On Friday November 6 2015 a BEM Investiture Ceremony was held in Spain for Clevedon Resident Chris Sumter. The British Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Simon J Manley, GMG presided over the ceremony in Alicante Spain.
The BEM was awarded to Chris in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June, and the citation is for meritorious civil service to the English speaking community in Spain.
Chris had only arrived back in the UK to live in Clevedon, after twenty years living and working abroad, a few weeks before she received the phone call from Madrid asking her if she would be willing to accept the honour. Until that phone call Chris had no idea she was even being considered for any kind of award, so it was a huge surprise to her and for a short while she was completely taken aback. In fact Chris could not talk on the phone when she took the first call as she was parking the car, and asked the caller, who said he was the British Ambassador to Spain to call back in ten minutes.
At that point Chris was convinced it was one of those scam calls and never expected a return call. Her shock was visible when she realised it was genuine and she was actually being honoured by the Queen for her services. When she returned to join her husband, Lubbertus, she told him that it was the Spanish Ambassador on the phone, but she had been sworn to secrecy so she couldn’t tell him what it was about. Eventually she relented and did tell him, swearing him to secrecy as well.
During those twenty years abroad Chris worked as a therapist and counselor, first in Singapore, then in Thailand. In 2004 she was part of the team helping and supporting survivors of the Boxing Day Tsunami there. In 2008 Chris “retired” to live in Spain with her husband, but rapidly found herself involved in the recently formed Samaritans in Spain. By 2010 she had become their President, moving the organisation forward and overseeing its expansion to a full 24/7 phone service and expanding out to Madrid. Throughout this time she was still offering help and support to a wide range of individuals.
Chris sees this award not just as recognition for all the work she has done over the years, but also a recognition of the hard work of all those involved in the Samaritans, both in Spain, the UK and around the world, and as recognition of all those carers all over the world who offer so much to others.
Chris “finally retired” when she moved to Clevedon, but as all those who know her will attest, we probably haven’t seen the last of her helping others.