Nearly $162 billion of aid from around the world enters Africa each year. Some of that aid is meant to help communities that are lacking in medical care, that are fighting malnutrition, or otherwise trying to overcome other maladies.
The aid doesn’t always go to organizations that can help, however, and some of it goes to groups that suffer from “white savior complex” — defined as when “a white person [aims to] to help non-white people, but in a context which can be perceived as self-serving,” as the Metro News points out.
Serving His Children (SHC) is a Christian-based, “God-breathed,” nonprofit organization and ministry that was established in 2007. SHC’s aim was to provide “therapeutic care for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” among other programs, according to its official About page.
Two mothers in Uganda see it differently, however, and are suing the organization, as well as its founder, Renee Bach, for misleading families into believing she and the group were a legitimate medical operation.
The mothers, who are represented by the Women’s Probono Initiative (WPI), say that Bach frequently led them to believe she was a medical doctor. She wore a white lab coat and stethoscope and posted blog posts (which have since been deleted) on her site that described ascribing treatment, including administering IVs and taking blood, that would lead one to believe she was an actual medic of some kind, according to All Africa.
“It is unacceptable, narcissistic behavior, for anyone, black or white, rich or poor, missionary or angel to pass off as a ‘medical practitioner’ when they are not. By doing so, they mislead unsuspecting vulnerable members of the public,” Beatrice Kayaga, an officer with the WPI, said.
SHC was briefly closed down in 2015 by a Ugandan District Health Office, although it has since reopened. More than 100 children have died in its care.
SHC has defended Bach “playing doctor” in the past, responding to criticism in 2018 by stating “she never represented herself as a medical professional and was always acting under the supervision of licensed medical personnel.”
Much of the fundraising efforts by SHC in the past focused on portraying Bach as a person who came to “save” children in this part of the world. It urged people to donate to her cause, which, according to NBS Television, the organization received $167,000.
Our team determined through documents from the US government where it is registered, that it had raised over $167,000 [Nearly 650 million shillings] in donations to help end malnutrition in Eastern Uganda. #NBSInvestigates #NBSUpdates pic.twitter.com/MDWe8eKA6g
— NBS Television (@nbstv) November 12, 2018
“White savior complex” has been written about extensively. Novelist Teju Cole, writing for The Atlantic in 2012, explained that the issue can lead many around the globe to focus on the wrong issues that actually matter for people in nonwhite countries.
“[T]here are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order,” Cole said.
Cole went on:
“How, for example, could a well-meaning American ‘help’ a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I’ve seen many) about how ‘we have to save them because they can’t save themselves’ can’t change that fact.”
“If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement,” Cole added.
Featured image via screen grab/WSLS10