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Joppe interviewing Josephine in Uganda

‘This year in Uganda will last a lifetime’

Everything is different this year for Joppe Hamelijnck from The Netherlands. He had never been to Africa. In January he decided to live and work there, as a trainee for ZOA in Uganda. An unforgettable experience, he says. “I would recommend it to everyone.”

Joppe is a trainee for ZOA in Uganda

‘Everything here is life-enriching’

Living in Kampala. Working in a team of a hundred people, of which he is one of the five non-Ugandans. Joppe Hamelijnck (26) from The Netherlands is experiencing it all this year, as a trainee for ZOA in Uganda. He wouldn't want to miss it for anything. “I learn so much here. About the world, but also about myself.”

It all started with The Rescuers. “I saw that animated movie as a child and it has always stayed with me,” says Joppe Hamelijnck (26), laughing. “The mice in this movie join forces to come up with solutions for people in need worldwide. It is a kind of United Nations at mouse level. I loved it."

Doing something good

Since then, Joppe has dreamed of “doing something good” for people internationally. Raised in the southern Dutch province Noord-Brabant, he moved with his parents and siblings to Nijmegen in 2008, where he studied at Radboud University. After a bachelor's degree in Philosophy, he opted for a master's degree in Conflict Studies. For his internship, he went in search of international organisations involved in peacebuilding. And he ended up at ZOA.

Joppe Hamelijnck

“A teacher told me about ZOA,” he recalls. "I had never heard of it. I have only been a Christian for a few years and I was not that familiar with the world of Christian NGOs.” Enthusiastically, he started working as an intern for the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEAL) department and also did thesis research on Northern Iraq. “Because of that, I had a lot of contact with ZOA colleagues in Iraq,” he says.

Due to corona measures, he mainly worked from home. Both the internship and the writing of the thesis took longer than planned. But ZOA turned out to be a good match. “A world has opened up for me from behind my own desk,” says Joppe. “And the fact that ZOA operates as an NGO based on a Christian identity suits me very well. I like to help others as a Christian.”

Up for adventure

After graduating, he opted for a traineeship at ZOA. ZOA offers this at the head office in The Netherlands as well as in one of the fifteen project countries. Trainees in a project country fall under either the Manager Operations, the Programme Manager or the Manager of Programme Quality. The latter turned out to best match Joppe's experience and interests.

Joppe with other team members in Uganda

“Programme Quality relates to all ZOA projects in a country,” explains Joppe. “There is a lot of strategy and innovation involved. I find that very interesting.” The ZOA team in Uganda turned out to be looking for a trainee for Programme Quality. “I had never really thought about Africa before,” Joppe recalls. “Because of my studies I was interested in the Middle East, and also Colombia. But I am up for adventure. So I went!”

Nine months later, Joppe has no regrets - although he occasionally misses The Netherlands. “Everything is different here, and I find that very interesting. I live and work among people who are almost all Ugandan or who have settled here as refugees. I stand out, everywhere I go. And I still have to get used to the fact that I can't just take the bike or the bus."

For transport in the capital city Kampala where he lives, Joppe mainly uses a boda boda, or motorcycle taxi. “Because the lifestyle is so different here, I learn a lot. About the world, but also about myself. About what I find important and what makes me happy. It is truly a life-enriching experience. This year in Uganda will last a lifetime!”

Passion for their work

His tasks as a trainee at ZOA in Uganda are diverse. One of the things he is concerned with is the question of how localisation can be further expanded, in other words: the cooperation with and handover of work to local partners. This is an important subject for ZOA. “For example, I collect input to be able to evaluate how ZOA is doing and to make plans for the future.”

Joppe meeting with team members during a field visit in Uganda

In addition, Joppe provides very practical training courses to Ugandan colleagues in working with ZOA's IT system. To do this, he regularly travels from the head office in Kampala to the three project offices in the country. “I always take my camera with me on those trips,” he says. “I also find it very exciting to talk to the people we reach with our projects. Then I ask about the impact made, and what could be done better.”

ZOA as an organisation is a good fit for him, says Joppe. “I really like my colleagues, both in The Netherlands and here in Uganda. They are open people who are passionate about their work. And I really appreciate that we start the week singing and praying together.

The traineeship lasts one year; Joppe still has three months to go. He doesn't know yet what he will do next. “I certainly wouldn't mind experiencing more of ZOA,” he says. He is open to any adventure. As long as he can participate in coming up with solutions for people in need worldwide – just like The Rescuers.

Joppe in the field with Ugandan youth

Would you like to work with ZOA too? Check out opportunities here