She started a project in Nansana which she registered as Pelletier Teenage Mothers Foundation (PTMOF), in memory of her late benefactor, Fr. Reinard Pelletier, a French-Canadian who paid her school fees from primary to university.
“I met Fr. Pelletier in 1986 when I was at St Theresa Mitala Maria Primary School. He was a Parish Priest of Mitala Maria serving under the White Missionaries of Africa. He recognised me as an exceptionally talented young girl, intelligent and worth helping, my poverty-stricken background notwithstanding,”she says.
The Father had started an organisation at the Parish called Excavellian Movement of which Nanvule was the group leader. Her qualities became outstanding as a leader which prompted the Catholic Father to take keen interest in the young girl.
Nanvule and her siblings were raised by a single mother; her father had long abandoned them. She and her siblings had to scavenge for food and would pick charcoal at Kasubi Market to survive at home.
She would use her pocket money from the Father to pay rent for her family, and supplement on her siblings’ school fees.
“The Father had enrolled me in the boarding section where I would get food and be cared for. So I would send my pocket money to my mother,” she says.
Fr. Pelletier served in Uganda for 26 years after which he retired back to Canada on account of failing health. He returned to Uganda in 2001 to identify some girls he could sponsor to travel to Canada for the World Youth Day celebrations, and Nanvule was first on his list. This was soon after she had completed her degree in education.
She was pregnant by the time she went to Canada. “The Father didn’t know that I was pregnant. I decided to tell my mother and she was furious over the matter, her greatest fear was that the Father would cancel the trip to Canada once he got to hear of the pregnancy,” she narrates.
She left for Canada but never returned after the Youth Day event. While in Toronto, Canada, she enrolled into the teen’s pregnancy programme as an immigrant. The Canadian government took good care of her, paying for her housing, food coupons, bus rickets, and provided free medical services for her till she gave birth in 2001. The government continued to support her and her baby till she found a job, after working as a volunteer.
“I phoned Fr. Pelletier who was then living in Montreal, Canada,and thanked him for taking me to Canada. I told him that I wouldn’t wish to go back to Uganda because I was pregnant and, besides, didn’t have a job. He told me we had to meet,” she says.”We finally met and had a father-daughter talk.”
Soon Nanvule went back to the Father telling him that she was going back home for a visit. “He requested me to visit some of the girls he had helped. When I got back I got the bad news that the girls he used to help had dropped out of school and were producing children. The caretakers of the girls were eating the money leaving the girls to suffer and drop out of school.”
After seeing what her friends were going through, and considering how she had been a young mother in Canada, Nanvule shared an idea with the Father upon her return to Canada of starting an organisation aimed at empowering teenage mothers.
“Father Pelletier gave me a go-ahead to use his name to register the organisation, and he also guided me on how to start the project,” she says.
Starting the project
A friend of hers, called Florence Nampijja, gave her a garage to start with. She picked five teenage mothers in Nansana and they started teaching the girls how to make beads.
From the garage, she moved the project to the home she had built for her mother, who is now late. The girls continued with their business of making beads, and they would soon include bakery and tailoring. They constructed a local bakery where they use firewood and briquettes.
The project has helped over 50 helpless mothers in the past two years, and most of them today are in private business. Some are running their own saloons while others are operating small bakeries where they make cakes.
Nanvule’s bigger dream is to acquire land on which to build a big vocational institute complete with housing facilities for the girls and their children and a maternity centre.