Cross of St Piran 2017: Rowley Surridge
It will be hard to give Rowley this award because of his dogged insistence that it’s not about him, but the committed, generous-hearted, hard-working volunteers who, behind the scenes, stand together to make life a little easier for the vulnerable refugees and migrants on the French coastline.
Rowley was one of a small team from All Saints, Highertown who did more than just shake their head at the awful scenes being shown on our TVs from the refugee encampments in Calais and Dunkirk. Many of us wonder what can be done, or express outrage that nothing is being done, but few of us actually do something. Rowley, supported by the church’s pastoral team, and at the instigation of a local roller derby, looked into very practical ways of getting help to where it was needed most.
After the first fact-finding trip to the refugee camp in August 2015, Rowley set about galvanising support in Cornwall to source, collect, store and transport vital aid. Having made contact with aid agencies working on the ground in France, the team over here were better placed to know exactly what was needed. With each trip they subsequently made and with the ever changing landscape over there, Rowley was particularly keen to ensure that the growing bank of goodwill be used to maximum effect.
This meant strengthening the community. Mastering social media. Making links with more organisations in France, co-ordinating efforts with other churches, groups and bodies of people in Cornwall doing something similar. And, vitally, talking with and listening to the refugees themselves. Close to the top of Rowley’s wish-list was to be as targeted as possible, to honour the heartfelt efforts everyone else had made – whether that’s by turning duvets into sleeping bags, preparing supplies in readiness for what is actually needed, arranging for surplus to be recycled or making the best use out of a generous, anonymous donation of 16 brand new tents.
Rowley, who is also a street pastor, says, “I never ask people for money, I just ask that they pray.” And those prayers form the bedrock of everything he and his team do.
There are no easy solutions, but that has never been a reason for Rowley and the team he works alongside to stop trying to make life a little easier for the thousands of vulnerable, displaced and damaged people living in desperate circumstances just forty miles off our own borders.
It is this determination to help that has earned Rowley this nomination for a Cross of St Piran Award.