Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria that is airborne and attacks the lungs and other parts of the body. In 1952, Dr. Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a Chest Physician at the Johor Bahru General Hospital (now Hospital Sultanah Aminah), founded the Johor Anti-Tuberculosis Rehabilitation Organisation (JARO) after noticing how TB patients could not return to employment even after being cured.
Initially, JARO was set up to teach trade and handicraft-making skills to recovered TB patients. As the prevalence of TB slowly dwindled, the organisation changed its name to Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation – retaining its acronym. In 1970, it opened its doors as a rehabilitation centre and workshop for the physically, intellectually, and visually challenged by providing them with training and monthly-paid jobs with EP, SOSCO benefits, and transport allowances. Upon application and if deemed eligible, a rehabilitee will receive a monthly incentive of RM400 from the State Department of Social Welfare. This empowered them to get back on their feet and do better, and many have reported being able to find gainful employment outside of the system and are leading happy lives.
JARO is highly regarded for the high-quality trainings they offer. They run three types of workshops on different ways to produce handicraft: via basketry, bookbinding, and tailoring. Two of these workshops are headed by disabled persons who train recruits on-the-job. Rehabilitation training is both flexible and specialised; participants are allowed to choose skills that suit them best. The skills serve as a therapeutic outlet and help generate income.
JARO has accepted contracts from all over the world to restore academic books and photo albums, and are also sought-after for their basketry services as it is the only platform in Johor Bahru currently practicing the dying art trade. In fact, after winning IMSHA, JARO was approached by DYMM Tuanku Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah to create door gifts for the launch of both Yayasan Kanser Tunku Laksamana and Yayasan Raja Zarith Sofiah. The order received was for 150 gifts which included a mix of Songket EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) bags, leather tags for the EVA bags, batu seremban with pouches, small Indian cotton notebooks, postcard sets, and bookmarks. The order was prepared as a joint effort between the sewing department and book-binding department. Fifteen OKU staff and four seamstresses were involved in this project. DYMM Raja Zarith choose the fabric herself and even dropped by the JARO centre twice to check on the progress. The order was successfully delivered within six weeks.
Joseph Roy, General Manager of JARO, is delighted that their efforts help people with disabilities to stand on their own feet, making their lives more meaningful. Winning IMSHA has helped JARO receive more exposure amongst other NGOs, creating good working relationships for the otherwise low-key organisation. They have also been able to recruit more disabled people for training and employment.