The Stream

Does humanitarian aid have a ‘white saviour’ problem?

The Stream asks whether some Western volunteers do more harm than good.

American missionary Renee Bach travelled to Uganda in 2007 when she was just 18 years-old and founded Serving His Children (SHC), a nonprofit organisation she said would help Ugandan women care for ill and malnourished children. Critics, though, say Bach, who had no experience in either development work or medicine, performed complicated medical procedures on hundreds of children.

In 2015, Ugandan authorities closed SHC’s facility in the town of Jinja – where a number of children were reported to have died – but the organisation still operates in other parts of the country. A lawsuit brought by two women who say their children died under SHC’s care has been adjourned until January 2020, according to the Uganda-based legal services group Women’s Probono Initiative.

Bach’s case has again highlighted the issue of medical “voluntourism”, while raising questions of whether some charities in the developing world have a “white saviour problem”. In response, Uganda-based social workers Olivia Alaso and Kelsey Nielsen began the No White Saviors campaign to educate and advocate for better practices in mission and development work.

The Stream takes a look at why some Westerners get to work in the developing world without adequate experience, and what groups like No White Saviors are doing to hold them accountable. Join the conversation.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Olivia Patience, @nowhitesaviors 

Co-Founder, No White Saviors


Beatrice Kayaga, @WomenProbono

Legal Officer & Program Officer, Women’s Probono Initiative (WPI)


Dr. Noelle Sullivan, @ncsullivan

Medical Anthropologist


Read more:

Woman sued over death of babies, faking qualification – Daily Monitor
When White Saviorism Turns Deadly: American missionary played doctor, children died, when will there be justice? – Medium
#NoWhiteSaviours: The white saviour complex – This is Africa

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