My books available at the all-new JARO


With the support of Think City Johor Baru, the old wing of the building for NGO, Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO, was renovated and is now ready to welcome visitors again.


Entrance to the showroom in the recently
renovated Lim Kee Jin Wing of JARO

JARO has a proud heritage in Johor Baru and is an established brand for quality products that are handmade by people with disabilities. 


The disabled have been given opportunities to be gainfully employed in the JARO sheltered workshops for bookbinding, basketry, tailoring, and handicrafts since 1952.  


My family and I treasure a long relationship with JARO as we have been using their products over the years and proudly presenting their beautiful, quality and useful handicrafts as gifts to friends and family, both locally and abroad.


Attractive display in the JARO showroom
to welcome shoppers this festive season
At the inaugural Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Award (IMSHA) gala event in 2014, I had the joy to witness how JARO was honoured as the deserving recipient of the prestigious Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Iskandar Malaysia Ultimate Social Hero Award.


With the festive season just around the corner, it is timely that the refurbished showroom is now to open for shoppers to browse around and choose quality handicrafts to present as gifts and souvenirs.


This building was officially declared open in November 1968 by then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak Dato Hussain. 


A section of the showroom with handicrafts
by the bookbinding and tailoring workshops 
At an event held on April 6, 2013, this building was official renamed the Lim Kee Jin Wing to honour the contributions by Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin who was Chairman of JARO from 1962 to 2007, a role which he held for 46 years.


The work at JARO has its origins in 1952 when Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a Chest Physician in the Johor Baru General Hospital, now called Sultanah Aminah Hospital, started to rehabilitate recovering tuberculosis patients by training them with skills in basketry, book-binding and tailoring.


This rehabilitation workshop was then a unit of the Malaysian Anti-Tuberculosis Association. 


These patients came under the care of Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin in 1958 when he was posted to the hospital as Consultant Physician.


Another section of the showroom

This started Lim on a life-long mission to rehabilitate special people by training and equipping them with marketable skills so that they could have a sense of dignity with financial independence.


As the workshops started accepting rehabilitees with other disabilities, the rehabilitation workshop changed its identity to Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO, a registered charitable society and sheltered workshop.  


When Lim stepped down from his role in 2008 for health reasons, Dato’ Jimmy Low Boon Hong took over as Chairman of the Jaro Management Committee, while Lim’s wife, Datin Patricia Lim, a professional historian and author of many books, continues to serve in this committee.


Furniture made from rattan or cane
Before Lim relinquished his role, he said, “We need to re-examine JARO’s mission to rehabilitate and train people with disabilities for gainful employment and operate a sheltered workshop for those who are unable to find employment.  


We need to expand and improve our existing facilities for these purposes and network with other welfare bodies not only in Johor but throughout Malaysia as well as organizations for the disabled throughout the world.”  


Lim’s words have indeed turned into reality when Think City Johor Baru and a host of big-hearted volunteers stepped up to support JARO in the building renovation project to upgrade its showroom and workshop section in the basement.


Useful items with designs sketched by
Yap Hanzhen, Johor's gifted artist
Think City is a wholly owned subsidiary of Khazanah Malaysia, established as a city-making institution to support the evolving urban landscape and to look at ways to make our cities more innovative, resilient and liveable.


Think City started out in Georgetown by undertaking a baseline study to fully understand the city – among other things – who lived there, what people did, how buildings were used.


From understanding the city and its challenges, they moved towards incubation where they either initiated projects or helped the community to initiate and carry out their own projects under a Grants Programme.


"Simply Butterflies" was created by Hanzhen
for me: He presented a framed sketch to me!

In 2017, I had the privilege to partner with Think City Johor Baru in their Grants Programme, and with the support of MPH Publishing, Kuala Lumpur, published my book – which neither of us knew, would end up as an MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller!


Incidentally, I had featured the work of several NGOs including that of JARO, in an exclusive story, A tribute to our unsung heroes, in my bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


In the recently renovated building, the wide entrance to the Lim Kee Jin Wing remains unchanged while the Reception counter and pay-point are arranged close to the rear wall of the lobby.


I could see to the left of the main entrance, through floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the showroom which has been extended to display a wide range of quality merchandise for visitors to shop in air-c0nditioned comfort.


Once again JARO is poised to become a popular destination for everyone who appreciates quality handmade products.


The book section with a display of books supported by Think City Johor Baru

It was pure nostalgia to see the range of rattan baskets and furniture for sale because we have been using these in our family and handed them down through generations.


There were also attractive displays of products from their bookbinding, basketry, and tailoring workshops as well as decoupage handicrafts contributed by volunteers.


One section of the showroom was dedicated to the distinctive designs and products that feature the art by Johor’s gifted young artist, Yap Hanzhen.


I am familiar with Hanzhen and his gift in sketching and drawing because I had the privilege to feature him along with Johor personalities who have impacted other lives, in my 2017 bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


With the success of Book One, Think City encouraged me to publish its sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, which was launched in December 2018.


Meanwhile I was aware that Think City was also supporting Datin Pat Lim to publish a reprint of her book, Johor: Local History, Local Landscapes 1855 to 1957, a valuable resource that was first published in 2009.


Limited number of My Johor Stories books
are now available for sale at the all-new JARO

This book is now available from the JARO showroom, displayed among various books supported by Think City. While my eyes were riveted to her book, I could not help spotting the familiar cover designs of my books!


I am delighted that the books supported by Think City available for sale at JARO included a limited number of my books, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.


So JARO supporters and everyone in search of something special this festive season, are welcome to browse around the showroom to shop for gifts and souvenirs.


JARO is located along Jalan Sungai Chat, between Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (English College) and the building complex for Yayasan Warisan Johor (Johor Heritage Foundation).


Open Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 5pm, closed on Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays.  Tel: 607 – 2245632. 


Note: The nearest MPH bookstore to Johor Baru is located at Aero Mall, linked to Senai International Airport. My books are also available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online from www.mphonline.com