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Missionary with bogus medical practice linked to deaths of Ugandan children


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On 4/16/2020 at 12:45 PM, Aine said:

An article from the New Yorker came out recently on this case. I know I eviscerated Renee Bach as much as anyone else but there is some evidence that she maybe wasn't playing doctor as much as some have said, although there is still a whole lot of wrong. It definitely goes deeper into the complexities of the issues surrounding this case, and white saviorism in general. Ariel Levy is a journalist I very much admire, I have alerts set on MuckRack and follow her on Twitter so I can read her stuff when it comes out, and I'm still processing this one. I'll probably need to read it again tomorrow before having cogent thoughts worth sharing.

I am just finishing this article and have very mixed feelings about what's presented in it. 

FWIW, NWS has absolutely blasted The New Yorker & the writer, Ariel Levy.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

For anyone interested there's a podcast recently released about this called "The Missionary" I'm only on episode 3 but so far am enjoying it. I was aware of the situation but the podcast brings it home on a whole new level. The three journalists involved spent close to a year researching the story and it certainly shows. 

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On 5/9/2020 at 5:37 PM, hoipolloi said:

FWIW, NWS has absolutely blasted The New Yorker & the writer, Ariel Levy.

Which makes sense considering that Ariel Levy very much looked into one of the founders of NWS ?‍♀️

The New Yorker article in no way changed my overall contempt for Renee Bach. I think it more opened my eyes to just how many white foreigners have "stakes" in the whole NGO field in Jinja, the struggle to find unbiased witnesses to all that went on, and no part of any of this is simple. Except that Renee should not have done IVs or medical procedures- that part is simple- but there are so many people with all sorts of intentions (from altruism to greed) and different goals, opinions, and worldviews driving various narratives in this case. There is no doubt in my mind that Renee Bach was in the wrong and my opinion on that hasn't changed. I guess it's more that my understanding of the larger context of white saviorism, NGOs in developing countries, voluntourism etc has grown and what a mess it all is.

@LacyMay, I'm following the podcast too. I didn't get into it quickly because the first few episodes were so spread out but went back and re-listened and then have been listening as each new episode is released now that the releases are more regular.

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As an add-on, while I think it is on the privileged (aka white people mostly) to bare the burden of understanding or trying to understand the impacts of their interventionalism, the cultures they are inserting themselves in, and the power they assert in some situations for the simple reasons of economic/racial/nation of citizenship/access to resources/educational privileges, I don't think many people raised in more developed and more white countries are exposed to, or even know of, another narrative than the "poor Africans that need saving." It doesn't lessen the burden that I believe is their responsibility, nor does it excuse the damage they can unleash, but I think it highlights the need for stories like those that have got mainstream press because of the Renee Bach debacle to be shared and discussed widely and especially with well meaning and compassionate people who hope to make a difference in the world.

Most less prosperous countries or developing economies are not devoid of prosperous citizens, but rather they have large GINI indexes that indicate a big gap between the very rich and then the extremely poor without clean water/food/education etc. This is due to corruption mostly, and the powerful profiting off the natural resources of these developing countries. But foreign involvement opens a door for other people, both local and abroad, to profit and make careers off the poverty in these countries. I think many start off and even remain of the mind that they're making things better for the most vulnerable but who can blame people in some of these countries for wanting a comfortable life for themselves while helping others? It seems to lead many of these "white saviors" down paths where they don't wake up to the problem usually lying in the fact that the country's resources and taxes are not benefiting the populace. Things like mining contracts are made with private companies and revenue is pocketed by the elite while people starve.

There are certainly countries in the world dealing with famine or a lack of natural resources to propel their economy but many of the countries in Africa have been first ransacked by colonial powers, and now by a small group of government elites and private companies. A greater understanding that working for or being an administrator for an NGO has become a secure career path to many in these countries, and it isn't sustainable when the only reason they can earn good salaries is because they provide food/orphanages/wells/education with labor coming from unpaid foreign volunteers. The only way this section of the economy continues to benefit those it does benefit is by a proportion of the population remaining in poverty and not calling out corruption because then the government will crack down on their NGO.

I guess that's where the complexities lie that I'm struggling with. There is a system in place that is broken, and part of that is the voluntourism/NGO 'industry' and while the images of 'poor malnourished foreign children of color' and desperation being projected onto our TVs is part of the problem. It encourages white-saviorism when there are also larger structural and systemic issues here that profit from encouraging the 'white savior' narrative, distract from corruption, and they play on people's desire to 'help' the less fortunate, however misguided.

It really is tough because when you take Renee Bach specifically out of the equation altogether, even if you're tackling these more systemic and institutional wrongs that many organizations besides the government are benefiting from, there are still children suffering from terrible malnutrition and people of all ages suffering the effects of intergenerational poverty. It's difficult for me to judge people who want to help the child in front of them however they can because my mind swims with the complexities of solving the overarching issues that are causal to that suffering?

NB: There are a lot of very long sentences above. I'm struggling to articulate the strong feelings I have on so many sides of these issue that the Bach case has raised for me. I grew up in, and then worked in, remote Aboriginal communities in Australia where conditions have been compared to "the third world" (I hate that term too). I wouldn't be where I am without a whole lot of luck, that my mother got pregnant to a white guy who wasn't a complete dropkick (or one at all- just immature), charities/NGOs/scholarships, and teachers who were new graduates sent out to do a year in a remote community school so they could get their plum job right after. I have been fed when hungry by people who were often enabling my community's disempowerment. At the very least, they were reinforcing the disempowerment and illusion of inability to provide and move forward that most in my community and others like it already felt and still feel.

I feel like all of the above is disjointed and not very well conveyed so please be gentle with me because I likely agree with what you have to say but I feel muddled by the complexities of poverty and what is carried on from subjugation, colonialism, paternalism, and trauma...and then how to right it when doing so on smaller levels is often inadequate and causes more issues but on a larger level seems impossible. All the while, people are suffering. Ugh. I don't know any of the answers to any of it.

 

Edited by Aine
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@Aine it's late and I feel like I'm going to need to reread your post a couple times to fully grasp it. But you are right. It's a complicated, complex issue and a broken system and I don't think there are going to be any answers at the end of this that feel good. 

 

I read the New Yorker article and it made me uncomfortable, not because it tried to humanize Renee or her work but because it used another women's mental illness to try to discredit her. Referring to her as unstable and using anecdotes about sexual assault, addiction and hospitalization to further paint Renee in a positive light was IMO cheap and lacked journalistic integrity. 

Also her being able to adopt two young girls out of Uganda just screams white privilege. She's 30 years old (was likely 29 when she took them back to the US with her) Has no education after high school, a limited employment history and low current prospects for employment. How is she supporting herself and these children? 

I'm 32 with a university degree married to another university graduate and there's no way we would be considered financially stable enough to adopt. 

But you know... she's white and these were African orphans. So I guess that makes it ok. 

And tbh I don't think she's a bad person. I think she was a young girl who made terrible decisions and was backed every step of the way by a community steeped in white privilege. The lack of oversight and accountability is what allowed this to happen. She should never have been able to get as far as she did. 

 

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@Aine -- thank you.

My mixed feelings over Levy's article centered on several things.

First, I thought she over-emphasized the troubled personal history of one of the the NWS individuals. I just didn't see how that emphasis equalled the more serious issues of Bach, her facility, and white savior activities outside the US. Levy's detailed account of the NWS individual's background was uncomfortable to read, at the least, and at worst, it almost added a "both sides" kind of slant to the article. I realize that may not have been Levy's intent but I was left with that impression.

Second, I also feel as though Levy did not have a full grasp of the contexts of American Christian fundamentalist activities in African and other nations (e.g., Haiti), and how those activities are as much or more about fulfilling fundamentalist world views than they are about "helping" the needy. Bach's "mission" and the other, similar facilities in Jinja did not happen in a vacuum. For example, the fact that Bach has ended up adopting two local girls* from Jinja received little scrutiny. I couldn't help but think about Kathryn Joyce's work in this area. How did the adoptions happen and why it would be (apparently) relatively easy for an unmarried foreigner to adopt two Ugandan children and remove them from the country? 

Third, the comments of the Ugandan pediatrician, Dr. Tagoola, who is the head of a local hospital, were powerful and I didn't see much to argue with in his observations:

Quote

“To be sincere, if you asked me to work with Renée again, I would work with her,” Tagoola said. “We still are underfunded, so her role would be very relevant.” Nalufenya receives support from unicef, but, Tagoola said, “if we had double, it would not be enough.” He sighed. “It was out of desperation—from my position, ‘desperation’ is the key word—to help these babies that she did these things. It’s not that she was overenthusiastic to do miracles.”

I don't mean to insult or speak over anyone here but am just trying to articulate why Levy's article left me feeling as though we still don't understand as much as we should about Renee Bach's case specifically or the context in which it unfolded.

*Thank you, @LacyMay -- you're right, Renee adopted two girls from the area. 

Edited by hoipolloi
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8 hours ago, LacyMay said:

And tbh I don't think she's a bad person. I think she was a young girl who made terrible decisions and was backed every step of the way by a community steeped in white privilege. The lack of oversight and accountability is what allowed this to happen. She should never have been able to get as far as she did. 

Disclaimer: this is just something to consider

My concern is that an existing personality trait/personality disorder (extreme arrogance, narcissism, belief that whatever she does is right,  zero ability to self regulate, whatever) helped her get there and that trait/disorder isn't going away, no matter where she is.  Children were dying right and left, but she could not, would not recognize it as a problem. 

I'm reminded of a type of animal hoarders, who have a belief that, in the face of animals in terrible shape and dying, that they are doing the right thing to "rescue" and  "care" for these animals.  

 

 

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13 hours ago, LacyMay said:

I read the New Yorker article and it made me uncomfortable, not because it tried to humanize Renee or her work but because it used another women's mental illness to try to discredit her. Referring to her as unstable and using anecdotes about sexual assault, addiction and hospitalization to further paint Renee in a positive light was IMO cheap and lacked journalistic integrity. 

Also her being able to adopt two young girls out of Uganda just screams white privilege. She's 30 years old (was likely 29 when she took them back to the US with her) Has no education after high school, a limited employment history and low current prospects for employment. How is she supporting herself and these children? 

I'm 32 with a university degree married to another university graduate and there's no way we would be considered financially stable enough to adopt. 

But you know... she's white and these were African orphans. So I guess that makes it ok. 

And tbh I don't think she's a bad person. I think she was a young girl who made terrible decisions and was backed every step of the way by a community steeped in white privilege. The lack of oversight and accountability is what allowed this to happen. She should never have been able to get as far as she did. 

I agree with all of this. I'm not sure that I read it as using mental illness to discredit the NWS woman or that it particularly painted Renee in a positive light but I'm going to reread it today because if that somehow went over my head when I first read it when the article was released, I need to check myself if I wasn't attuned to that. Usually I'm fairly sensitive to mental illness being used in that way given my own mental health struggles and my occupation but I definitely need to read it again today and look at it from that perspective.

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1 hour ago, Aine said:

I need to check myself if I wasn't attuned to that. Usually I'm fairly sensitive to mental illness being used in that way given my own mental health struggles and my occupation but I definitely need to read it again today and look at it from that perspective.

So full disclosure I skimmed the NWS response before reading the original article so when the issues of her mental illness came up I was probably primed to look at it differently than I may have otherwise. 

I just can't see how it's relevant to the issue at hand which is that Renee's "work' was able to go unchecked for so long and people died potentially in part due to the lack of oversight.

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51 minutes ago, LacyMay said:

I just can't see how it's relevant to the issue at hand which is that Renee's "work' was able to go unchecked for so long and people died potentially in part due to the lack of oversight.

This is what bothered me so much about Levy's focus on the NWS individual's background. 

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My biggest problem is with people saying that someone ie Renee has to do something. They use that to excuse the fact that she was doing medical procedures on people without proper training. There was a blog (now deleted) on her website where she talks about driving a sick child all around looking for blood for a transfusion. She said there was a shortage of blood and that's why she had to drive this child all over creation looking for blood. There were multiple hospitals within 20 minutes of her clinic. She should have taken the child to one of them so the child could receive proper medical treatment. Instead, the child died in the back of her car. Every sick child that needed medical treatment at her clinic should have been taken to the hospital. She was not in the butt fuck middle of nowhere and had no choice but to do it herself. 
 

She could have done a lot of good. Hired local medical professionals to staff the clinic, empower the women in the community to earn an income doing some kind of trade, help pay for children's education exc. But, she choose to play white savior doctor.

 

With regard to her adopted daughters, I wonder if they are truly orphans or if their parents were tricked into giving them to Renee so they could have an education. That's unfortunately a common thing in adoptions in Africa.

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On 6/24/2020 at 7:37 PM, DarkAnts said:

Every sick child that needed medical treatment at her clinic should have been taken to the hospital. She was not in the butt fuck middle of nowhere and had no choice but to do it herself. 

This just keeps tugging at my mind. I actually googled "opposite of Munchausen syndrome" and found nothing, but she carved out this situation of "rescuing" children in the midst of  apparent medical plenty. 

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12 hours ago, Howl said:

This just keeps tugging at my mind. I actually googled "opposite of Munchausen syndrome" and found nothing, but she carved out this situation of "rescuing" children in the midst of  apparent medical plenty. 

I believe that this is known as the messiah / savior complex .  {  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_complex ,  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-high-functioning-alcoholic/201702/the-savior-complex  ,  https://www.scienceabc.com/social-science/what-is-a-savior-complex.html } 

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Thanks for those links, @Marmion.  I had tucked away savior complex as relating to saving souls in a religious context; I see it's broader meaning. 

 

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The No White Saviors Instagram reports that she’s engaged.

Spoiler

05B757F6-5725-47CC-88EE-95ADBEA0A125.png

 

 

Edited by Pleiades_06
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/22/2020 at 12:42 PM, LacyMay said:

For anyone interested there's a podcast recently released about this called "The Missionary" I'm only on episode 3 but so far am enjoying it. I was aware of the situation but the podcast brings it home on a whole new level. The three journalists involved spent close to a year researching the story and it certainly shows. 

I have listened to it once all the way through. There is a lot to digest. I will probably listen to it again because it's a wild ride. Here are some ransoms things that I keep thinking about.

Renee might have had good intentions but she has caused 105 mothers so much pain. The last part of episode 8 drives this home. These parents will never see their children again. There is another child who almost died. She had a flesh eating bacterial infection. It was diagnosed at a hospital. Renee is the one who took her to the hospital. The information about the infection was in the discharge papers. The child was not treated for this infection at Renees facility after they returned from the hospital. The infection got progressively worse. Someone finally figured out what was going on and started the child on antibiotics. She finally recovered but will always have a scar on her face. Renee said that the hospital did not tell her about the infection. She said it was her nurses job to read the discharge papers. 

The facility was only licensed for a year. Renee said it was an easy process. One of the reasons government officials closed it is because is because the license had expired. One of the other reasons is because she was not isolating the children with TB from the children without TB. So, she was possibly infecting the children without TB with TB. 

In the podcast, they talk about the civil case. The civil case revolves around the fact that Renees facility was not licensed to practice medicine. If she has been a local, she would have been arrested along with everyone that worked there.  

On a final note, Renee sounds like a typical high school mean girl. And she is like John Shrader and JRod. Any for of criticism is an attack. Even constructive criticisms is an attack. Her attitude is "How dare you criticize me. At least I am trying to do something."

Edited by DarkAnts
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21 hours ago, DarkAnts said:

I have listened to it once all the way through. There is a lot to digest. I will probably listen to it again because it's a wild ride. Here are some ransoms things that I keep thinking about.

Same. The church discipline meeting to me was weirdly confusing. 

And the bitching between missionaries sounded like a group of high schoolers.

Also I am still stunned she got permission to adopt.

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1 minute ago, Ozlsn said:

Also I am still stunned she got permission to adopt

Wait-Renee got permission to adopt?? Has it been rescinded?

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1 minute ago, Pleiades_06 said:

Wait-Renee got permission to adopt?? Has it been rescinded?

I don't believe so, but I haven't followed up at all, and I was listening while working so I might have missed something. But that was a point where I went "Hang on, she adopted?? Was that even legal?"

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What, the fuckety, fuck is up with this "at least I'm trying to do something" Cock and bull? How about "picking up trash in a park" or "volunteering at a soup kitchen? There are hospital chapels that have prayer volunteers, if you want to do something Christian. The 1st maxim of the Hippocratic Oath is, 1st Do No Harm. 

Edited by Pecansforeveryone
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19 minutes ago, Pecansforeveryone said:

What, the fuckety, fuck is up with this "at least I'm trying to do something" Cock and bull? How about "picking up trash in a park" or "volunteering at a soup kitchen? There are hospital chapels that have prayer volunteers, if you want to do something Christian. The 1st maxim of the Hippocratic Oath is, 1st Do No Harm. 

How about doing a fund raiser for Medecins San Frontiers or a local Ugandan organisation?  I understand the wanting to help, I don't understand the "so I'll set up my own NGO and run a school/hospital/whatever! mentality".  I mean if she really wanted to work as a medical professional in Uganda (or anywhere) she could have gotten training, gotten experience, found out more about where she wanted to work, learned local languages, etc etc. She could have worked with one of the many, many NGOs or actual government run things already in existence.  

But none of that would have given her the ego (or CV) boost of being CEO of her very own organisation when she was barely out of high school.

Edited for additional thought: I think it's the difference between wanting to serve and wanting to fix. In serving you turn up to help - but you listen, you ask, you work with people, you don't set up in parallel to/competition with existing outfits. In fixing, you turn up to help but declare that you have all the answers and don't try and work with existing efforts. Sometimes fixing can be useful if it brings focus to an unseen problem- but more often I think it stifles local efforts.

Edited by Ozlsn
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48 minutes ago, Ozlsn said:

But none of that would have given her the ego (or CV) boost of being CEO of her very own organisation when she was barely out of high school.

This is why I consider the possibility of a personality disorder. 

I belong to a club that does a lot of trail maintenance in local parks.  For four or five years, a dad would bring his teen age son  who had oppositional-defiant disorder and whatever else, and the son would immediately start telling people what to do and ordering them about.  It was bizarre. He was ignored for the most part, except when he used tool in a dangerous manner, which was often, because he refused to take direction.

Just watching how intense he  was, I can see how someone so young but with an intense personality, like Renee, could pull this off, to everyone's detriment. It could be that in her fundagelical environment, this crazy and obsessive drive to be a missionary was considered a divine inspiration, instead of people realizing that she's basically nuts, lacks appropriate boundaries and judgement and is going to cause problems whereever she  goes.

I hope, I really hope, that the kids she's adopting will be safe and don't end up with bizarre medical emergencies.  I just get the vibe that Renee is seriously not OK but her peculiarities are seen as normal in her fundy milieu. 

Edited by Howl
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Reading the Levy article, I got the impression she was trying to add some reflection to both NWS and Renee's experiences. The last paragraph got me... sure Renee... go move to California and live in section 8 housing so your daughters can fit in...WTF!?

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Oh, I can tell you Evangelicals, especially more fundie ones have been glorifying missions and the white savior complex for decades. Jim Elliot, the "godfather" of Christian missionaries is still revered in these circles decades later.  Evangelicals tend to go very heavily into emotion laden experiences as proof of divine inspiration. 

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1 hour ago, Pecansforeveryone said:

Oh, I can tell you Evangelicals, especially more fundie ones have been glorifying missions and the white savior complex for decades. Jim Elliot, the "godfather" of Christian missionaries is still revered in these circles decades later.  Evangelicals tend to go very heavily into emotion laden experiences as proof of divine inspiration. 

This reminds me of the case of John Chau , awhile back .  

Quote

In the 1950s, Elliot traveled to declare Christ to the Huaorani in Ecuador. It didn’t end well, to say the least. He was killed by tribesmen in 1956, along with four fellow missionaries. It’s no coincidence that John Chau saw Elliot as a hero. Elliot and his colleagues are still revered in some Christian circles today. Admirers have produced books, movies, and a musical about them.

Though Chau hadn’t planned on dying, it sure seems like he wanted to capture some of that sweet glory with his own hazardous excursion to North Sentinel Island. He knew he’d be a Christian rock star if he succeeded in bringing the islanders to Jesus, and that he’d still be a rock star if he failed and died...  

The death of Chau epitomizes the rogue and arrogant mindset that many of us who still remain in Christianity are trying to correct. …  Inconsiderate and reckless actions such as his tarnish the efforts many others have made, and are making. …

[M]ost of the individuals I know and have studied alongside of are thoughtful and committed to making the world a better place in tangible ways. From medical doctors serving in parts of the world where medicine is desperately needed, to poverty relief efforts, andmany other legitimate and praiseworthy “missionary” initiatives. …

Chau, on the other hand, represents an over-zealous kid who probably read stories of missionaries from generations past and decided he wanted to emulate all the wrong people. … He was foolish, he represents a horrific lack of education or even accountability to minds older and wiser than his, and he could have killed the very people he claimed to care about. 

https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/12/04/some-christians-condemn-dead-missionary-john-chau-but-defend-missions/   

Edited by Marmion
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