CLAPA Companions

Creating penpal connections for young people born with a cleft

CLAPA Companions is a penpal scheme connecting young people in the UK, born with a cleft aged 6 – 17 through letters, emails, videos and audio messages.

The messages are sent through CLAPA to keep everyone safe and protect your identity and location.

We hope that taking part will help you to create new friendships, feel better about your cleft journey and boost your confidence, creativity and communication skills.

How it works

  1. Fill out a CLAPA Companions Registration Form
  2. CLAPA will match you up with a Penpal of similar age and interests
  3. Penpal A sends the first message to CLAPA. We’ll give you ideas and themes to help you get started, but it’s up to you what you include in your message.
  4. CLAPA checks the message for unsafe content and sends it to Penpal B
  5. Penpal B replies by sending their message back to CLAPA
  6. Communication between Penpals continues for 6 months or until each person has received 5 messages

Afterwards, we’ll ask you and your Penpal if you’d like to keep in touch with each other. If you both say yes, CLAPA will share the contact details you’ve agreed on with each other.

You can sign up for as many ’rounds’ of CLAPA Companions as you like!

You can also join in with other CLAPA events in the future, like Chat & Chill online events or Camp CLAPA weekends.

CLAPA Companions: Guide for Young People (PDF)

CLAPA Companions: Guide for Parents & Carers (PDF)

About Signing Up

We ask lots of different questions on our sign-up form to make sure we can match you up with someone who has a similar background and interests. Sometimes, it will take a little longer for us to make a match because we want to make sure that we find you someone suitable.

If you’re under 13 years old, we need to have permission from a parent or guardian to let you take part. 


How does CLAPA keep everyone safe?

To keep you and your Penpal safe, a CLAPA staff member or trained volunteer will check each message before it gets passed on. We have strict guidelines of what can and can’t be in your messages; this includes things like the name of your school or your full name. More information about this is available in the packs linked above.

If CLAPA’s moderators find content that isn’t allowed, we’ll remove this from the message before we pass it on, and we’ll let you and your parent or carer know.

Read more about safeguarding at CLAPA.

What happens if harmful content is found in a message?

If we think the content of a message is intended to harm or upset someone’s penpal, we won’t pass on the message and the sender won’t be able to take part in CLAPA Companions any longer. We might involve the CLAPA Safeguarding Team. We’ll then do our best to match up the other penpal with someone else.

What can I include in my message?

You can include whatever you like in your message as long as it’s within our guidelines. You could write about your favourite sport or TV show, where you went on holiday, what you like and don’t like about school, or anything else you want to share. There are more suggestions in our guide.

Just make sure you don’t share personal information like your full name, school name, address, social media details, or anything else not allowed based on our guidelines. This is to keep your identity and your location safe. You can read more about what is and isn’t allowed in our guide.

How do the messages get sent?

It’s easiest to send your messages over email. You can do this by scanning a letter, typing an email, or recording a video or audio message. If the file is too large to send over email, you can use a file transfer service like WeTransfer.

You can also send a letter through the post if you’d prefer.

Do I need my parent or carer’s permission to take part?

If you’re under 13, we need a parent or carer to sign the contact form to say they give their permission. If you’re 13 or older, you don’t need them to sign the form, but it’s still best if you get their permission before taking part.

We ask everyone who signs up to give the name and contact details of a parent or carer and another trusted adult. Your parent or carer will get a confirmation email when you sign up even if they haven’t signed the consent form.

If you say you want to keep in touch with your penpal after your round of CLAPA Companions is finished, we will need to get your parent or carer’s permission before sharing any contact details.

Can I do it more than once?

Absolutely, you can take part as many times as you like!

For more information about this and other young people’s services, please contact the CLAPA Companions team at [email protected]

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