Providing opportunity to the UK’s most vulnerable children

The Leus Family Foundation, founded by businessman Dmitry Leus, is marking its fifth year of supporting children in the most need.

The organisation supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young people throughout the UK, helping in settings including hospitals, hospices, foodbanks and youth clubs. The foundation targets community projects with grants to support their work, preferring action-based initiatives where direct results can be seen.

Long term partners of the foundation include Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, The Harrow Club, Bright Lights Youth Club for children with special needs, Brixton Fencing Club and Runnymede Foodbank. The foundation’s motivation is to provide opportunity where it is most needed, with the philosophy being that when we invest in children, we show them that we believe in them and that we see them as deserving of opportunity.

For the founder, Dmitry Leus, providing opportunity can mean different things depending on the circumstances. In the case of very unwell children and their families, a grant might take the form of a donation to hospice for the purchase of a bariatric shower, to support the care and dignity that the hospice is striving to provide. For disadvantaged young people in the most deprived areas of London, it can mean fencing lessons to offer them the life skills that can be gained from that sport to improve their broader life chances. The foundation adapts to the need, but the driving mission behind it is always the same.

The Leus Family Foundation is a long term supporter of Bright Lights Youth Club, a Surrey-based club for children aged five to thirteen who have special needs in the boroughs of Runnymede and Spelthorne. The children who attend have needs ranging from 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. The foundation’s grants have included privatising a local trampoline park so that club members could enjoy the facility safely, the provision of toys and equipment and special events such as the Christmas Party. “With Bright Lights, we see the impact of the weekly club is so important for the children and it helps their families too. We are proud to boost their efforts with some joyful extra activities where we can,” explains Leus.

Another long term recipient of grants is The Harrow Club. Over the years, the Leus Family Foundation has provided them with a minibus, fencing lessons and the now annual trip to Cyprus, all aimed at strengthening the support that the club offers to the children and young people it serves, who are among the most disadvantaged in West London, often living in poverty and at risk of gang membership or drug abuse. The Foundation has brought similar schemes to South London, notably its initiative to bring fencing lessons to state school children living in the Brixton area, in partnership with Brixton Fencing Club.

The Runnymede Foodbank has also received several grants. For Leus, removing anxiety for families around the basic need of food is crucial for children to be able to thrive in other areas of their lives. “It’s heartbreaking to think that not so far from affluent areas, we have families struggling. That has to be addressed, so that children can go on to get the most out of their education and fully develop.”

There is little doubt that the Foundation’s guiding philosophy comes from the life experience of its founder. Leus was born in Turkmenistan, then the poorest corner of the Soviet Union. The only route to a better life in those days was via science or sport. He credits his parents for the life-changing opportunity that the sport of fencing brought to him and he grew up to be a European Fencing Champion, with all the travel and experience that gave to him. “It has really stayed with me. Sport truly changed my life. It taught be discipline and gave me positive adult role models. Fencing specifically gave me the transferable skills of strategic thinking and resilience. I feel a responsibility to pass that kind of opportunity on to disadvantaged children via our foundation.”

The Leus Family Foundation is clear about the projects that interest them most. They favour high impact initiatives, where the benefits of the grants can be felt directly by the most disadvantaged children, whether they are living with special needs, illness or poverty. “For us, our priority going forward will be about continuing to support our long term partners, as well as identifying some new recipients that deliver high quality services to children and families most in need.”

For more information about the Leus Family Foundation, visit their website.