The grant will make a huge difference as local people continue to struggle
The Leus Family Foundation has made another grant to the Runnymede Foodbank to assist with the current increased need, with rising fuel, heating and food bills adding to the difficulty local families living in poverty are facing.
The manager of Runnymede Foodbank, Jenny Wardill, welcomed the recent donation: “We warmly welcome this additional support from the Leus Family Foundation. We are seeing a rise both in the volume of people needing our services and also the length of time that they need help for. We expect a challenging winter and so this assistance from Dmitry Leus and his foundation is greatly appreciated.”
The foodbank has noted higher demand across its six sites which operate five days a week, with the warehouse teams delivering and dispatching three to four times per week.
The organisation has also seen that clients are becoming more long term, sometimes needing to visit the foodbank for up to 12 weeks. There are fears that this is a sign of families and individuals falling into deeper poverty, with longer term needs.
The Runnybank Foodbank has also been very active in helping families through the school holidays to ensure that children most in need have access to food.
At the beginning of July, 400 food4lunch bags were sent out to families of children who use free school meals. The bags contained ingredients and recipes to supply them with two weeks’ worth of hot meals for the child. This school holiday preparation cuts down the demand slightly but then picks up again towards the end of August and the month of September.
During the summer, there are around 70-100 visitors, who are visiting to feed families of four or five. Numbers then rise to 200 or 300. Visitors double towards the end of the summer compared to the start. The Chertsey site is open for two hours and it was getting 10-15 clients. Now it is seeing 20-30 clients for families of varying sizes.
In addition, the foodbank has employed an advisor from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), a valuable resource to support and advise clients with the aim of improving their situation.
Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “We are long term supporters of the Runnymede Foodbank and we see how crucial their work is. Our Foundation aims to provide opportunity to the most vulnerable children and of course that starts with the most basic requirement – that they not face hunger. We also want to help alleviate the enormous stress on parents if they are not able to put food on the table for their family.
“I do encourage anyone else who is able to donate to think of Runnymede and make a contribution if they can, especially as we look towards a difficult winter for many.”
From foodbanks to youth clubs, organisations across Britain are getting a boost from a body with just one mission: to make a positive change in children’s lives
The hopes and dreams of future generations have never seemed more relevant.
With the cost of living rising, and families across the country feeling the crunch, it is especially vital that children of all backgrounds are given the opportunity to help shape the future. And that’s the principle at the heart of the Leus Family Foundation.
Founded in 2018, the organisation supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young people throughout the UK, helping in settings including hospitals, charities, foodbanks and youth clubs.
“As a society we should be investing in every child. Every child deserves opportunity and to feel valued. If we invest in children, we are investing in all of our futures,” says founder Dmitry Leus. “We know that some children – whether they are born into poverty, have special needs or suffer an illness – need an extra boost in order to fulfil their potential. That is our mission at the foundation: to make a positive impact on their lives and to give them a sense of possibility.”
Take the Bright Lights Youth Club in Surrey, for instance, which caters for children aged five to thirteen who have special needs in the boroughs of Runnymede and Spelthorne. The children here live with moderate-to-severe learning difficulties, autism, Asperger’s and Down’s, with some requiring one-to-one care. Children come to the club every Thursday evening for two hours during term time.
Now, funding from the Leus Family Foundation means that they enjoy additional toys and facilities, including sensory light equipment, special chairs, mats, computers and books. And thanks to the foundation, Bright Lights has been able to stay open during the summer holidays for the first time, and the children have been swimming at nearby Heron Lake and have visited the local Jump Giants trampoline centre.
“It is especially meaningful for us to be able to provide these outings, knowing how much pleasure the children will get from these fun experiences,” adds Leus, who has four sons of his own. “We shouldn’t underestimate children’s need for fun and play and the healing effects it can have.”
This philosophy undoubtedly has its roots in the founder’s own childhood in Turkmenistan. Back then, there were only two reliable escape routes for children seeking more than their meagre birthright – science or sport.
“Turkmenistan was incredibly poor,” he says. “The shops were usually empty, so bread and margarine were our staples, and on a lucky day, canned meat. There was no hot running water, only cold, switched on for 90 minutes a day.”
It wasn’t only money that was tight – hope and aspiration were in short supply too. But encouraged by a local fencing coach, young Dmitry picked up a foil and discovered a natural ability.
Fencing transformed my life, I love to see the same positive impact taking place with children
“I trained hard, striving to be the best,” Leus says. “I was motivated, I wanted to get on and, while I did spend time hanging around the streets as a teenager, it was significantly less than kids without a focus like fencing.”
By the time he became European Fencing Champion at the age of 17, his training had shown him how important it is for young people to have the tools and opportunities to improve their lives and learning.
It’s an ethos he’s also now sharing with disadvantaged kids in Brixton, south-east London. As patron and honorary president of Brixton Fencing Club, the foundation funds free lessons and equipment for children from low-income families and organises tournaments. The Imperium Sessions are designed to encourage participation by children from backgrounds who might not otherwise have access to a sport like fencing.
“There is a future Olympic champion in Brixton,” Leus says confidently. “Sport can play a transformative role in a person’s life. It is not only about excelling at the sport itself. For our foundation to help in any small way to get kids exercising, building confidence and learning the skills and discipline that we gain from sport – for me that is incredibly meaningful. Fencing transformed my own life as a child and I love to see the same impact taking place with children in London.”
It’s attitudes like these that inspired the gift of a minibus to the Harrow Club in west London, which offers sports, drama and dance to more than 500 children, refugees and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some 80 per cent of the participants are eligible for free school meals, 90 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20 per cent have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues. And from September, the club will be providing free fencing lessons, with the Leus Family Foundation donating equipment and funding a professional coach. The bus will be vital in getting children to and from classes.
The common theme throughout all of the foundation’s work is that each child deserves the best start that society can give them.
“A child does not get to choose their circumstances,” Leus says. “And when they suffer illness or poverty or disability, we all have a responsibility to boost their opportunities.”
With altruism fired by empathy and experience, that’s a responsibility Leus has woven into the very backbone of the Leus Family Foundation.
The Harrow Club, which provides youth clubs and other support for disadvantaged children and young people in London, has announced that they will be providing fencing lessons from September, with the help of the Leus Family Foundation, a charitable organisation founded by businessman Dmitry Leus.
Fencing has been added to the activities offered by the Harrow Club and the lessons will be available for children aged 8-18. The Leus Family Foundation has supported the initiative by donating the necessary equipment and helping to find and fund a professional coach. The lessons will begin on Friday 9th September, from 4-9pm.
This gives the children of all ages a chance to try the classes, as the youth club for the Juniors is from 3.30-6pm, and the older children (13 onwards) is from 6-9pm. The coach will run four sessions during this time, with the children learning the basic skills, positions, footwork and target practice. If enough children are confirmed and would like to continue, the Harrow Club, with the support of the Leus Family Foundation, will look to setting the lessons across two days a week for different age groups. After three weeks of basic training they will progress to lessons with the equipment.
Michael Defoe, CEO of The Harrow Club, spoke about what the impact of the new fencing lessons will be: “The Harrow Club is thrilled to further diversify the opportunities we provide for children to develop and learn new skills. We are hoping many young people will sign up to learn fencing. It’s a great sport in itself, as well as being ideal for building the wider life skills of confidence, mental focus and resilience.”
Dmitry Leus, the founder of the Leus Foundation and a former European Fencing Champion, explained the significance of this new initiative: “The impact that fencing can have on a child is immense. They not only learn a great sport. They also learn strategic thinking. They find a very constructive way to channel any aggression and they enter a new community full of new role models and opportunity.
“All children should be able to access this sport as it offers so much and we are so pleased we can build access to this sport for the most disadvantaged children in West London.”
The Harrow Club has been working with the local community since 1883. Their aim is to address needs amongst young people related to disadvantage and poverty. The Club’s activities range from sports clubs to drama and dance. Their network of clubs includes Harrow, Chelsea, Old Oak, Sands End, White City and Lancaster Road and welcomes children and young people between the ages of 8 and 21 years old, of whom 80 percent are eligible for free school meals, 90 percent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20 percent have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.
With this letter I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Leus Family Foundation and personally to Mr Dmitry Leus.
Our family lived an absolutely normal happy life, until on February 24th, Russia treacherously attacked our country at night. It was at 5am that one of the first Russian missiles flew past the open window of our house near Kyiv, changing our lives forever. Even though we didn’t realize it at the time.
Air raids, constant rocket attacks, hours in basements and shelters. In between these attempts to lead a normal life – work and go to school.
I’m not afraid for myself, I’m afraid for my children. In addition to the real danger for life and health, there has come the realization that the future education and development for children is becoming very difficult, if not impossible. The situation worsened every day. We decided to turn to Dmitry Leus for help.
A month later, my son and I were in England. We were met, placed in comfortable accommodation, provided with everything necessary, and most importantly, support and understanding that we still have a chance for a normal life. And for our children, hope for the future – study, sports, new friends.
I know that the Leus Family Foundation helps many children and families, and my gratitude is immeasurable and sincere.
Thank you for helping me and my son escape from the hell that is happening now in my country. Thank you for the opportunity to return to normal life, to teach our children and to give them a chance for the future. In our country, this is now impossible.
The trip will enable 10 club members to participate in a range of outdoor adventure activities and experience another country and culture
In a few days, the UK will be celebrating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee with an extended bank holiday weekend.
And for 10 young people from West London, an even bigger treat is in store, as the Leus Family Foundation has provided funding for The Harrow Club to take some of its attendees for a fun-filled trip to Cyprus.
The trip to Cyprus will take place in early June, with 10 youngsters and four Harrow Club staff members flying to Cyprus, to participate in a special programme that includes windsurfing, canoe lessons, snorkelling, a jeep safari and a visit to Ayia Napa Waterworld water park.
All flights, meals and accommodation will be provided by the Leus Family Foundation.
The Harrow Club has been working with the local community since 1883, and aims to address needs amongst young people related to disadvantage and poverty. The club’s activities range from sports clubs to drama and dance.
Its network of clubs includes Harrow, Chelsea, Old Oak, Sands End, White City and Lancaster Road, and welcomes children and young people between the ages of eight and 21 years old, of whom 80 per cent are eligible for free school meals, 90 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20 per cent have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.
The Leus Family Foundation has previously supported The Harrow Club with the donation of a minibus and is also working to bring fencing lessons to the club.
Speaking about the Cyprus trip, Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “We are so pleased to be able to assist The Harrow Club in offering this adventure trip to these 10 terrific young people.
“It is part of our foundation’s current strategy to do all we can to provide opportunity to the most vulnerable children who have suffered more than most during the pandemic.
“The purpose of this trip is for these young people to experience a different country, some of them for the first time, and especially be exposed to outdoor and sporting activities they might not otherwise get to try. And honestly, we also really want them to have some fun!”
Michael Defoe, CEO of The Harrow Club, spoke about what the impact of the Cyprus trip will be for the young people attending: “We are grateful to the Leus Family Foundation for their support in making this trip happen.
“This will be a very important experience for our young people, from the minute they board the plane, to having the opportunity to experience water-based sporting activities, as well as the chance to see another country and culture.
“For the majority of the group, this will be the first time they have left the UK.”
Dmitry Leus, the founder of the Leus Family Foundation, discusses his charitable foundation’s post-pandemic priorities in supporting the most vulnerable children
As the UK moves into a different phase of the pandemic, one charity is reflecting on its priorities as it continues its work to support the most vulnerable children. The Leus Family Foundation has identified recovery for children from the strains and isolation of the pandemic as a key focus for its work in 2022 and beyond.
When the pandemic was at its worst, the Foundation’s priority was of course on those most urgent situations. For example, the Foundation donated to the Imperial Health Charity’s Covid-19 Relief Fund which supports the five hospitals that form part of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye. This donation was given to assist staff on the front lines, as well as patients and families affected by Covid-19.
A similar donation was made to the Royal Free London hospital charity.
The Foundation was also happy to step in and assist hospitals such as St George’s Hospital Charity when they needed adaptors for the iPads given to patients and palliative care nurses who had to isolate preventatively during the worst periods of the pandemic.
The Foundation’s emergency response was not limited to hospitals. It also chose to support the Runnymede Foodbank, to assist families whose situation had further deteriorated due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Plans for the coming year
Dmitry Leus explains that there is now a slight shift in priorities, he said: “In 2020 and even 2021, a lot of the grants we gave were essentially emergency response. Whether the provision of PPE or enough food for a family for three days, we focused on the most acute needs. That was absolutely the right thing to do at the time. At present, as we take a step back and see the toll the pandemic has taken on children, we see that there are now long term areas in which we need to assist young people.
“Whether through poverty, illness or special needs, the UK’s most vulnerable children were naturally the most at risk in terms of suffering a decrease in their quality of life during the pandemic. If you’re very poor, then a lack of in-person school or attendance at a youth club hits you much harder than if you are more privileged, as that school or youth club was playing an even more significant role for you. And these hardships occurred when these children are still growing up, when their brains are still developing and when they are in great need of opportunity and social interaction.”
Grants to assist recovery
It is for this reason that the Leus Family Foundation is prioritising grants that support work to assist children in their recovery from pandemic isolation.
One example is the support given to Bright Lights Youth Club. Bright Lights caters for children aged five to 13 who have special needs in the boroughs of Runnymede, Spelthorne and surrounding North West Surrey areas.
Lockdowns hit children with special needs and their families especially hard. Even without a pandemic, it can sometimes be more difficult for those with special needs and their families to access community facilities. Lockdown isolation was an especially lonely time for some young people with special needs and their families. That is why the Leus Family Foundation was so pleased to support Bright Lights with funding to stay open for the first time during the summer holidays, purchase new books, toys and equipment and perhaps the biggest highlight, a privatised visit to Jump Giants trampoline centre. Leus said: “It was like an antidote to lockdown to see them happily enjoying safe access to the trampolines. We shouldn’t underestimate children’s need for fun and play and the healing effects it can have after a period of time when life was more limited.”
There is a similar philosophy behind the Leus Family Foundation’s support for The Harrow Club in West London.
The Club’s activities range from sports clubs to drama and dance. The network of clubs welcomes children and young people between the ages of eight and 21 years old, of whom 80% are eligible for free school meals, 90% are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20% have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.
Leus explains that these are the children who have suffered deeply during the pandemic and are most in need of support after a prolonged deprivation of opportunity and social interaction when facilities were closed.
Leus commented: “We were so pleased to be able to provide them with a minibus and we are currently working to replicate our successful fencing lessons for state school children in Brixton at The Harrow Club. And our next project is to fly ten Harrow Club members and four staff to Cyprus around the Jubilee weekend for a special programme of water sports. The poorest children need opportunity, the chance to develop new skills, build resilience and really feel valued and gain confidence. We admire the Harrow Club’s approach and are proud to support them.”
Leus himself was born in Turkmenistan, the poorest country in the former Soviet Union. It’s clear that his childhood has been a strong influence on his charitable giving: “If a child is disadvantaged and we take the time to give them an opportunity and show them that we believe in them, this can have a powerfully positive impact on the course of their life. We have a whole generation that has lived through an unusual time and it’s our responsibility to help the most vulnerable among them.”
“It’s fantastic to think a whole new area of London will now be offered this via The Harrow Club.”