Our Charity of the Month is WESC Foundation, an organisation whose mission is to transform the lives of those affected by visual impairment through sharing knowledge, expertise and technologies. By providing a specialist centre for education, training and expertise, WESC helps those with various and complex needs in a variety of ways.
InExeter paid a visit to their colourful Sidwell Street shop, one of five that they have in Devon, and chatted to shop volunteer – and WESC Radio DJ – Tom West. Having been involved with WESC since 1998, attending the school, college, now living in their support accommodation and volunteering in the shop, the Foundation has had a big impact on Tom’s life. “The charity makes a real effort to teach young people with visual impairment independence to lead the best quality of life that they can,” says Tom. “We get mobility training – for example, learning new routes, learning to catch the bus – and I love doing it.”
“We spent the whole afternoon listening to records for a couple of days before putting it out for sale!”
You’ll find a variety of items in their city centre shop, as well as a friendly welcome from Tom and manager Jenny. “I work three days a week in the shop, sometimes extra, because I can and because I love it. I have such a laugh and I like to be out and about.” Many of WESC’s shop volunteers are current students at the Foundation, giving them the chance to learn valuable life skills and meet new people. “These shops might be a business but they’re also an opportunity for our young students to get work experience,” says Tom.
Along with the usual clothes and homewares, the shop has received some unique and interesting donations over the years. “One of my most favourite things that I sold was a really old fashioned gramophone player with records. It was absolutely brilliant and had an amazing sound. We spent the whole afternoon listening to records for a couple of days before putting it out for sale! I didn’t want to let it go.” A big music fan, Tom presents a radio show twice a week on WESC’s radio station VI Radio, a fantastic facility that allows the majority of the live shows to be run independently by the students.
As well as supporting WESC through shopping in their stores, you can also check out their eBay shop and give them a follow on Facebook to keep an eye on items being shared on their marketplace. To find out more about WESC, visit www.wescfoundation.ac.uk/.
WESC Foundation, 146 Sidwell St, Exeter EX4 6RT