Ruby Brookman Prins, a successful student who completed her A Levels this summer, has swapped comfort in Cornwall for a Greek island bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis in Europe.

After an enjoyable two years studying at Truro College, Ruby, aged 19, left Cornwall to start an au pair job in Spain as part of her gap year. However, as the refugee crisis worsened, she felt driven to help and within ten days had set off en route to Lesbos in Greece in order to work on a direct refugee support programme with a friend, working on the beaches to support the families and children as they arrive.

Ruby said: “Since we arrived, we haven’t even had a chance to think: we’re working from 8am to 1am. We’re here because we feel so strongly that this is where we need to be right now – there is so much need for help, for food, for first aid, for shelter. Some people don’t even know what country they’re in; they’re desperate. We’ve been in the water on the rocks at night helping them out of the hopelessly over-crowded dinghies, and they’re actually throwing their babies at us to make sure they’re safe…it’s pretty intense. It’s a lot to cope with. But we feel strongly we need to be here if we’re able to make some sort of tiny difference.”

The work is front line; there is little infrastructural support. Ruby, from Mount Hawke near Truro, together with her friend Annie Risner, from Whitstable, are living off their savings, and working as volunteers buying food, distributing it, sorting donations, organising information packs and signage, reuniting families and supporting those arriving and making the 60km trek to the sparsely resourced camps. Ruby and Annie are being supported by a local hotel which is providing accommodation for volunteers and helping provide food, as well as liaising with UNHCR and Save the Children, who are on the island trying to deal with enormous demand.

Ruby and Annie are running a Crowdfunder campaign and are aiming to raise money to support the people arriving in Lesbos. Ruby’s mother, Manda Brookman, runs CoaST, the sustainable tourism network, and a call for help to the CoaST network has already generated over a thousand pounds towards their efforts from businesses and individuals from Cornwall to Wales and as far as Northumberland.

Ruby added: We’re in awe of the donations coming in this week: It’s amazing that people have given almost four thousand pounds in less than a week. It’s incredible. There’s so much need, so every single penny counts – if you can, please do share and donate:”

On her college experience, Ruby said: “I really enjoyed my two years at Truro College; I know that it built up my confidence and organisational skills, as well as my understanding of some of the global, political and social dynamics at play right now. I know it’s helped me make the decision to come here, and do something immediately and practically useful with the time and skills I can offer.”

Greece is already stretched, and the refugee influx is taking its infrastructure to breaking point. Ruby has witnessed the clashes and tension, and tried to ensure the Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras saw the full extent of the refugee camp when he visited the site. She has also contacted the UN directly to ask them to provide more resource on the ground to help manage the growing need, and its resulting tension.

Fran Mullins, Student Services Team Leader at Truro and Penwith College, said: “Ruby is a really vibrant and dynamic young woman with a real passion for international affairs. Her current work with refugees is truly remarkable, revealing enormous resilience, great compassion and amazing stamina. We are proud of the achievements of all our students but sometimes, as with Ruby, they prove to be truly inspirational.”