By Irene Best Nyapendi
Millie Mercy Namikka is outgoing and composed. Committed to social justice, she often finds herself advocating for the marginalized. This virtue has enabled Namikka to make many friends, both in her community and at school.
“You always find her freely interacting with people in her environment,” Hannington Kikulwe, Namikka’s father, says. “At home, she helps the workers with their chores and also buys them gifts.” Namikka says she learned service and contribution virtues from her parents. Kukulwe was an evangelist, and his wife, a reverend.
It was, therefore, not surprising, when Namikka chose to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration at Uganda Christian University (UCU). And that choice for a course eventually presented an opportunity for Namikka to travel out of the country for her very first time in February 2022. She returned to Uganda in August of the same year.
She was part of the eight students that UCU was sending to Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands for a resume-building exchange program and international exposure. The collaboration between UCU and Hanze is a conduit for cross-cultural exchange, fostering not only academic growth but also personal transformation for both students and lecturers.
Over 30 students have benefitted from this initiative. Dutch students and the faculty also have visited Uganda for field work in agencies in the country.
“I felt so lucky that I was leaving the country and what amazed me was the fact that I did not have to pay any money,” Namikka says, noting that when her friends learned of her imminent trip, they organized a get-together.
Once in the Netherlands, Namikka says it was not easy adjusting to the food and the cost. But she eventually did. With her friends, they pooled resources and started buying food in bulk, sharing costs, and sometimes traveling to Amsterdam to enjoy local food. Her diet also changed from bread sandwiches to pasta, Irish food, and more vegetables. This new way of eating has stuck with her to date.
One memorable experience for Namikka was attending the King’s Day in the Netherlands. Marked every April 27, the day is a national holiday and celebrates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday with lots of music, dancing, flea markets and fun fair.
“Two days before and after the actual day, it felt like a big holiday. People sold things from their homes at reduced prices, and the streets were full of parties,” she said. “I was shocked, seeing everyone wearing orange, and others selling their items. But I used that opportunity to buy vintage boots and a lot of vintage clothes and items for friends at the flea markets.”
For her classes at Hanze University, they didn’t just stick to theories; they dived into real-life situations. One of her favorite courses was creating and sharing happiness and positive coaching techniques. Every day, they would talk about their day — what went well, what didn’t. It was like a daily life check-in.
This made her realize that life is a mix of little moments. Now, she shares this wisdom with people in her shared workspace. She tells them to live the moment, be aware of how they feel, and focus on their journey of recovery, not the past.
Kasule Kibirige, the UCU head of department of Social Works and Social Administration, said the partnership between UCU and Hanze has been immensely valuable for both students and faculty.
“They promote cross-cultural knowledge and skills sharing, and contribute to individual teaching and learning improvement,” he explained. He added that this collaboration fosters the development of academic networks through regular meetings during guest lecture exchanges.
Namikka currently works with Teen Challenge Uganda, a Christian rehabilitation facility. Here, her responsibilities include reaching out to children, schools, those in brothels and slums, creating support groups and offering counseling, therapy, discipleship, Bible study and awareness on addiction.
Her desire to mend broken hearts and help people learn from their experiences fuels her ambition to become a counseling psychologist. She hopes to return to school to pursue a master’s degree in that field.
“We’ve been created to be in each other’s lives, and sometimes when we are in each other’s lives, we hurt each other and we don’t know how to mend the broken hearts,” Namikka says. The 24-year-old envisions building a career in helping individuals triumph over trauma, grief, and life’s challenges, witnessing them thrive and embrace the joys of life.