MP officially opens Sidmouth’s new WESC social enterprise

MP Hugo Swire was joined by councillors, staff and representatives to officially open the new WESC c

MP Hugo Swire was joined by councillors, staff and representatives to officially open the new WESC charity shop on the High Street this week. Ref shs 0060-12-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A social enterprise that offers visually impaired people real opportunities has been hailed as ‘more than just another charity shop’ in the town.

The WESC Foundation shop was officially opened last Friday by East Devon MP Hugo Swire, who is one of the foundation’s vice presidents.

The High Street store raises money and awareness for WESC – an Exeter-based school for blind and visually impaired young people – but its main role is giving its students hands-on experience and training.

Their aim is that people enter as customers and leave as supporters.

The school’s principal, Tracy de Bernhardt Dunkin, said: “It’s always an exciting time for us when we open a new social enterprise.

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“For all our young people, what we want is the chance for them to develop social and interpersonal skills.

“The shop is a real environment where they can meet members of the public and develop the skills they will need for the rest of their lives – plus they make us money as well.”

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Andy Roberts, WESC’s vocational services manager, said the foundation’s motto is ‘learning to work’, but its role goes much further.

It helps improve the students’ self-confidence and communication skills, their independent mobility and ability to work as part of a team – aiding their transition from the school to employment.

WESC was the first school to offer its own work experience with social enterprises and has continued to innovate.

Andy said: “We want to welcome people as customers and have them leave as supporters.”

Mr Swire said: “I try and get as fully involved as I can to help raise the profile of this very worthy charity and I am delighted, therefore, to officially open the Sidmouth outlet.

“The social enterprises are so much more than just yet another charity shop; they provide an excellent retail environment to help visually impaired learners to build confidence and encourage independence.”

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