Plea to help bereaved Helena Valley family finish their home

Bec Rafferty and two of her three sons Alex and Dylan. Picture: Bruce Hunt d471766a
Bec Rafferty and two of her three sons Alex and Dylan. Picture: Bruce Hunt d471766a

DAYS after losing her husband to a ‘death sentence’, teacher Bec Rafferty put aside her grief to raise awareness of the disease that cut short the life of her 47-year-old partner.

“People need to be constantly reminded about the link between asbestos and mesothelioma,” she told the Gazette.

Asbestos was widely used in buildings before 2003 and young home renovators could be unaware of the health risks linked to the material banned in 2003.

Cut, drilled, sanded or machined asbestos releases fibres into the air and if inhaled can cause slow-developing fatal diseases later in life.

Peter Rafferty was given nine months to live when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2015; he died on July 4, 2017.

Before the diagnosis, the real estate agent was a robust and healthy man who coached a High Wycombe football team. His wife said the illness started with a cough that didn’t go away.

The couple connected with the mesothelioma support group started by Helena Valley builder Barry Knowles, who lost his battle with the disease on Christmas Eve.

His daughter Jo Morris continues to manage the charity, Reflections Through Reality Foundation.

She appealed to the building industry to help Bec and Peter finish the home they began building for their three sons and foster child in 2015.

“We approached Michael McLean, executive director of Master Builders and ambassador to the foundation, and explained the Rafferty family’s situation,” she said.

“Without hesitation, Master Builders offered their support,” she said.

“Suppliers and tradies are coming forward to provide what they can toward the project, but we urgently need cash to help cover unavoidable overheads.”

Ms Morris said the family started the owner-builder project to add living areas and bedrooms in the hope of fostering more children.

“Passionate about caring for children whose family lives are not ideal, Bec and Peter fostered seven children and would often find themselves with up to eight people living in their small, three- bedroom, one-bathroom home,” she said.

“Having done life tough as a youngster, Peter was deter¬mined to provide a stable, happy environment.”

The fatal diagnosis of the cancer-related illness came as he juggled work and the building project.

Against the odds, renovation continued in 2015 but when the couple approached their bank to refinance, they were knocked back until the home was at ‘lock up’ stage.

The family currently live in the half-finished home in Helena Valley.

Ms Morris said Peter and Bec would do anything to help anyone.

“It’s a privilege to be part of giving back to the family in their time of need,” she said.

“They deserve a comfortable home.”

Mrs Rafferty is a teacher at Eastern Hills Senior High School. She said it was humbling to be supported by the community.

“As a self-sufficient family, we’re unaccustomed to accepting help,” she said. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for us; mesothelioma is such a cruel disease.”

To complete the build, the project team needs landscaping materials, fencing and a plasterboard fixer or tiler willing to donate their time.

Contact Jo Morris at info@ reflections.org.au or donate at www.reflections.org.au.

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