During the Pandemic, MoFo Turns a Missed Networking Opportunity into a Call to Give Back

For more than a decade, lawyers in MoFo’s Germany office have been attending the EXPO REAL International Trade Fair for Property and Investment, which is the biggest trade fair for real estate and investment in Europe. The fair has proven to be an extremely valuable resource for liaising with our global real estate clients, but the events of 2020 threatened to dampen that opportunity. The event was initially rescheduled as a hybrid in-person/virtual event, but was eventually cancelled due to rising concerns over the pandemic.

True to the motto, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” a group of lawyers from MoFo’s European Real Estate team, spearheaded by Jens-Uwe Hinder and Florian Ehrich in Berlin and Oliver s’Jacob, Luke Mines, and Danielle Hirsch in London, sought out an alternative way to connect with clients while doing something good for the community. Since the real estate team wasn’t going to be sponsoring the event, the attorneys decided to reallocate those funds to a good cause. As the firm shares in Habitat for Humanity’s vision that everyone deserves a decent place to call home, the organization was the perfect choice.

“Living in a house with windows, doors and space for privacy is a luxury that most of us take for granted. But for millions of displaced people, this is far from reality. Habitat cares for these people, and MoFo’s Real Estate Team is happy to support the organization’s valuable work in creating homes for those who need it most,” explains the team.

The team created an “EXPO REAL Goodie Box,” which was sent to a selected group of clients and contacts and included information about two potential projects we could partner with Habitat for Humanity on. We invited them to anonymously help us choose a project to support and, ultimately, they chose “Die HoffnungsBAUer – A new home for Priscilla.”

“We thank our clients who helped create a home that provides security, shelter, and privacy for Priscilla and from where she can now find paid work, live a decent life, and take care for the education and development of her children.”

Priscilla is a 52-year-old widow who is caring for six children from three different families, one of which is her late sister’s. She had been living on her family’s property in a dilapidated mud house with no drinking water or toilet. The home’s mud walls and its roof were leaking and in danger of collapse. She works six days a week at a nearby farm to support the school-aged children that she looks after, but has found it increasingly difficult to work.

As an HIV-positive individual, she found herself in the high-risk group for COVID-19 and was able to apply for an emergency aid project with food assistance. Even with that help, the cost to repair the home to a livable state was daunting. With the help of MoFo’s European real estate team and other donors, the Habitat project raised enough funds to build a safe home on her family’s property with running water from rainwater harvesting and a latrine. To individuals like Priscilla, the building of this home means much more than just a place to live; it also helps ensure the basis of elementary rights such as health, education, and personal and professional development.

“Habitat for Humanity knows that home is the key to freeing families from financial instability, from stress and from impossible choices between essential needs,” the organization says. “Thanks to partners like Morrison & Foerster we are able to provide Priscilla and her family a foundation for a promising future.”

The “HoffnungsBAUer” initiative was created to unite members of the construction and real estate industries in their social commitment to help people and their families in disaster areas and developing countries get a solid roof over their heads, access to sanitary facilities, and access to clean water. With over 1.6 billion people worldwide lacking such a home, the initiative aims to support more than 10,000 people a year. While no voluntary trips will be able to take place in 2021, due to the current situation, the group looks forward to launching volunteer missions in the spring of 2022.

Learn more about this and other HoffnungsBAUer projects taken on in 2020 here.