From children’s hospitals to fallen police officers to ‘Buzzy’ pain distraction, Dmitry Leus’s foundation helps dozens of good causes. It’s been quite a journey for the entrepreneur and former European fencing champion…
Despite growing up in humble circumstances in 1970s Turkmenistan – then part of the Soviet Union – Dmitry Leus’s childhood was rich in adventure and imbued with a strong sense of community. So Leus, founder and CEO of London-based property developer Imperium Investments, understands better than most the importance of supporting and inspiring children and young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – indeed, he founded the Leus Family Foundation to do just that.
Recently awarded official charitable status by the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the foundation’s work has become even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic as experts warn that a generation of children, particularly those from poorer households, could see their life chances negatively impacted by the privations they are currently suffering.
“This is not an easy time to be young,” says Leus, father to four sons. “Youngsters in the UK are learning at home with no in-person schooling, unemployment figures are rising and those job losses are impacting families. What a tough time to be leaving school or university and trying to make your way into a career. I empathise with young people at this time.”
One cause that is close to Leus’s heart is encouraging children to take part in sport. As a teenager, he was in the Turkmen National Fencing Team, becoming European champion at the age of 17.
“My business mindset was created in the gymnasiums and competition halls of my teenage years and the spirit that it forged is what helps me through all other aspects of my life,” he says. “This is how the character is formed.”
Leus is patron and honorary president of Brixton Fencing Club in southeast London, which is funding free fencing lessons for children from low-income families and organising tournaments.
“I want to get more kids involved – kids from all walks of life,” Leus says. “I believe that there is a future European, maybe even Olympic, champion in Brixton and I want to find them.”
The foundation, which Leus leads alongside directors Michael Wynne-Parker KCLJ and Manjit K Gill MBE, also has a longstanding relationship with St George’s Hospital Charity which supports the work of St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London. In March 2019, Leus funded child-friendly pain distraction devices for every child’s bed in St George’s – each Buzzy, as the devices are called, comes in cheerful, cartoonish form, for example a bumble bee or an insect, and, when placed against the skin, vibrates to distract attention from blood being taken or injections administered.
At the height of the pandemic, in December 2020, a new look Children’s Garden was unveiled at St George’s, funded by the foundation and bringing some much-needed colour in the bleakest of midwinters. Play areas have been extended and improved with a new slide and better wheelchair access, while a new seating area is being installed.
“This garden will lift spirits and hopefully provide moments of joy and relaxation between treatments,” Leus says.
As well as strengthening existing relationships through the pandemic, the Leus Family Foundation has added to its philanthropic portfolio, forging new collaborations.
It 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. Leus also donated to Runnymede Food Bank, which he visited in May 2020.
He is also an ambassador for HealthProm, a UK-based charity working to support vulnerable children and their families in eastern Europe, Central Asia and Afghanistan, and Patron of Binti International, a charity whose vision is to ensure every girl and woman in the world has menstrual dignity. And, as a policeman’s son, he feels a personal affiliation to Care of Police Survivors (COPS), a charity dedicated to supporting the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Leus Family Foundation is now looking for further opportunities to help where and when it’s needed and, in 2021, plans to bolster its organisation with people who have extensive experience in the charity sector.
“Having received official charitable status affirms our commitment to our causes and those we work with in the future,” Leus says. “It is a joy that our foundation is able to help so many young people and it is so rewarding to see the direct benefit that our support has brought to their lives.”
For a full list of charity partners and further information on projects undertaken by The Leus Family Foundation, please visit leusfamilyfoundation.com
Source: The Times & The Sunday Times