JARO, an established Johor brand


In a recent conversation with someone who is not from Johor, I was asked what the shortform, J-A-R-O, represented.


JARO is located off Jalan Sungai Chat
in Johor Baru, Johor

She did try to hazard a guess (but failed to get it!) so I was happy to confirm that JARO was the shortform for Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation.


I am familiar with JARO because my family have been using JARO products for years – from furniture to potholders – presented their handicrafts as gifts to visitors and even brought them abroad to proudly present to friends and family as genuinely Johor-made souvenirs.


JARO was founded by Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a Chest Physician in the Johor Baru General Hospital, as a rehabilitation centre for recovering tuberculosis patients, in 1952.


Entrance to the Lim Kee Jin Wing of JARO

As the Johor Baru General Hospital was then a unit of the Malaysian Anti-Tuberculosis Association, this centre was first known as the Johor Anti-Tuberculosis Rehabilitation Organisation.


In 1970, JARO was registered as a charitable society to manage a sheltered workshop that caters to the rehabilitation needs for physically and intellectually disabled, spastics, visual or hearing impaired, the chronically ill and those who for personal reasons, have difficulty in getting regular employment.


While I was covering news for various publications, it was my privilege to share about the community events organised by JARO and in turn, I was often invited to their gatherings arranged to celebrate annual festive seasons with their staff.


The old photo album...

Among the many events JARO organised and hosted with visitors at their premises were Heritage Fairs, Open Days, Green Markets and Art & Craft exhibitions.


In 2013, I had the privilege to witness the event where part of the JARO building was officially renamed the Lim Kee Jin Wing in honour of Dato Dr. Lim Kee Jin, for his dedication and contribution to the development of JARO.


In 2015, I was also there when the then Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Allan Yarrow, visited JARO with his wife while he was on a two-day working visit to Johor.


With Mrs Sumedha Sehgal [Left] and 
General Manager, Joseph Roy Arputham

Yarrow had a special bond with Johor and JARO because he was born in Johor Baru in 1951 and lived his first six years here.


The work of JARO and other charitable organisations for people with disability, was close to his heart, not only because his mother, Paula Yarrow, once volunteered at JARO but also because his son also suffers from cerebral palsy.  


They lived in Johor when his father, Colin Yarrow, founded Metal Box Company, a can making factory in Woodlands in 1948. And from 1955 to 1956, C. D. Yarrow took over the role of Chairman of JARO from the founder, Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith.


This important snippet of history was recently discovered when JARO Honorary Secretary, Mrs Sumedha Sehgal, and JARO General Manager, Joseph Roy Arputham, pieced the information together from old documents and photographs they found during the building renovation.


It was good to verify the facts on JARO with them

While preparing the manuscript on the JARO story from the wealth of information and my experience with JARO, I too joined the dots and figured this out about Mr Yarrow’s link to JARO.


When I met with Sumedha to let her review my manuscript and verify the information I had written into their story, she also invited Joseph to join us in the meeting room, located in the refurbished section of the building.


JARO had firmly established itself as a Johor brand and I am pleased to include the JARO story in the contents of Book Three of My Johor Stories, that will feature a collection of stories on Proudly Johor brands.


Sumedha was confident that I was familiar enough with JARO but it was good to review the manuscript together, to get the chronology of events and all the facts, right.


Joseph brought along an old photo album from which I read a brief history – a version typewritten on a manual typewriter – recorded by Dato Dr Lim Kee Jin.


Inside were Black and White and coloured photographs and we agreed that the B&W photos have kept better than the coloured ones, which had faded with time.


Reviewing my manuscript together at JARO

One of the best shots I saw was one B&W group photo with Mr C. D. Yarrow, captured in front of the original building used by JARO, located within the Johor Baru General Hospital compound.


Another good photo was a landscape view of the current building in its original form when JARO moved into its premises at Sri Gelam in 1968.


With their permission, I will publish these precious photos with my story and preserve a proud Johor heritage in My Johor Stories, Book Three.


Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO is located at No. 18 Jalan Sungai Chat, Sri Gelam, 80100 Johor Baru, Johor. Website: www.jaro.org.my

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