Hannah Cowdy, MGC, 1995 Leaver
I still remember my last Prizegiving at MGC. The guest speaker read a passage from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: ‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth’. At the time my parents joked I was more like a missile, but the words have stuck with me for several reasons. Firstly, the notion that parents – and by extension, schools – have a responsibility to help children take flight. Secondly, the fact that since the age of 10, I’ve wanted to see the world as part of my work. And thirdly, I knew after my time at MGC that if I did as I dreamt, I really could land – as an arrow does – in the places I aimed for, as well as unexpected and extraordinary destinations.
The last 25 years have certainly confirmed that. From the cattle ranch I lived on in the US for my Gap Year, to my graduate job at Reuters, the first few years out of school taught me the importance of tolerance and tenacity. These were values forged at Greenslade, where I made friends from around the world, overcame setbacks in the classroom to excel in my exams, and experienced boarding for the first time.
In the years that followed, I realised how valuable MGC’s international community and my language A Levels were in giving me a global perspective. From Reuters, I went to The Times, then ITN, then became the BBC’s person in Peru, later covering Chile, Bolivia and Haiti. It was Haiti, where I returned for Channel 4 News after the 2010 earthquake which led to the job that I’ve been doing for the past nine years. I saw the challenges faced by journalists in difficult and dangerous situations and wanted to support my colleagues, something I have been doing since 2010.
MGC also helped me find my voice to amplify the amazing work done by many women around the world and I later realised some of the gendered challenges and opportunities we face. I now also work with the UN and others to support women journalists, in particular, to overcome some of those obstacles; and train journalists of all genders to better represent the stories of women who are often the most invisible in society.
As a parent myself now, I want to support my own children so they too can take flight, but I also recognise that in order to do that I need to ensure my own bow isn’t broken or overburdened. As I have grown older, I have realised the value in balance: the need to breathe, to look after myself too.
What is your best piece of advice?
Know your own value. If you undervalue yourself, others will start to do the same.
Work is important, but it’s not everything. Likewise, you are important to work, but you are not everything. Once you realise that work will continue without you, if it has to, it’s quite liberating.