I’m Francesca Griffiths from Casa-Londra and I’m a #WORLDCHANGER

The WeGiveIt #WORLDCHANGERS series asks heroes, experts, and leaders to share their ambitions, routines and more. It’s published monthly at www.wegiveit.co.uk/blog

This week on the #WORLDCHANGERS series, we speak to Francesca Griffiths, founder Casa-Londra,Trustee and President of NPH UK charity

Location: London

Current job: Property Lawyer, Founder Casa Londra Limited, Trustee/President NPH UK

One word that best describes how you work:
Multitasking

Current mobile device:
iphone 7

Favourite website:
www.casa-londra.com

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I am Italian, grew up in Genoa and moved to London in 1995 with an Italian law degree and the ambition of working in one of the big legal firms in the City. My parents were not keen to have me in London long term, I am an only child and they wanted me to take the traditional Italian bar exam and settle down in Genoa. They were very surprised when I announced them that I got a law firm sponsored position at the College of Law, wanted to live in London and qualify as an English solicitor!

London gave me great opportunities, as a solicitor I practised in what was one of the leading international law firms called Coudert Brothers, spent a year in their beautiful offices in Paris and specialised in corporate finance. In the meantime I met my husband Dominic, also a finance lawyer, we married in 2001 and started a family. With young children working in a big firm as a corporate lawyer was too challenging though, the hours were crazy…

As I have always loved the London property market I decided to abandon the finance world, specialise in property law and work as a solicitor in a smaller law firm in the West End with more reasonable working hours. I created an Italian desk and started assisting Italian clients who wanted to invest in the London property market. Property law is a very complex subject in UK and my Italian clients feel reassured with me dealing with their transactions and explaining what a leasehold and a freehold are all about!

Whilst assisting my Italian clients in purchasing their London pied a terre I realised that they needed more services, not only the legal support  but also assistance with their property search, with the management and letting  of their flats  after the purchase and sometimes even with the refurbishment and interior design. An Italian real estate agency in London was certainly needed and in 2009, with a few girlfriends,  I started Casa Londra in the sitting room of my house in West London.

Casa Londra now manages over 200 properties in Chelsea and Kensington, all owned by Italian clients. I have two business partners, six employees and a chic little shop on The Old Brompton Road. I feel very lucky as I still practice as a solicitor in Child and Child, a great law firm specialised in property, but I also supervise the various activities of Casa Londra and I consequently have a very exciting and diverse workload everyday.

So with two jobs already under my sleeve I was not planning to take more on board but NPH UK was a beautiful and unexpected surprise…

Why did you get involved with NPH?

Two years ago a friend of mine introduced me to Mariavittoria Rava, an amazing person who is President of Fondazione Francesca Rava NPH Italy. Mariavittoria was looking for an English law firm to create the UK fundraising office for her charity and I offered to help her on a pro bono basis.

Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) is an international charity assisting orphans and abandoned children in Haiti and nine countries in Central and South America since 1954. I was immediately taken by this incredible organisation which has saved the lives of thousands of children, giving them a family upbringing and great life opportunities. The work carried out by Fondazione Francesca Rava, the Italian fundraising office of NPH in the last 18 years under the direction of Mariavittoria Rava touched me deeply. Mariavittoria’s passion and determination to give a better future to disadvantaged children was incredibly contagious and I realised that it was time to give back and find some time in my life to help others.

NPH UK is now a registered English charity of which I am President and Trustee, together with Mariavittoria and Stefan Grafe. Since the incorporation we have set up an office and organised three successful events in London: the official launch of the charity at the Italian Embassy last November, a winter ball at Bulgari Hotel in January, followed by a ‘Flower Power’ themed dinner at Sumosan Twiga in May. We raised about £160,000 through these three events and I am already working on the next occasion, a Christmas Family Ball in a cool Chelsea location… watch this space!

What motivates you?
I am a people person, I love making connections and putting people together though my network of friends.

What is the process to finding your cause or charity partner?

People can access the charity directly through me or the website:

Every child needs a family

Tell us about a moment when you knew that it was all worth the hard work

Preparing the grants for the NPH Homes and the various NPH projects following the London events was certainly the most exciting part of the job. These funds make a huge difference in the lives of the NPH kids. Through a very efficient system of scholarships many of them are able to attend secondary schools or universities and end up having successful careers,  frequently returning to their home countries to contribute back to the community. There is nothing more rewarding than that.

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

I love spending time with my family. I have three gorgeous children aged 9, 12 and 16 and I always try to have quality time with each of them. London is a very hectic place and we often escape to our holiday home in Santa Margherita Ligure, the place where I grew up and where my roots still are.

What book are you currently reading?
Il Giardino dei Finzi Contini by Giorgio Bassani. A few days ago I gave it to my daughter as I loved reading it when I was her age. She hasn’t opened it but I am glued to it like thirty years ago!

What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?

I would have got involved in charity work earlier on in life. For many years I worked so hard on my career, the company, … I should have been less selfish! There is always a bit of time in everyday life to help others.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Mariavittoria Rava President of Fondazione Francesca Rava NPH Italy (a real world changer!) answer these same questions.

Francesca Griffiths
Managing Director Casa-Londra