CLAPA Turns 40

May 31, 2019

June 2019 marks CLAPA’s 40th birthday.

In 1979, CLAPA was set up as a way for families and health professionals to work together to support people affected by cleft all over the UK, and fight for better care.

A meeting room was booked in Great Ormond Street Hospital and invites sent out in the hopes that just a few friendly faces would put themselves forward to help. On the day itself, over 300 parents, patients and cleft health professionals came together to voice their support for what would one day become one of the largest cleft support charities in the world.


CLAPA News from 1988 to 2018

CLAPA has come a long way since that inaugural meeting, but we’ve remained committed to our founding principles of partnership, peer support and community.

Most importantly, we’ve never forgotten that our work is only possible thanks to the dedication of our incredible volunteers.

June 1-7th is also National Volunteers Week, and we want to take this chance to say a huge THANK YOU to every one of our volunteers, past and present.

During June we’ll be publishing a series of interviews with people from CLAPA’s history who have had a major role in shaping the charity as we know it today. This week, we’ll be starting with some of our existing volunteers to get their view on how things have changed and what their hopes are for the future of CLAPA.

How have Volunteers Shaped CLAPA?

Until 1995, CLAPA had no staff at all and relied entirely on volunteers. Our feeding service which now sends out over 16,000 items each year from our small London office was started in 1986 by a volunteer, Jan Robertson, packing up bottles in her garage.

Our first leaflets providing vital support and information to parents around the UK were produced by volunteers in 1980. Newsletters were researched, compiled, lovingly typewritten and sent out far and wide by volunteers.

Our logo, the CLAPA smiley face, has had a few haircuts over the past 4 decades, but has otherwise stayed recognisable. We’ve been told it was sketched out in an early meeting by another volunteer, though we haven’t yet been able to track down who this was. If you know, please get in touch!

In our very first meeting in 1979, there was an overwhelming call for a counselling service to be set up and made available to patients and parents affected by cleft. Today, trained volunteers use their own experiences to give one-to-one support to anyone who needs it through our award-winning Peer & Parent Support Service.

Since our founding, volunteers have been keen to set up local groups to support others in their community. There are now a number of volunteer-run CLAPA groups all around the UK putting on regular events like Christmas parties, summer picnics, and other regular meet-ups to ensure no one has to go through their cleft journey alone. Thanks to their hard work, the CLAPA community is a thriving hub of support from diagnosis right through to adulthood.

Volunteers have also always been essential when it comes to CLAPA’s direction as a charity. As well as our consultation groups like the CYPC and ARC, our Board of Trustees is made up of volunteer health professionals, parents and patients dedicated to keeping CLAPA on the right path.


CLAPA Staff and Volunteers move into Green Man Tower in Angel Islington in 2004

We’ll be publishing interviews and case studies from volunteers throughout CLAPA’s history this month to show how they’ve shaped our work. We hope you enjoy walking down memory lane with us as we look back on the last 40 years, and that you’re as excited as we are about what the future holds for cleft support in the UK.

Oliver’s Story

Now 28 years old, Oliver finds being born with a cleft easy to talk about.

“As I’m a CLAPA Trustee it still comes up a lot in conversation. People ask me how I got involved and what my interest in CLAPA is. My friends have seen me go for varies surgeries and treatments over the past ten years, so they’re aware of it too[…]

Read more


Return to CLAPA’s 40th birthday hub

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