Scottish Book Trust Journey Story

Challenging Boundaries, Changing Lives.

Sometimes my big toes skiffed the sand for a second before the ocean sucked up its strength and crashed over my head again.

‘Jeannie. Are you OK?’ shouted Jude from three feet away.


Some of the salt water dripping from my nose and chin had nothing to do with the sea. It was tears, tears of joy and pride. Was I OK? Hell yeah! More than OK!

Sometimes there are moments in your life that are perfect, they epitomise your dreams, they exceed your expectations and you have an all-consuming need to capture them. Like a luscious plum, a moments sweetness that becomes part of you… to savour on dull days when procrastination and frustration bleed you of purpose and worth.

I’m in the Indian Ocean; a blurred and shimmering Durban skyline appears mirage like between waves. Two lifeguards hover close to Jude. I did this… I made this happen… me… who is worried about getting a train to Glasgow, who says something then doubts whether it was correct or how it might be interpreted.

I’m just an ordinary Scottish Mum who stayed at home and brought up her three children. Twenty years of jam making, seed planting, zoo visits, homework negotiations and furniture polishing. Someone once told me, children are your greatest sorrows and greatest joys, and in those years the joys certainly outweighed the sorrows…and yet…something was missing. An English higher and some classes led to a university degree which in turn led to a job as a note taker for disabled students at university. Agata was one of those students.

Rising up out of a wave I can see the animated outlines of Beth and Agata, arm in arm, laughing as they walk through the simmering water to the beach. They have just had their first surfing lesson. Not part of our volunteering itinerary but Crossing Countries believes in flexibility and challenges. Agata’s smile as she rode her first wave, a reminder of her smile when she introduced me to her first guide dog, when she graduated from university and when we decided to go on our African adventure.

Africa…has always held a place in my heart. A trip, through my father’s work, to Nigeria in the 70s, sowed the seed. Then my son’s visit, with his school to Durban, was the catalyst for a family holiday. We quickly discovered why he loved the place and people so much. I found myself doing things I never thought I could. Nine visits later, I have taught in township class rooms, done art with street kids, danced in shacks, created a vegetable garden and spent many hours talking and arguing about life, the universe and everything with my Zulu friends and family.

And from all these disparate life journeys an idea was planted, a team was created and Crossing Countries was born.

Guiding the beach wheelchair and a dripping and elated Jude back to the sand of the golden mile I realise how Crossing Countries is Ubuntu in action. The South African philosophy of Ubunto has been an integral part of my journey and is complicated to explain. My understanding is that when we can recognise both the differences and the similarities in each other we recognise that we cannot flourish without all of us flourishing. Desmond Tutu says ‘”A person is a person through other persons.” In essence…I can only be the best person I can be if you are the best person you can be.

That woman who found it easier to plant vegetables than to visit her best friend in London has come a long way, she has founded Crossing Countries, a social enterprise, which enables disabled people to volunteer abroad, to have the same experiences as their non-disabled friends.

Today with my feet in the ocean and my hand on Jude’s shoulder I am so, so proud of this team of adventurers who have come on this journey with me.

Reflection time over… Jude is talking to me.

‘Jeannie are you ok? You’re not crying again?’

Pub Quiz & Ceilidh: Two Successful Events: August 2015


We have been a bit busy with our recent trip to SA so apologise for not having kept the blog up to date.

The pub quiz hosted by Goose at the Links Hotel turned out to be a busy and somewhat competitive evening. Last year’s winning team was pipped at the post and a metaphorical gauntlet was thrown down. Looks like this will be an annual event. Tension was high and Silvia (one of our raffle prizes) had to take a moment with a wee glass of red wine.


The ceilidh also looks like it will become an annual event. Any concerns that we wouldn’t cover our costs were dispelled as we had to turn people away at the door. The Collumcille Ceilidh Band and their caller kept everyone dancing all night. Fueled by Macsween’s haggis and clapshot the dancing got more and more energetic as the evening went on culminating in a dance where the lads lifted the lassies of the ground as they twirled, just like the blades of a helicopter. There were crafts and jam and tablet to buy, games to play, the ever popular raffle and a silent art auction. The evening was a huge success outstripping our wildest dreams. SO a HUGE THANK YOU to all those who contributed their time or goods and to all those who attended.

2015 Trip News & Two Exciting Events: May 2015


April has been a mixed month for us, with both good and bad news. Unfortunately, Beth and one of our Travelers have dropped out of our 2015 trip for various reasons. We are sorry they will not be joining us this year but their cards are marked for 2016!

The good news is that the trip plans are all coming together. Flights have been booked (leaving on 23rd July and returning 10th August!!) and accommodation is being booked this week. Plans are also being made for placements in Durban; this year there will be an artistic slant to our volunteering. Partially because this is where the team’s interests lie, but also because Crossing Countries wants to launch an online shop that will sell the work of young South African arts and crafts people. By doing this we will be able to build Crossing Countries while also supporting new art in Durban. Our small team will also give us the flexibility to research new and varied placements and look for accessible accommodation for 2016 as we have a number of wheelchair users interested in next year’s trip.

We have two events planned.

Crossing Countries Pub Quiz with Edinburgh’s hottest Quizmaster Goose.

Pub Quiz Flyer


Our second Crossing Countries Pub Quiz is at the Links Hotel, from 6pm on 26th May. Bring a team along and win one of our amazing prizes either at the quiz or the raffle.

Crossing Countries Ceilidh with the Cracking Columcille Ceilidh Band

Our first ceilidh will be at the Columcille Centre (2 Newbattle Terrace) on 3rd July 2015 at 7.30 pm till 11.30pm Tickets are £10 which includes haggis, neeps and tatties provided by Macsween.

We are delighted to have the Columcille Ceilidh Band with us whose members include musicians with and without learning disabilities, another social enterprise who believe in equal opportunities.

crossing countries flyer_edited

Suzi walks a Marathon & Character Scotland Small Grant Award: April 2015


Well where did March go?

Although the web site has been very quiet we have been really busy… a bit like swan gliding along while paddling furiously under the water.

On the 28th February Suzi walked a marathon to raise funds for Crossing Countries. She raised over £700 and funds are still incoming! Well Done Suzi. Here’s a little word from her about her experience.

“It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I expected to really suffer with fatigue throughout the latter part of the journey but what really knocked me was severe pains in my hips and knees. These started around mile 7 and just got worse but at that point Jean dropped off my dog Bailey to do the next 10 miles with me so that took my mind off the pain a lot. The last few miles were the worst, the rain came down and I was all alone with no phone battery for music or contact. I made it, 8 and a half hours later I stumbled very sore and wet through my front door to be greeted by my housemate, our dogs and of course the Crossing Countries team who had made a lovely roast dinner, apple crumble and a very large glass of prosecco.  Walking through the door was strange, I suddenly realised how cold and wet I was and that I had actually completed what I set out to do. The overwhelming happiness and relief was not something I had expected. I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has donated, sent well wishes and joined me on the walk. I really couldn’t have done it without you.”

A random letter sent by Jean after listening to Dame Julia Cleverdon on Desert Island Disks resulted in connections with George Fielding at Whizz Kids and Ronnie Davidson at Character Scotland. Thanks to Julia, George and Ronnie for their advice and we hope to see George on next year’s trip! We also want to say a big thank you to Character Scotland for awarding us their small grant fund.


Presentation Video and Business Advice: February 2015

Jude and Jean were invited to give a presentation to the Social Dimensions of Health Institute at Dundee University which, much to their embarrassment, you can see at… Thanks to Thilo Kroll who continues to support the project with his expertise.

Jean had a productive meeting with Ian Edwards for First Port who is helping us to create a business plan.

We are having our first meeting on Saturday 18th April with our new recruits and like all good adventure stories you will have to wait to meet them11015097_1621242584764452_633724291555638500_o….

Presentations and Marathons: February 2015


It’s been all go at Crossing Countries the past few weeks, Jean and Jude are off to Dundee University to give a presentation on all the work we do on 23rd February, we all wish them lots of luck, with this in mind we have extended our recruitment deadline till 20th March… We don’t want to miss anyone out!

New recruit Suzi has been busy too, she has committed to walking a marathon to raise funds for Crossing Countries 2015 trip on 28th February. If you would like to donate to this please check out her Fundrazr Page Or you can donate via the paypal buttons on this site.

Suzi has also managed to get Crossing Countries a bit of press. East Lothian Courier has done a lovely article on us and her marathon efforts.

That’s not all folks, Listen out for us tomorrow (Wednesday 18th Feb) where Jean and Suzi will be chatting with Rosanne on Radio Saltire from 4pm

And next month pick up a copy of I-on Magazine to check out why Jean and Suzi enjoy working on Crossing Countries together and make a pretty good mother, daughter team.DSC_1985

Come and Join Us: January 2015


It’s time to get recruiting here at Crossing Countries! Our fliers have gone out to universities and colleges around Scotland but if its not in your local education establishment then check out the information below and get in touch if you or anyone you know may be interested!

Crossing Countries: challenging boundaries, changing lives

Are you a student or a recent graduate? Are you disabled and in receipt of Disabled Student Allowance? Would you like to be able to volunteer in South Africa? If the answers to all these question is yes, we want to hear from you!

Crossing Countries is a unique organisation that matches disabled students (travellers) with a travel pal, you will work together to raise money (with our support) and we will provide training, a team leader for your trip and our invaluable expertise.

Crossing Countries is looking for new travellers for our 2015 trip to Durban, South Africa. We will support you to raise funds to allow you to go out and volunteer with our partners in Durban. In 2014 our travellers volunteered at crèches, schools, hospitals and Operation Bobbi Bear (a charity aiding sexually abused children).

Currently the dates for travel are the 20/07/15 – 06/08/15 and the cost is £2000. Both are subject to change depending on 2015 charges for flights, hotels, transport etc. You need to be over 18 and have received or are receiving Disabled Student Allowance.  If you’re interested please send us an email at for an application form, which must be returned by the 15/02/15. Please state if you need the form in a special format.

For more information please see our site

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @CC_Travellers

Flyers, Welcome Packs and New Team Member: January 2015

As we put 2014 in the past, clear up the Christmas wrapping paper and champagne glasses the Crossing Countries team has been hard at work planning our next adventure for 2015. We have lots of exciting things to report…

  • Jude has created and now dispersed the 2015 fliers to help us find some willing students to come on our adventure, check out colleges and universities in Edinburgh if your interested or drop us an email!
  • Jean has been working hard with her post-its making sure that all the legalities and fun is starting to come together.
  • We have a new addition to our team for 2015! Suzi, Jeans daughter who works in pupil support will be joining us for our 2015 trip, you will hear more about her as the year goes on but needless to say we will all be in for a bundle of laughs over the coming months. She has already been put to work though and has created a “Welcome Pack” for all new travelers and travel pals which includes everything from local phrases to (her favorite) Health and Safety Policy.

Keep a look out for new developments and updates for this year exciting adventure!