Sr. Jeannette van Paassen was born on December 12, 1936, in a village near Den Hoorn in Holland, as the seventh child of the family van Paassen and received the name Theodora (Thea), which means "Given by God". Four more children were born after Thea, making a total of eleven children in the family.
As a child, Thea loved to help her parents in the tomato garden, which served as a source of income for the family. Working in the tomato garden however did not prevent Thea to persevere in her studies. She wanted to become a nurse. But this wish could not immediately be realized. At the time Thea finished her secondary school, two of her brothers entered university. She had to interrupt her studies and help in the tomato garden, until she became twenty.
Entering the Conggregation, 1957 .
Thea decided to become a religious Sister with the intention to work in a mission territory. She was received in her Franciscan Congregation, even though the leadership of the Congregation did not immediately assign her as a missionary. On entering the Congregation she choose the name of Sister Jeannette. In 1960 Sr. Jeannette began her studies as a nurse in the Hospital of the Maria-Stichting in Haarlem, followed by study in Heerlen to become a midwife. She finished her education in 1968.
Mission in Pakkat, North Sumatera (1969 - 1980)
Sr. Jeannette's wish to work in a mission territory was accepted by the leadership of the Congregation. In 1969, Sr. Jeannette departed for Indonesia to join her Sisters in Balige, North Sumatra. Some months later she was sent to help at the Polyclinic of Pakkat, in the interior, surrounded by forests. Many things were lacking at the time. In this situation, Sr. Jeanette had not only to act as a nurse and a midwife, but at times also as a Physician. With all those skills she assisted at the successful birth of some 3000 children. She had also to cope with a number of emergencies at Pakkat, like rabies, tetanus and typhus. The people liked her very much and gave her a new name: "Boru Panggabean" (a woman who has many children). With all those activities at Pakkat, she still managed to attend to health care in the region of Parlilitan, going there every Sunday by motorcycle.
Serving the physically handicapped. (1980 - 2001)
In 1980, at the request of Father Liebreks, Sr. Jeannette moved to Pematangsiantar to work in the Polyclinic of the newly opened Harapan Hospital. One day a priest asked her to come and visit a paralysed young man in Tuk-tuk. His name was Bernike Manurung. Sr. Jeanette took him to the Hospital to nurse him there with love and hope. She also insisted that he should exercise himself to be able to get out of his bed. It was a moment of great joy and commotion when Bernike for the first time on his own managed to get out of the bed into a wheel-chair. From that moment on more physically handicapped people came to the Harapan Hospital. But because physically handicapped are very different from sick people, the hospital was not suited to rehabilitate them. One night she dreamt of "a great and beautiful Rehabilitation Centre. Handicapped people from every side were coming and asked: help us to be like Bernike, free and independent from others".
This dream became an inspiration to start with a Rehabilitation Centre. At the time People, the Society and Government hardly gave any attention to handicapped persons and mostly kept them away and secluded. Her great love for the handicapped was blessed by the Lord. Help and financial aid was coming in like streams of water for the Rehabilitation Centre. The Centre was officially inaugurated on November 17, 1981. It started in a rented house at the Jalan Narumonda 24, Pematangsiantar, where they stayed for more than two years. Later, in 1984 they moved to a much bigger place (2.5 hectares) at the "Social Housing Project Batu VI". "A dream become true". From the moment Sr. Jeanette met Bernike Manurung, up to the present, she is helping physically handicapped people. For her, handicapped people should be accepted as any physically healthy person. She always insisted that handicapped people need to be valued, with their own limits caused by every persons situation of life. No wonder that she gets angry whenever she meets any discrimination towards physically handicapped persons. When the Harapan Jaya Rehabilitation Centre completed 20 years, Sr. Jeannette herself became 65 and retired as its Director. She is convinced that those who continue her work will do so in the same spirit of attention for handicapped people. On January 25, 2002, Sr. Jeannette left for her homeland, the Netherlands. On completing her service, she got a special distinction from the Governor of North Sumatra and from the Dutch Ambassador in Jakarta.
Even if Sr. Jeannette is no longer actively involved in the daily activities of the Centre, she continues to help handicapped people as a contact person for Harapan Jaya in the Netherlands. As long as the Lord gives her health and long life, she will continue to work for people who have to overcome whatever handicap in life.