We can’t all be the next Mother Theresa, so when we hear stories about unsparing people who dedicate their entire lives to helping others, we can’t help but be amazed. But with all of the charities and nonprofits out there, our cynical little minds can’t help but wonder how much of that “generosity” is genuine.
At first, it seemed like Renee Bach was one of those rare charitable souls. She truly wanted to see change and help the suffering youth of Africa, or so it seemed. But once thousands of Ugandans entrusted her with their own children, they quickly realized they’d made a huge mistake.
During a 10-month mission trip to Uganda, Renee Bach saw things she couldn’t get out of her mind: extreme poverty, a dangerous lack of resources, and wide-spread famine. But it was the desperate state of the children that really pushed her into action.
In 2009, she set up a Christian non-profit called Serving His Children, which was aimed at supporting malnourished families. It wasn’t long before the non-profit had totally transformed into something else entirely.
On the outside, Serving His Children is something of a miracle: the org claims to have saved thousands of malnourished children over the years. Add in community outreach programs and a website peppered with smiling Ugandans, and you get what seems like a purely selfless organization.
But in early 2019, this illusion was shattered. A lawsuit filed in Uganda shed a new, unflattering light on Renee and what she considers to be a “God-breathed” ministry.
See, though Serving His Children started as a community-based organization, in 2014, Renee’s dreams were expanding — and with them, the organization’s purpose. She started providing medical care for sick Ugandans. This did not go well.
For one thing, it’s alleged that Renee medically-treated children while running an unlicensed medical facility. She apparently relied on the book Where There Is No Doctor and her own “gut feeling” when “diagnosing” children. It got worse.
See, Renee allegedly performed medical procedures despite never obtaining a medical license. Imagine someone giving your sick child a blood transfusion or an intravenous catheter just to discover they have nonexistent medical training. Two mothers don’t have to merely imagine it.
Zubeda Gimbo and Annet Kakai both claim that their young sons were brought to SHC’s Jinja facility, where they were “treated” for malnutrition and tuberculosis. Zubeda says that her deceased son was later returned to her, along with $13.50 and no explanation of how he died.
Annet claims that her sick son was taken by Renee “into a room” for an hour. Afterword, Annet claims that her son got “so weak” that she took him to a local hospital, where he died three days later. Annet could only come to one conclusion.
“I feel his life was snatched from my arms by the actions of Ms. Renee Bach,” Annet said. But her statement was difficult to prove, as Renee asserted that the Jinja facility was shuttered at that time, and that SHC had no records of Annet’s son.
But the allegations did not come from one or two people. A slew of former patients and employees all claim that Renee not only “wore a stethoscope” and “was aware” that she was seen as the “white doctor,” but that she took unimaginable risks.
Renee remains firm in her claim that “I have never represented myself or passed off as a medical professional,” and that “I have never put on a clinical coat.” But the allegations from former employees draw a more disturbing picture.
A former Field Program Manager claims that he saw “several children dying at the facilities,” and that “on average, I would drive at least seven to ten dead bodies of children back to their villages each week.”
Hoping to counteract this claim, Renee provided data that showed 119 deaths out of the 3,596 patients treated by SHC from 2010-2018. “It’s hard to talk about that because it’s not just a number,” Renee said. “We mourned the loss of every one of those children.”
Still, the allegations keep piling up. Jacqueline Kramlich, a former American nurse at SHC, stated that she saw Renee, “Conducting health assessments, assisting in the labor and delivery of a newborn, and preparing a dead body for burial,” among other unauthorized medical practices.
Renee “felt God would tell her what to do for the child,” according to Jacqueline, and Renee allegedly “didn’t believe Ugandan doctors knew what they were talking about.” But Jacqueline’s next claim was the most terrible yet.
Renee allegedly asked if giving a patient intravenous iron instead of a blood transfusion would help a child with anemia. “I really just want to try it to see what happens,” Renee allegedly said. Jacqueline soon quit, claiming that the nonprofit was an “unethical environment.”
Complaints about Renee and SHC were spreading, and the district health officer heard the rumors. In March 2015, SHC’s Jinja facility received an unannounced inspection from the district health officer. What the health officer discovered made them take action.
Not only did the Jinja facility have an overdue license registration, but the children with highly-contagious tuberculosis were kept with the regular patients. The facility had also failed to refer serious medical cases to a higher level of care.
Again, Renee did what she could to push back against the troubling claims, and when the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council said they were “unable to support allegations that children died in large numbers” due to Renee’s services, it seemed like she was in the clear…
But then allegations arose about Renee’s true motivations. “I definitely went to Uganda with…the mindset of a white savior,” Renee admitted. Still, she asserted “it was a quick turnaround for me to realize that I’m not needed here…all of our programs are completely Ugandan-run and operating.”
In 2019, she had to make a decision about her role in the organization. She stepped down as Serving His Children’s program director and temporarily returned to the United States. Regarding the disturbing claims, she had just one thing to say.
“They’re taking a little grain of something that they saw…and blowing it into this huge story,” she said. Renee claimed to have only the best intentions for the Ugandan people at heart, while the accusers are, in her words, “putting children’s lives at risk.”
If Renee ever wants to return to Uganda, then maybe she should take notes from Katie Davis, whose trip to the country in 2006 went a lot differently. She didn’t just seek to change the lives of the suffering people — she wanted them to help change hers, too.
Back in 2006, when she was just 18 years old, Katie packed her bags, hopped on a plane, and ended up in Uganda as part of a mission trip. The country changed the way she saw the world.
Inspired by the vibrant people she’d met, Katie put her collee plans on hold, opting instead to return to Uganda post-mission and work with a pastor at an orphanage. He asked Katie to teach kindergarteners.
Of course, she said yes. So now, fully and completely immersed in the East African nation, she felt driven by her love of the people. That’s why she created her own organization, Amazima Ministries, which helped Ugandans find Jesus.
It was through that organization that Katie learned a truth that broke her heart: in Uganda, many impoverished parents gave up their kids to orphanages, so, at the very least, they could be cared for adequately.
“I was so broken by that,” Katie said. “The fact that these mothers and fathers would have to give up their children just to know that they would eat, or that they would go to school.”
Heartbroken, Katie and Amazima Ministries put together a plan: through a sponsorship program, she could get disadvantaged kids money, food, and school, and they could stay at home with their families.
But this wasn’t enough for Katie. Her charity muscles tingling, she fostered three girls herself. After she couldn’t find any proper homes for them, however, she faced a tough decision: Adopt them? Or put them back in the orphanage?
It was an easy choice. She adopted the three young girls, then fostered a few more, then adopted a few more. At just 23 years old, she’d adopted 13 Ugandan daughters.
It’s funny to think that, just five years prior, she’d had visions of college and husbands and white picket fences. Now, she dedicated nearly all of her time to raising these 13 kids. A relationship was out of the question… right?
Then she met Benji Majors. After learning a few details about his past, Katie couldn’t help but feel like fate had brought the young man into her life.
See, they’d both been born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee. They’d never met there, but this coincidence was hard to ignore: “We shared a hometown with only a few hilltops to keep our adolescent lives from ever intersecting,” Katie said.
When Benji first moved to Uganda and met Katie, he knew he liked her right away. But Katie was worried dating would take her attention away from her daughters. Still, she eventually agreed to a date with him.
A year later, the couple went from happily dating to engaged. They planned a simple wedding with all of Katie’s daughters as her bridesmaids. But how did Benji feel about the girls — and how did they feel about him?
That was a complicated matter. Fitting into a new family is tough for anyone, but fitting into a family of 14? “There was always a nervousness for me at the beginning,” he said of his efforts to be a father and husband. “Kind of like, ‘Was that wise parenting advice?””
And, of course, each of the 14 women reacted differently to Benji. “It’s a work in progress,” he said. “But some of them were just like, ‘Dad!’ from day one. Others had love, but that word ‘dad’ didn’t really come off their lips.”
“He rejoices over me and over each one of our daughters,” Katie wrote in 2015. “I watch them come alive under the loving gaze of their new father. I hear the delight and the certainty in their voices as they call him ‘Dad.'”
However, the girls wouldn’t be the only one calling him dad… In 2016, doctors delivered Katie and Benji some great news: they were pregnant — with a little boy! They named him Noah, and his older sisters were thrilled.
Whether Katie and Benji would adopt or conceive more children in the future was still up for question, but with a big family, they were incredibly happy — even if they got some surprised looks here and there!
Still, the couple is not the only large family around. Just turn on the TV and you’ll find shows like Sister Wives, Nineteen Kids And Counting, and Kate Plus Eight. And let’s not forget about Nadya Suleman — but you probably know her by another name…
In 2008, a phenomenon was born — or rather, was about to be born. When the press got wind of a California woman pregnant with octuplets, everybody quickly knew her new moniker: Octomom. But nobody truly knew her story… until now.
Nadya Suleman was born to be a mother, or at least she believed so. The native Californian’s caring nature shone through in her love for people and her desire to help them, starting with her choice of career path.
She attended college in her early twenties and earned a psychiatric technician’s license at Mt. San Antonio College. She soon began working at Metropolitan State Hospital, though it wouldn’t be for long.
That’s because disaster struck one fateful day in 1999. The patients began to riot. One patient ended up flipping a wooden desk, which landed on Nadya, causing her serious injury and forcing her to quit the job.
At the time, she was married to a produce manager named Marcos Gutierrez. They looked at her leaving her job as a blessing in disguise: now they could finally start a family.
But despite several attempts to get pregnant, Nadya’s womb remained empty. The couple was devastated by their new normal. They feared their dream of a big family was at stake.
Endless medical tests later, the couple received word from their doctor: Marcos was sterile. Their doctor, Michael Kamrava, suggested In-Vitro Fertilization, but there was a serious problem.
You see, Nadya’s husband Marcos didn’t want to hear any of it. In fact, he presented Nadya a life-changing ultimatum: him or the IVF.
As her later moniker revealed, Nadya clearly chose children. Unable to wait any longer, her egg cells were successfully fertilized and implanted.
Although this method can create multiple fetuses at once, she would only be expecting one child. Her first pregnancy was a go, and Nadya couldn’t be happier.
In 2001, Nadya’s first child was born: a son named Elijah. Ecstatic as she was to bring him into the world, her desire for kids was not yet satisfied, and she returned to Dr. Kamrava only a few months later.
During Nadya’s second run of IVF, she was once again reminded that this procedure could lead to twins or triplets, but Nadya didn’t mind. However, for the second time, she was only pregnant with one child, a daughter named Amerah.
Over the next few years, Nadya continued to return to Dr. Kamrava and his IVF treatments. She gave birth to a set of twins and two other children, making her a single mother of 6.
Her family and friends began to worry about Nadya’s obsession with reproducing, but nobody could get between her and her dream. It seemed like her doctor supported her.
In 2008, photos emerged of what would be Nadya’s final pregnancy, and the entire world was stunned. What should have been a joyous time for Nadya was transformed into something else entirely.
She was pregnant with eight children at once, and while some mocked her big belly, others showed serious concern over the health of both Nadya and her future babies.
That’s because multiple births are very, very dangerous. In fact, not one case of living octuplets had ever been recorded, making the stakes for Nadya and her growing family that much higher…
How could this be possible? A woman of Nadya’s age should not have had more than 2 or 3 egg cells implanted, so how did Nadya end up with 8? It turned out that Dr. Kamrava had implanted her with a whopping dozen egg cells. He rightfully lost his license for putting his patient in danger, even though she had wanted it all.
Naturally, this pregnancy was no easy one. By the end of it, Nadya could barely stand, and couldn’t wait to give birth. On January 26, 2009, she finally got her wish. One after another she brought her babies into the world, but would they all survive?
After several weeks in the hospital, Nadya could finally take all eight of her babies home, but there was little time to celebrate. The family was bombarded by the press, until Nadya decided to make the best of it, and signed several media contracts to be able to provide for her children. This was only the start of her life in the spotlight.
Being famous didn’t come easy for Nadya. People lined up outside of her home and sent death threats until her landlord had enough and evicted her and her 14 children. Nadya was on thin ice, but the media money was rolling in, and she needed it.
All the attention was taking its toll on her, and she could no longer distinguish between herself and the character she was playing: Octomom. “I hate babies, they disgust me,” she said in an interview. “Obviously, I love them — but I absolutely wish I had not had them.” It wasn’t looking good for the Suleman family.
It was clear that Nadya was desperate: She starred in her own adult film, went on a stripping tour through the country, and recorded a couple of songs with musician Adam Barta. Her name drew attention to the projects, but not enough to break through.
In the midst of all these projects, Nadya still had a full-time job as a single mom. She had help from a few family members, but it still came down to her raising 14 kids alone.
“I don’t get much sleep, about two or three hours a night,” she said. “But I’m continuing to move forward with my life and trying to be the best mother I can be.”
Feeling like she sold her soul to afford her family, she decided to step out of the spotlight. She hated the term Octomom. She hated the constant press in her life.
She hated when her oldest daughter, Amerah, put on her stripper heels to be just like mommy. She hated losing touch with her children. Nadya wanted out.
After going on welfare, she was able to go back to school and earned a degree in child and adolescent development at California State University in Fullerton. However, it wasn’t Nadya who attended the school… it was Natalie Suleman, Nadya’s new name, symbolizing her turning her life around.
Natalie is doing much better these days and keeps up an Instagram account called the Solomon Family, where she documents her everyday life as an unemployed mom of 14. In her posts, she advocates for emotional support, family time, and healthy diets. In fact, most of her kids are vegan!
Natalie was not the first person to lose herself in the spotlight, and she certainly won’t be the last. Still, there is a happy ending. She went back to her roots, her family is happy and healthy, she feels confident in her parenting skills, and after taking up boxing, Natalie is stronger in more ways than one!