in the UK to have adapted their tills to work with braille overlay.
Andrew Roberts, Vocational Enterprise Manager for WESC, comments: “WESC has invested considerable resources to ensure that staff are appropriately trained to develop the skills of the young people with visual impairment in a real retail setting. 70% of the adult volunteers are either blind, visually impaired or have another disability, demonstrating our commitment to social investment. We are very excited about the new city-centre social enterprise opening which is the main unit located in central Exeter and accessible to all of our WESC learners regardless of disability. To meet the demand for learner placements, and to fund future WESC Social Enterprise projects, our mid to long-term plans are to open a further series of shops.”
For more information contact:
Sarah Ward – Manageress – WESC Foundation
146 Sidwell Street, Exeter, EX4 6RT