Alumni Services

An accessible world

Alumni join forces to create a new Edinburgh based social enterprise that takes disabled students abroad.

Crossing Countries

Crossing Countries was founded by alumna, Jean Cathro, and recent English Literature graduate Beth Cochrane. Their shared vision: To make volunteering abroad not simply something for the ‘able-bodied’, or for those who can readily afford such experiences.

Making a difference

Informed by her work with the University’s Student Disability Services and inspired by a chance visit to South Africa in 2008, Jean began to look at ways in which she could use her experience and skills to make a difference.

The joy and resilience of the Zulu people and their philosophy of Ubuntu gave me the strength to change my life and start the process of changing others.

Jean Cathro

A daring duo

Crossing Countries works by pairing disabled students (‘Travellers’) with non-disabled ‘Travel Pals’. The team then work together to fundraise for the trip whilst the Travel Pal undergoes training associated with their Traveller’s disability.

There is a short practice trip before the big adventure. This is to ensure that the team has bonded and to identify potential problems and assess whether additional preparation is required.

Crossing Countries surfing

Durban 2014

Crossing Countries’ first trip was this summer. Edinburgh graduates Agata Dzieciolowska and Judith Drake joined Aberdeen alumnus Mark Cooper and the Crossing Countries representatives, Jean and Beth, in travelling to Durban, South Africa. They were met by their Zulu ‘Travel Pal’ Lucky Peko and driver Ntuthuko Bhengu.

The trip was a huge success. The team worked in township crèches with abused children, on maternity wards with new mums, gave presentations in schools to disabled learners including the students at Dloko High School; whose choir enjoyed success at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

The trip was also memorable for the type of experiences that many of us take for granted.

Judith, who thought she would never be able to be on beach again, swam in the ocean and Agata, who is blind, had a surfing lesson.

This trip to Durban was amazing. It has forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone. At times it was overwhelming and made me quite ill but what I got in return outweighed the negative points. Nothing good in life comes easily.

Judith Drake

The future

Crossing Countries have confirmed the dates for the next adventure as the 20 July to the 6 August and are now looking for Travellers.

They are scouting for volunteers with skills who could help them with finance, strategic planning, training Travel Pals or providing advice and guidance.

Do you know anyone who might be interested in becoming a 2015 Traveller, or are you interested in getting involved? You can visit the Crossing Countries website for more information or contact one of the team via the email address below.

Crossing Countries

We want to expand our enterprise so that we can offer trips to other destinations and that disabled people from other countries could come to Edinburgh and volunteer here.

Jean Cathro