Island Native Trades LBI for Greece to Help Refugees

Mar 28, 2018
Gaby Hartney

Gabriela Hartney isn’t like most people her age. While many college juniors look forward to a summer off from school, she was looking for an opportunity to give back and help out. At the end of May, she’ll set out for a two-week assignment at a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, working with displaced people from around that region.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Hartney of Surf City, a 2015 Southern Regional graduate who has worked as a borough lifeguard for five years. She hopes to gain a broader look at life by working with the refugees and having the experience help her decide what she wants to do for the rest of her life, career wise. “I am really excited.”

Hartney, who is an international studies major with a minor in French and political science at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, said she stumbled on the opportunity, applied and was accepted by HELP International, a nonprofit whose mission “is to empower people to fight global poverty through sustainable, life-changing development programs.”

The college junior is volunteering with HELP International but will be partnering with other in-country organizations to provide social and emotional support and services for the refugees staying at the camp.

“I think it’s important to be involved,” said Hartney, who studied abroad as a sophomore and who hopes to work overseas after college, “whether people go or not to refugee camps. There are so many levels for people to get involved and see what their help means to these people.”

The United Nations estimates more than a million refugees have fled to Europe from various countries, around 62,000 of these refugees landing in Greece in what has become one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent times, she said.

HELP International, according to its website, assists inexperienced and academically trained workers mature into social entrepreneurs who understand the ramifications of poverty and find purpose in improving the quality of life for some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals. Since the company is nonprofit, the cost of volunteering falls on the shoulders of each worker.

For Hartney, the cost is $2,000 to enroll in the program and another $700 for airfare. She has set up a campaign to raise donations to help cover the program fees and raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Greece, as well as the mission that HELP International undertakes in the world. Anyone interested in donating can do so at or by donating directly to HELP International, and note that you are donating on behalf of Gabriela Hartney.

— Gina G. Scala

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