What is Post Pals?
Post Pals is a charity which invites members of the public to send cards, letters or little gifts, to seriously ill children and their siblings to make them smile and feel less isolated. Post Pals sends cheerful post throughout the year too and arranges the occasional day out or wish grant known as “Extra Smiles” as well as hosting an annual party for all Post Pal families and supporters.
How can I help?
There are lots of ways to help which are detailed on our website but most new volunteers follow the “3 easy steps”
1) Click on ‘Find Pals’, select a child and read their page
2) Send a cheerful card, letter, email, or little gift to the child via address on their page
3) Sit back and know that a child’s day will be brightened because of YOU
What should I say/send and avoid saying/sending?
We have a guide to help you write to the children, you can read it here.
Where do I send post to?
Each family has their own forwarding address which can be found on that families page. Please don’t send post for the families to our PO BOX as we have to pay the postage again to forward it on. We do not give out home addresses.
What is a Pal and why include siblings?
We use the term “Pals” to refer to the seriously ill children and teenagers we help. We believe it is very important to include siblings as they can often feel very left out as their ill sibling gets more attention, and can also in some cases be separated from their Mum or Dad for a long period of time if their sibling is in hospital a long way from home. We want siblings to feel they are just as important as the Pal. You can read one Post Pal families account of how your post supports not only their ill son but also his distressed brother and sister here.
Can I donate and what do you use donations for?
Please see our donate page for information on how to donate. We use donations to send cheerful post to the children ourselves (last month we spent £2000 on lovely gifts that had 75% off the original price), provide days out, buy stamps, and provide the Pals with treats. Some of the things we have recently used donations for are paint your own tea sets, helium balloons in a box, sleep over kits, two Christmas hampers for families spending Christmas in hospital, a bar of chocolate for a Mum isolated in hospital with her child, pillowcases with art work designed for each child individually, stickers, stationary sets, Lush gift sets, cuddly toys, craft packs, the Dottie project, regular cards and activities, games that can be played in bed and so much more! We are also grateful for donations of stamps, toys, cards, tickets, experiences and gifts either from individuals or from businesses.
Who is Post Pals run by, is it office based and do they get paid?
Post Pals is run solely by volunteers. The 2 main people involved in the day to day running of Post Pals have health problems which means Post Pals is run from beds, either ones at home or in hospital. For this reason emails take a lot longer for us to respond to than if we were well. We are all volunteers, no one is paid, so your donations go straight into making the children smile.
What is the qualifying criteria to become a Pal and how do I nominate a child?
The criteria for becoming a Pal is:
Living in the United Kingdom
Aged between 3 and 17
Has: a life-threatening or terminal condition, or has frequent long hospital admissions, or suffering severe burns/major injuries
Has a developmental age of 3 or over and can understand letters/post
Not a member of another post sending charity, eg. Share a Star, AYME Buddy Scheme
If you have any questions, are unsure as to whether a child qualifies, or if you would like application forms, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We ask that forms are returned to us with a medical letter confirming diagnosis. After the forms and the medical letter has been returned applications will be assessed on an individual basis by the Post Pals Paediatrician and placed into 3 categories:
Category 1 – Terminally ill children expected to live less than 6 months, undergoing intensive chemotherapy, on the transplant list, having a BMT, more than 4 PICU admissions in the past year or on ECMO/Berlin heart etc. These children will be given a place as soon as possible regardless of how many children are waiting to join.
Category 2 – Long-term conditions e.g. Cystic Fibrosis (unless on the transplant list), long-term maintenance treatment for ALL, intestinal failure, genetic conditions etc. These children will join a waiting list and will receive a place when one becomes available.
Category 3 – Short-term support. This is for children who have periods of time when they are able to attend school and have a good quality of life in between surgeries or relapses. We will support the child during the surgery/recovery period/relapse and move them on afterwards until they next need support. We define surgery needing support for those who will be in hospital for 4 weeks + or off school for 8 weeks +
We also have a small amount of places for children who have recently suffered severe burns (including conditions like Stevens–Johnson syndrome/Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis and severe Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome) or recently experienced life changing injuries.
What happens when a child dies?
Sadly some of the children we support pass away. When this happens we move them onto the memorial page, make a post about it on their page and also on our news page. If the child has siblings then we ask that people carry on sending post to them, until their family feel it’s time to move on and then we remove the address from the child’s page. You can still send an email to any memorial child’s family to let them know you have been touched by their childs life. When writing to a child who has lost a brother or sister just keep conversation upbeat and talk to them like you would any other child.
Am I too young or old to write, do I have to live in the UK?
Anyone of any age can write – you don’t even have to be human! One of our most popular writers is a cuddly toy called Dottie! Our youngest volunteer was a toddler who drew pictures to go on a child’s hospital wall and our oldest was 106 (they knitted some finger puppets for the Pals)! The children also love hearing from people in other countries.
Is Post Pals safe?
We take child protection very seriously and did a lot of research in our early days, even liaising with a child protection specialist. We have a full child protection policy but the most important part is that we do NOT give out home addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, surnames, school or nursery names. Emails and post is screened before being given to a child. All volunteers who do have access to the children’s details have had an enhanced CRB check.
Are there any restrictions on what I can send to an immune suppressed Pal?
Generally the rule on hospital wards is no plants or flowers, as they can release spores in the water into the air. When a child is having a bone marrow transplant, envelopes and parcels have to be opened outside the Pals room and the contents taken in (because of the possible risk of germs on the parcel/envelope) and all items have to be wiped daily with alcohol wipes, so any pictures or such items should be laminated if possible or they can be displayed in clip frames. Cuddly toys have to be brand new (because of infection risk), clothing or quilts have to be pre washed, tumble dried and then sealed in polythene bags to avoid infection. Patients are also not allowed food and drink from outside until their new immune system returns – they are on a “clean diet” prepared in a special kitchen. Some great gifts include DVDs, audio books/music, soft new blanket, decorations that can be wiped and things to keep families entertained whilst confined to one room. We put a message on a Pals page when infection control is needed and remove it when the restrictions have been lifted.
Can I ask family, friends and online contacts to write to a child?
Please tell anyone and everyone you know about Post Pals, we rely on people hearing about us and sending post to Pals. However please only send links to people and not the child’s details, this is very important as we need to control how the information is used i.e. an email or Facebook message can be passed around years after a child has got better or passed away. You can read about Craig Shergold, a boy who had a brain tumour in the 80’s and still receives thousands of cards a year due to messages being passed around. Most of our volunteers have found us through people posting on forums and blogs, it only takes a couple of minutes to spread the word about Post Pals and can make a big difference.
Do you accept unused stamps for fundraising?
Post Pals collects all used postage stamps including common, special and international stamps which we use to raise funds for Post Pals. For details please see here