It all began with an encounter. “Three years ago, I heard the testimony given by Etienne Villemain, the founder of Lazare.” A life-changing moment, which made Ugo want to “experience what it is like to live with people who have lost everything.” The radicalness of this commitment did not scare the young man, who after obtaining a degree in philosophy, has been accepted by a management school in Marseille. “I just needed a sign. I looked to see if there was a Lazare house share in Marseille, and there was indeed… directly opposite my school.” That decided it and Ugo moved in with four other people, Jean-Pierre, Alain and Denis, who are all very different to him in age and background. The experience allows the young student to “live a simple life”, something he actively aspires to.
During a visit, a representative of Lazare told him about Fratello. At the time Ugo was looking for somewhere to do an internship which would allow him to combine his professional skills with his life choices, which is how he found himself organising a pilgrimage. A mammoth task, “There was no European network for us to rely on, we had to uncover local initiatives. And that we certainly did! My fear when I joined the organisation was that I would find I was living in a microcosm and that this vision of living with poor people would not be widely shared. What I discovered was, quite to the contrary, there are wealth of initiatives with this aim. Not only charities like Lazare, but also farms housing former prisoners, etc.”
He will “of course” be in Rome for the weekend of 12 and 13 November, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world! ” he says with a smile. Jean-Pierre, one of his housemates, who took part in 2014, will also be there. When he is asked to make an initial assessment about how his life has changed since he came knocking on the door of Lazare, Ugo is categorical, “It is eternally relevant and continually fresh and new. It is an “amazing” way of life, in every sense of the word. Lazare, then Fratello – for me they form part of a continuum – have both exceeded my initial expectations. My belief that poor people should form the cornerstone of society has been strengthened. As I continue my studies, I hope to get involved in social entrepeneurship.”