Cleft++ Mentoring Service aims to support young people born with a cleft in this new and exciting project.
This page explains how the project came about and what the name means to us. Content warning: death of a young person.
Will joined CLAPA when he was nine years old because he wanted to make friends, meet other young people like him, and help others born with a cleft.
Will was known for lighting up a room, his enthusiasm for CLAPA, his musical and IT talents, and his love of pizza!
Former members of the CYPC wanted to create a project in his memory to ensure young people felt supported in the challenges they may face on their cleft journey.
They identified gaps in CLAPA’s services for young people, especially for support with self-confidence, bullying, and mental health difficulties. This idea had been discussed for some time at CLAPA, and it seemed like a fitting project to launch in Will’s memory.
Will lit up a room and was a great advocate for change, being part of the CLAPA Young People’s Council for several years. As someone lucky enough to share this space with Will, I can’t imagine a better project than the proposed mentoring programme to be set up in his honour. – Danielle
Over the past year, Will’s peers and CYPC members have helped develop the Cleft++ project. Will was a very talented Web Developer; the name of the service came from computer coding language (C++) in a nod to Will’s career achievements.
Our young adults and council have been pivotal in planning, reviewing and setting up the resources needed for this work – CLAPA is very grateful for their contributions!
A specific programme dedicated to the support he cherished and campaigned so hard for is a great way to continue his legacy and ensure more young people like Will can get the support and community they need. – Lucy
Words from those who knew Will
Two of Will’s peers who helped with this project shared their thoughts on Cleft++ as a tribute to their late friend. Click to read their words.
“As an adult born with a cleft, I can testify to the importance of support for young people. I grew up with a friendly CLAPA voice at the end of the phone, a Christmas party to look forward to, or a newsletter through the door to keep me updated about what support was out there. Knowing they were there throughout my childhood and adolescence was a comfort, and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities because of them. Similarly, watching CLAPA grow over the past ten years has been incredible; the residential weekends, the young people’s council, the peer support networks, and the support package for adults are all invaluable and have changed lives. This new mentoring project, aiming to link young people with a cleft with trained mentors for tailored advice, guidance, and support with navigating growing up ‘different,’ is so needed and will fill a bit of a gap in the provision for young people. I certainly would have benefitted from it, and I know others will. Of course, spurring the project on even more is the unfortunate reality that we lost one of our friends, Will Helstrip, recently after a long battle with his mental health, contributed to by bullying and self-doubt as a child. Will lit up a room and was a great advocate for change, being part of the CLAPA Young People’s Council for several years. As someone lucky enough to share this space with Will, I can’t imagine a better project than the proposed mentoring programme to be set up in his honour.
I hope that young people growing up with and navigating life with a cleft, like Will and I were, can access the support and warmth that CLAPA exude personally with a trained mentor. Honestly, I have wondered what Will would think of all these people talking about him now that he’s gone.
I remember him, aged ten and ever-enthusiastic, sitting in a CLAPA meeting smiling and saying, “Great work, guys, what’s next?” Next, I think we get bigger and better at supporting young people like Will, and this mentoring programme is a fantastic step in that direction”.
“The support this programme will provide for young people affected by cleft will be immeasurable. It is hard to truly convey through words how important it is to share experiences and find comfort in the thought that these are not things that we young people go through alone. The friendship and community I have grown up with through CLAPA events and programmes have enabled me to excel as a young adult who is confident in who she is and her identity and appearance because of her cleft. It is not something I hide. Instead, it is something I advocate young people to talk about more, and I know this programme will be a direct and safe space that young people – whom I was once in the shoes of – will benefit from immensely in many ways. As I volunteer now, I watch these young people grow in confidence and positivity over just a short residential weekend or day-long activity session. The impact of this specific programme, when added to CLAPA’s brilliant portfolio of facilities and opportunities for young people, will expand on these already visible benefits.
Our dear friend, Will, realised these benefits as he found peace, friendship, and community CLAPA provided through such opportunities. A specific programme dedicated to the support he cherished and campaigned so hard for is a great way to continue his legacy and ensure more young people like Will can get the support and community they need.”
For more information about this and other young people’s services, please contact Children and Young People’s Coordinator Claire Evans at [email protected].