Leus Family Foundation focuses on pandemic recovery for children

Leus Family Foundation focuses on pandemic recovery for children

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.

Leus said: "It was enormously meaningful to see the Bright Lights attendees joyful and carefree at Jump Giants."
Leus said: “It was enormously meaningful to see the Bright Lights attendees joyful and carefree at Jump Giants.” (Image: Leus Family Foundation)

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.”

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The Leus Family Foundation is bringing Brixton fencing lessons to The Harrow Club

The Leus Family Foundation is bringing Brixton fencing lessons to The Harrow Club

The new initiative for local state school children will open up the world of fencing to disadvantaged young people in West London

By Sarah Brazendale

The new classes, with between 10 and 15 children, at The Harrow Club will be twice weekly and will be aimed at children aged between 8 and 14 years old

The Leus Family Foundation today confirmed that they will build upon their successful Brixton fencing programme for local state school children in a new initiative with The Harrow Club, to allow disadvantaged young people in West London to also benefit from the sporting and life skills that fencing offers.

The Leus Family Foundation’s support has included the purchase of fencing equipment and the provision of a coaching team, with expert teachers from Brixton Fencing Club coming to The Harrow Club to run the classes. The new equipment that has been purchased for the Harrow Club includes Épée weapons, masks, scoreboards, jackets and trousers and pistes branded with The Harrow Club logo.

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 opportunities. All children should be able to access this sport as it offers so much.

“We are so pleased that the Leus Family Foundation can bring together two great institutions like the Brixton Fencing Club and The Harrow Club and that in partnership we can build access to this sport for the most disadvantaged children in West London.”

The Harrow Club

The Harrow Club has been working with the local community since 1883. It 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% are eligible for free school meals, 90% are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20% have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.

Christopher Tidmarsh QC, Committee Chair of Brixton Fencing Club, added: “The Brixton Fencing Club is delighted to work in partnership with The Harrow Club and the Leus Family Foundation to bring a fencing programme to young people in West London.

“We have seen the great benefits that local children from state schools in Brixton have gained from participating in fencing lessons. It goes far beyond the sporting skills they develop. The children grow in confidence and build life skills. Through the club community and accessing competitions, they also widen their social interactions and meet new peers and role models.

“It’s fantastic to think a whole new area of London will now be offered this via The Harrow Club.”

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The Leus Family Foundation is bringing Brixton fencing lessons to The Harrow Club

Leus Family Foundation brings Brixton fencing lessons to The Harrow Club

April 27, 2022 12:39

By Chris Mitchell

The Leus Family Foundation today confirmed that they will build upon their successful Brixton fencing programme for local state school children in a new initiative with The Harrow Club, to allow disadvantaged young people in West London to also benefit from the sporting and life skills that fencing offers.

The new classes at The Harrow Club will be twice weekly and will be aimed at children aged between 8 and 14 years old. Each class will have between 10 and 15 children. The Leus Family Foundation’s support has included the purchase of fencing equipment and the provision of a coaching team, with expert teachers from Brixton Fencing Club coming to The Harrow Club to run the classes.

The new equipment that has been purchased for the Harrow Club includes Épée weapons, masks, scoreboards, jackets and trousers and pistesbranded with The Harrow Club logo.

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.”

Credit: The Leus Family Foundation

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. We are so pleased that the Leus Family Foundation can bring together two great institutions like the Brixton Fencing Club and The Harrow Club and that in partnership 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.

Christopher Tidmarsh QC, Committee Chair of Brixton Fencing Club, added: “The Brixton Fencing Club is delighted to work in partnership with The Harrow Club and the Leus Family Foundation to bring a fencing programme to young people in West London. We have seen the great benefits that local children from state schools in Brixton have gained from participating in fencing lessons. It goes far beyond the sporting skills they develop. The children grow in confidence and build life skills. Through the club community and accessing competitions, they also widen their social interactions and meet new peers and role models. It’s fantastic to think a whole new area of London will now be offeredthis via The Harrow Club.”

The Harrow Club has been working with the local community since 1883. It 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% are eligible for free school meals, 90% are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20% have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.

Christopher Tidmarsh QC, Committee Chair of Brixton Fencing Club, added: “The Brixton Fencing Club is delighted to work in partnership with The Harrow Club and the Leus Family Foundation to bring a fencing programme to young people in West London.

“We have seen the great benefits that local children from state schools in Brixton have gained from participating in fencing lessons. It goes far beyond the sporting skills they develop. The children grow in confidence and build life skills. Through the club community and accessing competitions, they also widen their social interactions and meet new peers and role models.

“It’s fantastic to think a whole new area of London will now be offered this via The Harrow Club.”

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Leus Family Foundation thanked at Runnymede Heroes Event

Leus Family Foundation thanked at Runnymede Heroes Event

The Leus Family Foundation was thanked this week for its support for Runnymede Foodbank during a ceremony hosted by Runnymede Borough Council at the Councillors’ Hall

The Leus Family Foundation is a long term supporter of the local foodbank and in particular supplied crucial support for families during the pandemic, a period of time when the most vulnerable families suffered acutely from economic hardship.

The Mayor of Runnymede, Cllr Elaine Gill, has been welcoming several ‘Runnymede Heroes’ to a series of events to thank them for their contribution to the community.

As the group gathered, they shared their experiences of supporting the community.

A supportive community working together

In addition to the Leus Family Foundation’s support of the Runnymede Foodbank, other community members described their contributions, ranging from assisting vulnerable people with the collection of prescriptions and shopping, volunteering for the vaccination programme and outreach to provide company to those especially isolated during the pandemic.

After the introductions were made, refreshments were enjoyed as images of the community rallying during the pandemic were played on a large screen.

Leus Family Foundation thanked at Runnymede Heroes Event
The foodback provides three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred in crisis

Speaking at the event, Dmitry Leus, the founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “It was so important to our Foundation to get involved and support the foodbank. It is an important cause to support – none of us can bear the thought of children going without food and parents worrying about being able to put a meal on the table.

“We know the pandemic made life even harder for these vulnerable families and so increased help was urgent. The need is still very much there and we will be committed supporters of the food bank in the years ahead. I was also grateful to meet so many other members of our local community today, who have also been playing an active role to support the most vulnerable.”

‘An absolute lifeline’

The Runnymede Foodbank operates on the principle that no one in the community should have to face going hungry. The organisation explains that they provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis.

Runnymede Foodbank is part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK.

As one visitor to the foodbank added: “The foodbank was there when we really needed it, it was an absolute lifeline.”

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Bright Lights youngsters enjoy an evening at Jump Giants thanks to foundation’s support

Bright Lights youngsters enjoy an evening at Jump Giants thanks to foundation’s support

By Joseph Dexter

The Leus Family Foundation booked exclusive use of the venue for the Runnymede Special Needs Youth Club

Children from Runnymede Special Needs Youth Club, also known as Bright Lights, enjoyed exclusive use of Jump Giants trampoline park this month, thanks to additional funding from the Leus Family Foundationto enable the club members to enjoy trampolining in a safe environment.

Bright Lights club is for children aged 5-13 years with special needs in Runnymede and surrounding areas.

The children have disabilities ranging from autism, Asperger’s, Downs and moderate to severe learning difficulties, with some of them requiring one-to-one care.

Established in 1996, children with varying learning and physical disabilities can come to the Bright Lights every Thursday evening for two hours during term time.

The Leus Family Foundation is a long term supporter of Bright Lights and offered extra funding so that members could have exclusive use of the Jump Giants facilities.

Lucy O’Neill, the chair of Bright Lights, spoke of the positive impact the trampoline experience had on members. She said: “We are so grateful to the Leus Family Foundation for funding the trip to Jump Giants.

“The children absolutely loved it and so did their families. It was even more enjoyable for them to have Jump Giants to themselves. It was so lovely to see them all really happy and having so much fun.

“Photographing the fun was a struggle as the children did not keep still for more than one second!”

The children were able to enjoy exclusive use of Jump Giants trampoline park

Dmitry Leus, the founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “Our Foundation was delighted to support Bright Lights in this way.

“I believe the pandemic has been extra tough for kids with special needs and their families, as they have felt the isolation and restriction on activities more acutely.

“It was simply wonderful to think of the Bright Lights club members bouncing on the trampolines and enjoying such a light-hearted experience in a safe environment. The happy faces in the photos say it all.

“We look forward to supporting Bright Lights throughout the year, as they do a fantastic job bringing support, learning and fun to those who really need it.”

Bright Lights provides a weekly programme for children who might have difficulty accessing other facilities within the local borough.

The base at Egham Orbit Leisure Centre enables the use of the soft play area, arts and crafts activities, books and toys from its toy library.

Bright Lights occasionally hold family and friends evenings when parents and carers can meet and discuss family matters.

The youth club is known for providing a vibrant programme that includes the use of the soft play area, crafts and outings. The children have enjoyed trips to places like the Isle of Wight, Disneyland Paris, Spain, Lapland UK, Paultons Park, Beale Park, and Legoland.

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Boosting the UK’s vulnerable children is a priority for 2022

Boosting the UK’s vulnerable children is a priority for 2022

The impact of the pandemic upon young people brings a renewed sense of urgency to supporting crucial projects around the UK, according to one philanthropist.

The Leus Family Foundation was established by the businessman and philanthropist Dmitry Leus. Born in Turkmenistan and now living with his family in the UK, Leus founded the charity to support children who are challenged by illness, poverty or special needs.

“The guiding principle of the Leus Family Foundation is that 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 our future. 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. We see that our support is needed now more than ever due to the pandemic and the way that isolation and lack of resources has impacted vulnerable children in particular.” explains Leus.

The Leus Foundation supports multiple organisations, ranging from hospital charities such as St George’s and the Royal Free, as well as Runnymede Foodbank, plus youth clubs such as Bright Lights and Harrow.

“Their efforts with young people who are in danger of being recruited by gangs is vital. They have a real impact, helping the most marginalised young people to maximise their life chances and to enhance their personal development, getting them on the road to employment and building their resilience and well-being. It is a great pleasure to provide the bus as a practical support for this great work.”

Leus’s work with economically disadvantaged young people is not limited to the Harrow area. He is also behind an initiative to get children from state schools in the Brixton area engaged with the sport of fencing. Together with Christopher Tidmarsh QC, Leus is determined to make the sport accessible for all and the duo began this mission in South London. They started by giving demonstrations in local state schools so that local children could see fencing for themselves, often for the very first time. Then they invited 7-11 year olds to attend Junior sessions for free with Brixton Fencing Club so that they could learn together with their peers who already fence.

Leus explains: “Once they join us, if they demonstrate the commitment, we will keep supporting them in the secondary school years. We want them to be absorbed organically into the club and know that they will gain access to coaching and equipment without charge. There is another strong motivation for us. We see the power of fencing to divert a child away from getting into trouble on the street. When a child is training with our coaches and feeling good about the skills they are building, then they are not so vulnerable to gang membership or experimenting with drugs. Fencing is an ideal sport to captivate young minds and build their confidence in a positive way. Yes, you need some aggression to win. But you have to be in control when you are fencing and also respect your opponent. We are delighted to draw youngsters into the rigour and training of fencing, especially when we know they are perhaps disadvantaged and need such direction and passion in their lives.”

Helping those with additional needs

Children and young people with learning difficulties and special needs are also central to the work of the Leus Family Foundation. The Foundation supports Bright Lights, a Runnymede youth club for children with disabilities ranging from autism, Asperger’s, Downs, and moderate-to-severe learning difficulties, with some of them requiring one-to-one care. Children with varying learning and physical disabilities attend the Bright Lights club every Thursday evening for two hours during term time. Dmitry explains: “”We are so pleased to boost the club’s range of toys and equipment so that children attending get the maximum enjoyment out of their time at the club. It is especially meaningful for us to be able to provide two future outings for the children, knowing how much pleasure the children will get from these fun experiences at a privatised trampoline park and Drayton Manor theme park – and of course how much they need it after a more isolated time during the pandemic.”

Dmitry added: “Bright Lights is exactly the kind of organisation we like to work with. They are a small team and they have the energy and commitment needed to make a significant impact to young people who really need this service.”

Support for poorly children

Children suffering serious or long term illness are also a priority for the Leus Family Foundation. The Foundation has a been a long term supporter of St George’s Hospital Charity, with donations targeted at aiding children and their families through the difficulties of illness. The Foundation supported the renovation of a children’s garden at the hospital. Updates to the site include the extension and improvement of the play areas, including a new slide and better wheelchair access. “My long relationship with St George’s has given me a great admiration for the children who are patients here, their families and the amazing staff,” says Leus. “This garden will lift spirits and hopefully provide moments of joy and relaxation between treatments. We were also please to supply ‘Buzzy’ pain relief devices to distract children and reduce any pain when they are having blood tests or injections, which can happen very often during long term illness.”

Leus concludes: “For our Foundation, the common theme throughout all of our work is that each child deserves the best start we can give them. A child does not get to choose their circumstances and when they suffer illness or poverty or are born with a disability, we all have a responsibility to improve their situation, to boost their opportunities. The pandemic and its impact upon young people makes this work more urgent than ever.”

To find out more about the foundation, click here.

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