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GOOD CAUSE: The 250-page semi-autobiography chronicles the association’s charity work in Johor
JOHOR: IN 1995, when Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, was posted to Johor as the 14th Johor Menteri Besar, his wife Professor Datin Paduka Dr Jamilah Ariffin, became the president of Juita, the Association of Wives of Elected Representatives in the Johor Government.
As wife of the new Menteri Besar, she was taken on a tour to some of the state's welfare projects and to the Jubilee Home (now Taman Sinar Harapan Jubli), she saw normal children among the physically and mentally challenged. When she learnt that these normal children were victims of abuse who were waiting for court decisions, she realised that they needed special attention and should be given proper shelter.
This was the impetus that moved Jamilah to canvass support to build a shelter for abused children and abandoned babies.
In May 1999 the Sinar Juita building was completed at a cost of more than RM2.5 million and can accommodate up to 40 children at any one time.
Since its inception, over 800 abandoned babies and abused children below 12 have received counseling and comfort in this safe home to help them deal with the traumatic experiences in their lives.
Last month, , a coffee-table book entitled, The Professor and the Juita NGO: Smart Partnership in Social Welfare Work which records the successful implementation of Juita-ku Sayang projects in Johor, was launched by Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism in Kuala Lumpur. Also present at the launch were Ghani, Tun Jeanne Abdullah, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, founder and chairman of the Sunway Group Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah and his wife, Puan Sri Dr Susan Cheah and MPH group director, Datuk Dr Abdullah Abdul Rahman .
This 250-page semi-autobiographical book charts how Jamilah applied her 20 years of academic knowledge, particularly in the field of Women and Development, to benefit needy groups of people in Johor.
This book complements the Bahasa Malaysia version entitled, Seorang Professor Bersama NGO Juita: Perkongsian Bijak Dalam Kerja Amal Kebajikan Masyarakat that was launched in November 2012 by wife of Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor.
"The spirit of 1Malaysia has been practiced by Juita since 1996 where social welfare in Johor is given to all Malaysians, regardless of race ," said Dr Ng.
Jamilah stressed that politicians' wives should also be thinking women who can undertake serious, social welfare projects for the underprivileged and handicapped.
In line with the Johor state government's aim to create a caring community through holistic development, Juita has successfully implemented 14 welfare projects that benefit the needy, including marginalised and vulnerable groups like the elderly and indigenous people, particularly the Orang Seletar of Johor.
All the welfare projects are compiled in this book which traces Juita's work from 1995 to 2013.
Applying her experience and expertise as a sociologist, Jamilah created a workable plan of action and led the team in Juita to implement and be involved with community welfare projects at various districts in Johor.
As she observed that mentally challenged children were not accepted into main-stream education, Jamilah started the Community Based Rehabilitation Centres (Pusat-pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti or PDK) in every district in Johor to meet the needs of special children.
Juita's Rehabilitation Centres for mentally challenged children was the first project under the Juita-ku Sayang series of welfare projects in Johor to help needy single mothers and special children in 1995.
Since May 2003, Yayasan Pembangunan Keluarga (YPK) or the Johor Family Development Foundation, has been working in partnership with Juita to offer an Income Generating Skills Training Programme for single mothers, the twelfth in the series of Juita-ku Sayang projects.
Training centres established in various districts in Johor are training single mothers in various skills like foot reflexology and spa management, tailoring, beading and fashion designing, cooking and baking, soap making and flower essence extraction.
Several single mothers showcased their products at the event to let guests have a glimpse of how Juita has helped them to be economically independent.
When Jamilah introduced the smart partnerships concept, it was virtually unheard of but with each successful partnership in Juita, the Johor Government, non governmental organisations and the private sector, this concept became widely accepted.
This smart partnership is essentially a cooperative effort with Juita as the initiator, Johor state agencies like YPK, social welfare and health departments as the management teams that implement the projects and project costs financed by the private sector.
Through the support of such partnerships, Juita was able to achieve success in their 14 welfare projects in Johor.
"Our PDK is now acknowledged as the best in Malaysia and the Prime Minister himself said that it was due to the political will and support of the Johor state representatives and the Menteri Besar, who provides me with his steady and supporting hand in my social work," said Jamilah.
She shared the success of her book launch with Juita members and expressed her gratitude to her husband, state representatives, Johor district officers, non-governmental organisations and generous philanthropists in Johor for their care and support of Juita's initiatives.
There are 66 PDK throughout Johor that cater to the needs of 3,000 special children who are cared for by trained teachers and taught income-generating skills that will allow them to be economically independent in their adult life.
Some of the children also performed at the launch event.
Guests were delighted by the exquisite vocals of sight-impaired soloist Mohd Fadzli Rosli from PDK Kota Tinggi while choir members from the various PDK in Johor, presented the PDK song.
Besides being entertained by members from Juita's PDK, guests also enjoyed cultural and musical performances by a professional troupe from Yayasan Warisan Johor or the Johor Heritage Foundation.