French president visits children at charity holiday program

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MOISSON, France (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron played ball and lunched with children at a charity holiday program Thursday to call attention to problems suffered by families who can't afford summer vacations.

While France is famed for its tourist sites and generous vacation benefits, an estimated one-third of French children stay home in the summer for lack of other options.

Macron mingled with children for hours Thursday at a recreational center in Moisson, west of Paris, where youngsters from poor suburbs can practice sailing on the Seine river, as well as play soccer, rugby and other sports for free.

Secours populaire, the charity organizing the event, says each year it helps 50,000 disadvantaged children get at least one vacation day out by taking them to the countryside. It also helps others take part in weeklong programs in centers like Moisson.

Children from 8 to 10 years old from Creteil, a poor suburb south of Paris, told Macron that during summer school holidays they were "sleeping all day" or "got bored" at home.

Macron didn't speak to the press or make a speech, but chatted with the children and answered their questions.

"You have nothing without will, if you don't work, you have nothing. That's the lesson," he told them.

Asked "is it good to be president?" he answered: "We'll see. I'll tell you in five years (the end of the term) if I've been able to do things."

Some of the children played handball with Olympic champion Thierry Omeyer, goalkeeper of the French national team and the Paris Saint-Germain handball club.

The president enjoyed a lunch of chicken "cordon bleu" with rice, a common dish in French school canteens that Macron has said he likes.

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