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Uncertainty as CRO Throws Out Street Children in Mbale

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Information obtained by URN shows that CRO is facing financial challenges since several donors have pulled out. A source privy to the workings of CRO told URN on condition of anonymity so as to speak freely that CRO’s head office building along Bishop Wasikye road in Mbale City has been leased off to YY Coaches and Courier Services.
CRO Mbale Offices

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There is uncertainty over the future of dozens of street children in Mbale district following their eviction from the Child Restoration Outreach-CRO youth Center. CRO is a Non-Governmental Organization, which caters for the welfare of street children and operates branches in Jinja, Lira and Masaka districts.

CRO was established in 1992 by a group of committed Christian leaders following instability in Teso and Karamoja Sub-regions to address the problem of street children.  However, the organisation has been struggling to operate since the demise of its co-founder and National Coordinator, Christine Kamiti in July last year.

Information obtained by URN shows that CRO is facing financial challenges since several donors have pulled out. A source privy to the workings of CRO told URN on condition of anonymity so as to speak freely that CRO’s head office building along Bishop Wasikye road in Mbale City has been leased off to YY Coaches and Courier Services. 

According to the source, CRO has stopped providing meals to street children and suspended their school sponsorship. In her June 24th, 2020 letter, Naomi Watiti, the Acting CRO National Coordinator instructed the street children to vacate the youth center premises not later than July 10th, 2020, saying they want to use it for office space. 

“It is therefore important to plan to vacate the premises as soon as possible. We would like to carry out some few renovations to enable work of CRO National offices and CRO Mbale project to get on as smoothly as possible” the letter addressed to each student at the center reads in part.      

URN has also learnt that the organization has laid off most of the staff at all its branches leaving only two workers. Moses Bwayo, the CRO Mbale Branch Manager, says there are a lot of things that are not going well in the organization, which need to be addressed. He however, declined to divulge details, saying some of the issues are sensitive to be discussed in the media.    

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The alumni of CRO have petitioned the Board of Trustees, the National and Local Boards demanding for a meeting to discuss the issues pertaining the day to day running of the organization.   

In their July 1st, 2020 letter, the Alumni argue that since the demise of their National coordinator, there have been many changes that have affected the normal operations of CRO and put the organization in disrepute and uncertainty prompting donors to withdraw funding.   

According to the alumni, donors have since resorted to supporting the children directly at personal level. Ronald Wash joined CRO in 2002 and is a third year law student at Islamic University in Uganda.     

He accuses the Simon Peter Emiau led CRO board and acting National Coordinator, Naomi Watiti for orchestrating plans to chase the children with intentions of disposing of the organization’s assets. 

Wash says the children are losing hope in the organisation that has helped many of them to gain hope and achieve their dreams.   

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Derrick Mutuuba, a beneficiary of CRO says most of the organization’s major activities have grounded to a halt and that the contracts of most employees were terminated indefinitely. He says most of the children returned to the streets after they were asked to vacate CRO premises.   

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Beatrice Akello, the former Manager CRO Lira Branch says since Kamiti’s demise, a lot of things have changed right from the head office to the branches, adding that the person who took over from the deceased wasn’t  ready and didn’t know how to manage it.       

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However, Naomi Watiti, the Acting CRO National Coordinator dismissed claims that they are evicting children from their premises, saying those behind the rumors are displeased with her appointment.  

She explains that they only asked the children to vacate the youth Center and move to other premises she didn’t reveal because they wanted to set up their offices after renting out the offices on Bishop Wasikye road to raise money to support their activities.     

Watiti also explained that most of the workers laid off were on projects that have since ended while others lost their jobs resulting from the effects of the Covid19 pandemic.  

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Simon Peter Emiau, the CRO National Board Chairperson declined to speak to our reporter when contacted on phone on Tuesday. “Where did you get my number and where did you get those issues? By the way am in a meeting I will call you after,” he said before hanging up.   

He however, didn’t get back to our reporter as promised.  He made his phone busy when URN tried to reach him again to get his side of the story.     More than 13,000 street children have through CRO since its establishment 20 years ago. 

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