By William Ramsey

Dmitry Leus, of the Leus Family Foundation, is working hard to combat the aftermath of the lockdown.

As the UK’s impressive vaccination rate continues and the roadmap towards the country opening up again is visible, if not entirely fixed, the aftermath of this locked down year is already on the mind of Dmitry Leus.

The London-based entrepreneur and former European fencing champion heads the Leus Family Foundation, which was recently awarded official charitable status by the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and the welfare of young people and their families is at the heart of the foundation’s mission.

The Leus Family Foundation was founded long before COVID-19 hit and the focus has always been on young people. But the intense impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of young people has added urgency to the Foundation’s work.

Experts have made very clear the impact of the pandemic on the young. Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, recently told The Times that although children may not have fallen ill in large numbers from Coronavirus, they have “paid a huge price for the measures we’ve had to take to contain it”.

In the same Times report, Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of Sage, warned of the potentially catastrophic “collateral damage” to children.

“There’s a real question about how much of that is a wound that heals and how much of it will lead to long-term scarring,” he explained.

“We can talk about what we think the loss of education will do; we can say what we think the harms are around mental health. But it’s also the more subtle stuff. Have we shifted a whole generation towards anxiety and being more risk-averse? Have we shifted a whole generation away from physical contact, and all the things that come with human contact that bring benefits to us? Those are all the things we don’t know.”

The toll that the pandemic has taken on the younger generation is worrying to Dmitry Leus.

He said: “This has been a tough year for everyone. But I think our young people might be the ones suffering the longest lasting impact of this unusual year. They are still developing and their characters are still forming.

What we know for sure is that we have babies who were born into a lockdown situation, toddlers who have never seen anyone outside their home without a mask, teens who have had their wings clipped just as they should be socialising independently and university students listening to lectures on Zoom in their childhood bedrooms. 

We do not yet know the full impact that this isolated year will have had on them. We will still be trying to understand that in years to come. What we do know is that this generation will need our support.”

The practical challenges that the young generation faces are a priority for him: “Imagine being 18-years-old right now. Or 21. Finishing school or university. It must feel a little bleak. How has this crazy year affected your university chances? Will you be able to get a job when you graduate, given the post-pandemic economic difficulties we are likely to endure for years to come?”

However, it seems his approach is one of solutions and finding answers: “Our Foundation’s response to this problem will be to continue to target where we see the most need. Our sporting programme, helping disadvantaged children in South London to experience fencing and all the confidence-building and discipline that sporting life can deliver is one example. This is the kind of area where we can give the young a real boost.

“We know that the pandemic conditions have been extra tough for families with children with chronic illness, so supporting causes like St George’s Hospital Charity will remain a priority.”

At the height of the pandemic, the Leus Family Foundation responded to urgent appeals from charities for the Royal Free Hospital, Princess Royal University Hospital and St George’s Hospital to support doctors and nurses on the frontline through care packages, mental health provision and the creation of respite spaces for staff. It also donated to Runnymede Food Bank.

Founder of the Leus Family Foundation, Dimitry Leus FRSA, is also honorary president of Brixton Fencing Club Founder of the Leus Family Foundation, Dimitry Leus FRSA
Founder of the Leus Family Foundation, Dimitry Leus FRSA, is also honorary president of Brixton Fencing Club (Image: Leus Family Foundation)

Dmitry said: “Those collaborations will continue to be important for us, as sadly there will still be hungry families as we climb out of this pandemic situation and we want to help where we can, especially to improve the life opportunities for children.

“We know that we’re all in for some challenging times ahead. The most important thing we can do is to stay positive and always look for ways in which we can make a difference. For our Foundation, that means targeting young people and their families to ensure that we build for the future by creating better chances for the next generation”.

He concludes on a characteristically positive note: “We do know that resilience is one of the most important qualities that we can have in this modern world and I have no doubt that this young generation has been building their resilience throughout the pandemic.

“But they need a helping hand now and we owe it to them. Essentially, they sacrificed a lot to help protect the old and the vulnerable and now we need to repair any damage and help this young generation.”

Source: Kent Live News