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From Xaverian College student to reporting on humanitarian rescues on the Mediterranean Sea

Molly Blackall is a Xaverian Alumni from the ‘Class of 2016’ who studied A Levels in History, English Literature and French and an AS Level in Drama and Theatre. After completing her A Levels and travelling with some Xaverian friends, Molly went to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to study International Relations and History. Following this, she completed a Master’s Degree in Newspaper Journalism at City, University of London.

Former Chorlton High School student, Molly, started her career working for ‘The Guardian’ as a Freelance Journalist, and then joined ‘i Newspaper’ as a Breaking News Reporter, and now works as Global Affairs Correspondent for the same newspaper. Molly said: “I hadn’t always wanted to work in the media, although I always knew I wanted to do something linked to politics, human rights, and global issues like conflict and humanitarian crises. For me, journalism combined those things with my love of writing. The great thing about my job is I get the opportunity to talk to interesting people, which is something I feel very lucky to be able to do. I spent a lot of time at Xaverian and university engaged in politics and protesting nearly everything I felt needed to be protested! I found that journalism was an amazing way to spotlight the issues I cared about and bring them to a wider audience. I feel very privileged to have a platform where I can raise issues and, hopefully, make people listen and care.”

Whilst working at the ‘i Newspaper’ an opportunity came Molly’s way, through her work with humanitarian organisations, that was unexpected and meant that she would be reporting on the front line of rescuing migrants on boats sailing to Europe. She commented: “I had certainly never done anything like that before, and in truth I don’t think anything can really prepare you. I had travelled to Calais to report on Ukrainian refugees trying to get to the UK, but nothing on this scale or intensity.”

Before taking part in the rescue missions, Molly was trained in First Aid techniques and took part in practice rescues using dummies on small boats in a harbour. She also learned about the mental health support that would be needed for the people rescued. Molly eventually joined the crew of the ‘Ocean Viking’ humanitarian ship for three weeks, reporting on the patrol as crew took shifts looking for boats with migrants to rescue. Molly said: “You had to keep your radios on constantly, even overnight, and we would get notified that a boat had been detected and the ship was heading towards it. But when the rescue actually took place, we usually had very little warning. The radio would crackle saying: “All crew, all crew, all crew, ready for rescue”. You had to drop what you were doing, rush up and put on your rescue gear in just a couple of minutes, before taking your position on the Rhibs and speeding off to carry out the rescues. Physically it’s quite exhausting and, emotionally, it could also be very intense.”

Molly witnessed three rescues and in total the ship rescued 387 people from five rescue missions. Once rescued, the people were taken to Italy, and Molly spent this time interviewing the ship’s crew and dozens of the rescued migrants.

Video: The i Paper

Molly commented: “Xaverian was certainly an important time in shaping my identity and interests. My lessons, in particular, History learning about things like the Vietnam War, helped drive my passion for the type of things I write about today. Learning French also enabled me to do interviews with French speakers on the ship. I was lucky enough to have some wonderful teachers, who really nurtured my interests and were hugely supportive when I applied to university. I also met amazing friends who I’m still in touch with today.

“My advice to current students is try everything and learn as much as you can outside of the classroom as well as in the classroom. You’ll find things that really drive you, and in my case, those interests have been integral to my career.”

As one of the largest providers of post-16 education in the region, Xaverian College offers an extensive range of A Levels in addition to several BTEC courses. Applications are still open for our A Level and Applied courses starting in September 2023. Visit xaverian.ac.uk to find out more.

Photo: Molly Blackall

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