Crossing Countries graduates.


On Monday 25th April the Melting Pot held the Next Big Social Thing to celebrate the achievements, in the last seven months, of their awardees on the Social Innovation and Incubation Award programme. Along with 9 other innovative social entrepreneurs Crossing Countries were showcased to funders and potential partners.

Yvonne Strachan, head of equality, human rights and third sector division, of the Scottish Government said “What they are doing is incredibly important for our future.”

During these seven months Jean learnt about business planning, marketing, branding, leadership, resilience and herself! It was an invaluable experience and has made Crossing Countries a more realistic and sustainable business, although like all the other amazing social enterprises on the programme they will continue to dream big and fight for everyone to be seen as valuable members of society

Crossing Countries 2016 Annual Ceilidh

Macsween’s haggis, the Collumcille Ceilidh Band, the talented caller and the warm, welcoming atmosphere of the hall at the Church of the Good Shepherd made our 2016 ceilidh a truly inclusive and community event. Raffle prizes which added up to the value of over £600 from Will Power, Indie Venture Marie Flynn, Invisible Edinburgh, the Tool Library and Pop Up Scotland heightened the excitement.  From 7 years to 70 years, in wheelchairs or on two feet, from Scotland or elsewhere everyone was up dancing and having fun.

Crossing Countries Annual Ceilidh 2016

Yes it’s that time of year again…

Time to dance you socks off to the Collumcille Ceilidh Band, munch a haggis supper (kindly donated by Macswean) and to have a thourghly energetic and fun packed evening.

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Murrayfield have been good enough to support out project in so many ways including letting us use their hall as our new venue. Hope you will be able to come along on the 23rd April 7-11pm!!

You can get your tickets here

Wheelchair user dressed and ready for Crossing Countries Ceilidh
Dressed for Crossing Countries Ceilidh

New Accessible web site Thanks to 8i2016 and Skyscanner

On Friday 18th March Suzi and Jean met the team who transformed our web site at the 8 hours overtime for a good cause event hosted by Skyscanner. From 7pm to 3am Anna Monus, Naiba De Bona and Siwei Kang worked their socks off to build a new more accesible site. We can’t say thank you enough to them for all their hard work on the evening and their continued support after the event. Oh and a big thank you too to the organisers of the event for selecting Crossing Countries and to Skyscanner for their support.

Three volunteers, Suzi and Jean sit round a table all working on their lap tops to achieve their goal of an accessible web site.
8i2016 volunteers hard at work
The fist view (at 2.45 am) of our new web site at 8i2016 presentation at Skyscanner offices.
The fist view (at 2.45 am) of our new web site at 8i2016 presentation at Skyscanner offices.
Our two volunteers Anna and Sewei working out how to make our site more accessible.
Anna & Sewei hard at work on our web site
Nabia, our skyscanner volunteer working out the new layout of our more accessible web site.
Nabia, our skyscanner volunteer working out the new layout of our more accessible web site.

Cosmopolita Scotland

Two of my fellow awardees on the SIIA scheme has today published an article about us in their on line magazine that seeks to integrate the Spanish Community in Scotland. Their magazine is brilliant and I highly recommend that you read it. Here is our article but do read the rest of the magazine it is informative, well written and exactly right for a dreich Friday afternoon on the sofa.

BIG THANKS to Jordi, Noelia and the rest of their team.

Science Festivals and Craft Fairs

The more often I explain what Crossing Countries does and why we do it the more I am convinced that it is the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ that is important. This became even clearer when we were invited to be part of the Social Dimensions of Health Institute stall at the Dundee Science Festival earlier this month. Their theme was ‘Perceptions’ and included information about optical illusions, perceived identities and vulnerabilities. ‘Change your thoughts, change the world’ was the catalyst for our display which asked people to question what they saw. Was the kite made out of a black bag and straws, rubbish or a kite? Was the model of a car, wire or a toy and were the people in the fashion show, models or wheelchair users?

Dundee Science Festival_edited

Last weekend we did our very first craft fare for WHALE at St Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Colinton. It was a delightful introduction into the word of crafters. We met lots of lovely people who were so positive and supportive of our enterprise. The Ikwhezi Welfare Organisation’s ceramics sold very well so we will definitely bring some of those back next year. I have a feeling this won’t be the last craft fair we do.

Craft Fair Nov 2015_edited

For Beth

The Crossing Countries team and I are very sorry that Beth has stepped down as Co director but remains on the team with a special interest in events. We want to say all the things that everyone says on these occasions and more. She has been with us since we dreamt of going to Africa, before Crossing Countries was actually born. You could say she is one of this baby social enterprises’ parents, while also being one of its offspring. So Crossing Countries work is done here, she has challenged her boundaries and it is time for her to change her life… time for her to fly and become the world renowned author we know she will be. She has been well warned that when she is signing autographs for the likes of JK Rowling or picking up her first Booker prize she will be wearing a Crossing Countries sweatshirt and selling tickets at our next event.

Here is a little collection of our favourite memories of the gorgeous ginger known as ‘Bethers’….

(61) 27 July 2014 Beth & Asiphle(51) 27 July 2014 Beth ...ah they're hats(78) 28 July 2014 Beth at Soiezwe, KwaMashu(16) 25 July 2014 the sleeping gingers Dubai(87) 28 July 2014 Beth and Ntuthuko in van(177) 1 Aug 2014 The surf dudes return

Getting ourselves known

Getting out there and getting Crossing Countries known is a job in itself. To add to the events we have been taking part in we have also had a photo in the Edinburgh Evening News and a feature in the excellent  Disability Horizons

Laura and I were also invited by Professor Thilo Kroll, to the Social Dimensions of Health Institute, which brings together researchers from both Dundee and St Andrews Universities. Our reflections about our trip can be heard on the link here.

Crossing Countries is now a member of the Scottish Disability Equality Forum and we have been to our first meeting where the Scottish Government Draft Delivery Plan 2016-2020 was discussed.

We have also applied to join Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network and Social Enterprise Scotland.

About being an incubee, wearing a blindfold and spreadsheets

I have been learning a whole new vocabulary and been meeting some awesome other social entrepreneurs as I was accepted on the Scottish Incubation and Ideation Awards Scheme run by the Melting Pot, which started in mid-September. ‘Revenue streams’, ‘customer segments’ and ‘social impact’ now trip off the end of my tongue. To say nothing of my 1 minute elevator pitch. To be accepted for the second half of the course I have a 5 minute pitch to give in December, my poor cat is now fed up hearing why Crossing Countries is unique and why I should remain on the award scheme. The other awardees have also been tutoring me on the importance of tweeting …so I have sent out the odd note but I’m not up to a full blown morning chorus…as yet

SIIA 7_9_15

The learning doesn’t stop here as I have also completed the sighted guiding training course with RNIB. It not only brought home to me the amount of trust that is required by a blind person but also how your sight makes you pay so much more attention to what people are saying. I was reminded that it is through listening we understand.

Guiding Training

I have also signed up for an online Excel for business course, the challenge of using a long drop toilet in rural SA is nothing compared to the dreaded spreadsheet!!