A Bedford based nonprofit that operates in Uganda is under fire after the organization and its founder have been hit with a lawsuit.
In 2009, Renee Bach founded the non-profit organization, Serving His Children (SHC). The organization has a principal office in Bedford, Virginia based on past State Corporation Commission (SCC) filings.
SHC began as a feeding program for people in Uganda, but gradually evolved and began focusing on fighting malnutrition through education and medical treatment. Now, Bach and SHC are at the center of a lawsuit alleging that she posed as a medical doctor, and that she and her facility operated without a license, leading to the deaths of hundreds of children.
“When you see a white person wearing a white coat and a stethoscope, the assumption is that that person is a doctor,” says Primah Kwagala, attorney and CEO of Women’s Probono Initiative. Kwagala filed the suit on behalf of two women whose children died after allegedly being treated at SHC.
“She wasn’t given any information as to what her son was diagnosed of, what he was suffering from, what kind of treatment he was given by these people,” says Kwagala, discussing one of the women who is party to the suit.
The lawsuit states that SHC was forced to close by the Jinja District Health Office in 2015 because it was operating without a license. The organization then relocated.
David Gibbs is the attorney representing Bach and SHC. He says there were administrative errors involving paperwork that caused the temporary closure, but says the organization was allowed to reopen shortly afterward.
“The government invited them to reopen and expand operations in 2016 and so over these last three years, they have been working with the government hand-in-hand in a partnership,” says Gibbs.
He says of the two children referenced in the suit, one was never treated at SHC and the other was there at a time that Bach was not even in Uganda. He says SHC is properly licensed and Bach never pretended to be a doctor. “She did not have any formal nursing or doctor’s training, so we’re not trying to overstate her credentials. But she would have had basic CPR, she would [have known] how to insert a UV, some of what orderlies or assistants to nurses and doctors could do. She had some hands-on experience in that arena, but in no way was she pretending to be a doctor or nurse, because she wasn’t,” says Gibbs.
He says that Bach and her family have received threats because of misinformation that has been circulated.
He says that SHC, over its ten-year period of operation, saved 3,600 children’s lives. “That’s a wonderful track record,” says Gibbs. “Heartbreakingly, a little over a hundred children have passed away over the last ten years, about ten a year,” he says. “But when you look at what they were doing, overwhelmingly, it was a great success and it’s sad that there are these, what I’ve labeled reputational terrorists, people who are coming out and attacking what was otherwise a good work.”
Primah Kwagala says she will continue to fight for answers in the deaths of the two children named in the suit, and to hold those responsible accountable. “It is important for people giving humanitarian aid and support to very vulnerable people to be accountable, not just to the government but to the communities and the people they are serving,” says Kwagala.
Gibbs says that Bach is currently in the United States and that SHC will continue to do its work in Uganda. A hearing in the case is scheduled for January 2020, but WFXR has been informed the date could change.