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Solome Nanvule 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 through to university.
“I met Fr Pelletier in 1986 when I was at St Theresa Mitala Maria Primary School. He was the parish priest of Mitala Maria, serving under the White Missionaries of Africa. He must have found me worth helping, given my poverty-stricken background,” she says.
Fr Pelletier had started an organisation at the parish called Excavellian Movement with Nanvule as the group leader. Her qualities became outstanding as a leader which prompted the Catholic Father to take keen interest in the young girls. A rough childhood: Nanvule and her siblings were raised by a single mother, having been abandoned by their father.
Pregnant at 19
She was however pregnant by the time she went to Canada giving birth after six months in early 2002.
“Fr Pelletier did not know that I was pregnant. When I confided in my mother, she was furious and worried that the Father would cancel the trip to Canada if he discovered I was pregnant,” she narrates.
She left for Canada and never returned after the World Youth Day event. 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 tickets, and according her free medical services until she gave birth in 2002. The government continued to support her and the baby until she found a job.
“I called Fr Pelletier who was then living in Montreal, Canada, to thank him for taking me to Canada. But, I also wanted to deliver to him the news of my pregnancy. So, I told him that I didn’t wish to return to Uganda because I was pregnant and, didn’t have a job.
All he said was that we needed to meet before he hang up the phone,” she recounts. “We finally met and had a father-daughter talk. He did not blame me for being pregnant, much as he was surprised.” After giving birth, Nanvule told him that she was going back home in Uganda 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 had become mothers. The caretakers of the girls were keeping the money leaving the girls to suffer and drop out of school.”
After seeing the crude life her fellow girls back home were going through as young mothers, and considering how she had been a teenage mother in Canada, Nanvule shared an idea with the Father upon her return to Canada of starting an organisation to empower teenage mothers. “Fr 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
The project started in a friend’s garage in Nansana, Wakiso District. Nanvule picked five teenage mothers in Nansana and the organisation started teaching them how to make beads.
From the garage, she moved the project to a home in Nansana West Zone II, which she had built for her late mother.The girls continued with their business of making beads, and they would soon include bakery and tailoring. They constructed a local bakery at the project site where they use firewood and briquettes. With the money she earns from kyeyo (Ugandan parlance for menial jobs abroad), Nanvule has bought sewing machines and salon equipment such as hair dryers, for the girls at the project site.
She isn’t bothered by the fact that she does not have donors to fund the project. “This is something I’m doing for the good of my community. I’m trying to help teenage mothers with or without financial help. If the donors come, I will appreciate their help,” she says.
Nanvule says more than 50 mothers have in the past two years benefited from the projects. Most of these, she says, are today doing private business as salon owners or operators of small bakeries.Nanvule is at the moment aiming at acquiring five acres of land on which to build a big vocational institute, complete with housing facilities for young mothers and their children and a maternity centre.