France is some 10,000 kilometers and at least 14 hours by plane from Manila. But for Secours Populaire Francais president Julien Lauprêtre, these are but just numbers.
The soon-to-be-nonagenarian flew from the Secours Populaire Francais (SPF) headquarters in Paris to Manila and then to Palawan early December to personally oversee the non-profit organization’s official turnover of two school buildings to Concepcion National High School in Busuanga.
Back in Manila, Laupretre and his colleagues introduced themselves and what their work is all about in a press conference where The Sunday Times Magazine sat down with the philantropist.
According to Lauprêtre, SPF is a non-profit association that aims to fight poverty and exclusion in France, while also responding to emergency or development projects throughout the world.
As notable as his organization’s work is, what impresses most who meet Lauprêtre is his robust health even as he turns 90 come January 26.
Despite his age, he continues to beam energy, prompting The Sunday Times Magazine to ask what motivates him.
Through an interpreter he replied, “I had a very hard life history. I was in prison during the occupation of the Nazis in France. I was 17 years old then and I saw my friends leave to be executed. There was this movement of resistance created by all foreigners who were part of the working force. I happen to spend eight days and eight nights with them. And at the end of it, I was sent to another prison, the La Sante prison.
“All the rest who were with me at the prison were killed. But because I spent eight days and eight nights with them [the foreigners], and I was 17, they told me I was going to be liberated and that I should continue the fight because our society is very unjust.”
Since then, he has strived to make the world a better place.
And yes, he is succeeding.
Lauprêtre joined SPF when it was barely nine years old, after its foundation in 1945. He then went to become its secretary general from 1955 to 1958.
He was thereafter named president and has retained the position to this very day, travelling all over the world to pursue different causes.
At his age, concerned colleagues and curious people always ask Lauprêtre how he survives and handles long-hauled flights. He always replies, “I am always the youngest of the delegates.”
For his parting words, Lauprêtre revealed another reason why he is so dedicated with SFP and its mission to The Sunday Times Magazine. He simply but meaningfully said, “Our life on Earth is very short, we have to strive to be useful.”