Behind every Maluk Timor programme are some amazing supporters. Mike and Kate Ribot are one example.
Motivated by a commitment to the Timorese people and empathy for tuberculosis sufferers, their family has generously donated a training scholarship that has enabled Maluk Timor to hire a Timorese doctor, Dra Josefina, to our Tuberculosis (TB) team for 2020.
Timor is a cause close to Mike and Kate’s heart. They have profound gratitude for the service and heroism shown by our Australians during WW2, and are motivated by a ‘debt of honour’ for the Timorese people for their support to the ANZACs during this time.
“We understand the sacrifice that the Timorese people made in assisting our military. They gave so much and suffered immeasurably to help our servicemen and women. We feel compelled to repay their generosity and courage and feel a contribution to the health and wellbeing, of future generations of Timorese, as being a practical way to say, “Thank You”.
Like many Australians, Mike and Kate were astounded to discover that Timorese people suffer high rates of diseases that are now unheard of in their home country, like TB.
“We find it distressing that beautiful people, living so close to our prosperous nation, are suffering. If these diseases can be minimised, or eradicated, with a little bit of support from people like ourselves, then we believe it’s as good a legacy as a person can leave”
Mike’s mother, Valerie Coomer, battled with TB in 1950s Australia, forcing her to spend a year in confinement separated from her newborn infant. She suffered through many painful procedures, but motivated by her commitment to having a family, Valerie overcame this hardship and went on to have three more children. In later life she volunteered, at Westmead Children’s Hospital, to assist children and parents deal with the unfamiliar environment of the operating theatres. (see full story below).
Inspired by Valerie’s story, as well as the death of Kate Grandfather and uncle to TB, Mike and Kate hope that by training Timorese health professionals, they can help to keep lots of Timorese children happy and healthy, and free of TB.
“We feel very fortunate to have 5 children, and 10 grandchildren, all of whom are healthy and were born in a country where the medical issues you are dealing with in Timor Leste are a thing of the past. Nobody in this modern era should have to experience what Valerie did.”
The Valerie Coomer Scholarship will pay our TB doctors’ salary for 2 years, who will work alongside our team as a respected educator and be trained as a leader in TB for the country.
“We see a nation, on our doorstep, which has the potential to prosper, with just a little help from friends. We’re inspired by the work being done to train local doctors and healthcare professionals and feel privileged to be able to make a meaningful contribution.”
Maluk Timor needs the support of more generous donors like the Ribot family in 2020. If you are interested in supporting one of our programs or staff members, please get in touch.
The Story of Valerie Therese Coomer, by Mike and Kate Ribot
Valerie was born in Lithgow NSW in 1927 and lived there until she was 12. She was one of six children, born on the cusp of the “Great Depression”, into a family who had already been touched by TB. Valerie’s Dad lost his first wife to TB, which left him with two young children. He then remarried and went on to have another four. In 1939 Valerie’s father moved the family to Smithtown, on the NSW mid-coast. This was to work on building the new Nestle powdered milk factory. The family lived in a tent and the children had only the very basics in terms of shoes and clothing… it was a tough time, particularly coming out of the great depression, and then into the second world war.
After the Nestle construction was completed the family moved to Leichardt in Sydney. Valerie found work with the Nestle company and contributed to the war effort by working in a factory. By this time, both Valerie’s parents were afflicted with TB and had to be nursed at home. Valerie, and her sister Beryl, were both exposed to TB when nursing their parents, and both would go on to contract TB. Tragically both parents died before they could see Valerie married to Frank Ribot in 1948.
After the birth of her first child in 1950, Valerie was sent to Boddington TB Hospital, in the Blue Mountains, where she spent almost a year in isolation being unable to hold her first born child. Valerie was also confined after the birth of her next two children… and although she suffered “immeasurably” from being separated from her infants, she was determined to have four children. Valerie faced the challenges of TB, overcame them, and fulfilled her dream with a happy clutch of four healthy, happy babies.
Following each release from Boddington, Valerie was required to attend hospital (catching the bus) to have her lung collapsed; this was done to “rest” her lung. Although this was a painful procedure, Valerie endured the discomfort, knowing that it was better to be treated as an outpatient than to be separated from her darling babies. The treatment worked, so as time went by, and other treatments improved, she was able to have her fourth child, without being required to go back to Boddington… what a blessing.
Valerie was a wonderful role model and was loved by all. She was a loving wife, mother and friend, and because she never complained, very few people understood what she had endured as a young woman. In later life she worked at the Westmead Children’s Hospital as a volunteer, never losing her love of babies… particularly the ones with dark hair (All her children were blonde). She was also a regular blood and platelet donor, a volunteer at her church and an amazing florist. What a dame!
Valerie passed away, from cancer, in 1998. Her overarching legacy was her four children, twelve grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren… with more to come. Sadly, she was not to see her first great grandchild born.