COMPASSIONATE: Jaro, the NGO which rehabilitates the disabled by equipping them with income-generation skills, owes a debt to its first chairman, Datuk Dr Lim Kee Jin, after whom the Jaro building is now named
JOHOR BARU: IN 1952, Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a doctor specialising in respiratory illnesses in the Johor Baru General Hospital (now called Sultanah Aminah Hospital) started to rehabilitate recovering tuberculosis patients by training them in basketry, book-binding and tailoring.
The rehabilitation workshop was then a unit of the Malaysian Anti-Tuberculosis Association.
The patients came under the care of Datuk Dr Lim Kee Jin in 1958 when he was posted to the hospital as a consultant physician.
Thus began his life-long mission to rehabilitate special people by training and equipping them with marketable skills so that they can have jobs and earn incomes.
After accepting patients with other disabilities, the rehabilitation workshop registered as the charitable society and sheltered workshop, Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation (Jaro).
Dr Lim was elected Jaro chairman in 1962 and held the post until 2007.
During his tenure, Dr Lim had called for Jaro's facilities to be expanded, and for the society to network with other welfare bodies in Johor, throughout Malaysia, and the rest of the world.
Datuk Jimmy Low Boon Hong took over as Jaro chairman after Dr Lim stepped down.
Recently, the Jaro building was re-named as the Lim Kee Jin Wing.
"He is a teacher, mentor, friend and a great doctor," said Dr Adam Liew in a tribute on behalf of the Jaro Management Committee at the re-naming event.
Dr Liew described how Dr Lim, the man behind the Johor Specialist Hospital, the first private hospital in Johor Baru, was especially sensitive to the needs of the less privileged.
Some 200 well-wishers joined Jaro committee members, staff and those in rehab in a simple ceremony to honour Dr Lim as he unveiled the new name for the building. This was witnessed by his wife, Datin Patricia Lim, their son, Professor Lim Seng Gee, and the latter's wife.
This building has been Jaro's permanent home since it was officially declared open in November 1968 by then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
Dr Lim was the driving force behind the application for state land and obtaining a grant from the Federal Government and the services of the Public Works Department to construct a building for Jaro.
Through the efforts of Dr Lim and Low, the adjacent piece of land was acquired in 1981, and a new building was constructed, renovated and rented out last year.
The re-naming of the building was celebrated with a traditional lion dance, and the recital of a Malay poem written by Esah Mahat and dedicated to Dr Lim. The poem succinctly summed up the sentiments of those undergoing or who have undergone rehabilitation towards Dr Lim, who gave them dignity and a purpose in life.
The influence of Dr Lim when he led the Jaro committee with compassion, dedication and enthusiasm continues to motivate committee members to carry on the good work he started and take Jaro to greater heights of achievement.
"My father is not only a renowned physician, but also an excellent cook, sculptor and gardener," said Seng Gee, as he shared insights about Dr Lim.
He acknowledged that the social entrepreneurship his father started in Jaro is essential for a developed nation.
He also announced the donation of RM10,000 from the Lim family towards the Jaro fund.
The Jaro brand has established itself through beautiful, quality and useful products made by the disabled who have undergone rehabilitation.
Jaro products include rattan baskets and furniture, and smocked dresses for toddlers.
Jaro also receives book-binding orders from a regular clientele of satisfied customers, and has long-term contracts with the law fraternity in Johor Baru, universities in Malaysia and Singapore, printing companies and libraries.
While Jaro receives annual government grants and public donations and is self-supporting by marketing its products, it often runs on a deficit.
As such, Jaro recently launched its Adopt a Person With Disability (PWD) programme where individuals and corporations can sponsor or adopt a PWD from RM5,000 annually, or contribute towards the charity fund to pay salaries and other operating costs.
Tax deductible donations can be made to the Jaro account at HSBC.
Jaro updates can be found on www.facebook.com\JAROJB.
Jaro is in Jalan Sungai Chat, between Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (English College) and the Mawar Complex, with retail outlets in City Square and Holiday Plaza.
It is open on weekdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm. It is closed on weekends and public holidays.
For details, call 07-224 5632.