When you’re new in town, life’s not easy.
You’ll quickly find the obvious things you need, like supermarkets, banks, doctors and dentists, but after a while, the hard part starts.
Where do you go to find people like you, to make friendships, to develop a social circle? How do you find your way in, your niche, your place to be happy and content?
When you arrive in a new place, it’s easy to shut oneself away and look inwards, because sometimes the new world outside is just too scary to engage with. And that doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help your mental wellbeing, it doesn’t help if you have a family to look after, and it doesn’t help society because you’re not able to contribute to it or give anything back.
Sally Russell and Jenny Wieslander Chandler met as parents at the International School of Helsingborg. After a long chat at Jenny’s kitchen table one afternoon about the difficulties of breaking into the Swedish labour market, they concluded that the key to successful integration (or for returning Swedes, re-integration) is a network. They decided to set up their own, and so in 2014, Helsingborg International Connections (HIC) was born.
We’ve designed a programme that welcomes and supports people who are new to town, by providing regular events and information in English and a friendly place to meet other internationally-minded folk. HIC gives new arrivals an easier way into society – a softer landing into their new environment. Many people read about us online before relocating here, and it gives them confidence and reassurance before they move to know that they can join a welcoming community.
Our events are a mixture of social and professional and have been attended by over 60 different nationalities. We bring in guest speakers to talk about volunteering opportunities, business networks, life coaching, intercultural training, local events, tourism & culture, as well as the city’s vision for the future. We are always happy to receive suggestions for events from our members and speakers who would like to share their passion or talk about their organisation!
It doesn’t matter where you come from or how long you’ve been in Sweden, our aim is to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to meet others and to increase their chances of building a meaningful, purposeful life here.
We know that our formula works!
There’s a special kind of magic that happens when you put two people together and see how they can help each other. Or watch people find the confidence to reinvent themselves and take the plunge to study or start a new business after attending our events. The ripple effect of our work is huge, and it’s been fantastic to hear how introductions we have made have led to new jobs, new opportunities and friendships for people from all over the world.
What started as a voluntary movement which has been recognised by Helsingborgs Stad as a valuable service, and we are now working in partnership with them. They’ve given us a 3-year financial support package and an office in town where we host weekly drop-in sessions to help internationals.
In 2017, HIC was selected to be part of the SoPact Accelerator Program for social entrepreneurs, and through the program we have been able to expand our own network and knowledge base. It was a great experience to meet each week with other social entrepreneurs and to hear from experts within the fields of sustainability, communications, social innovation, and much more. Our work has been featured in the local press and Jenny has been interviewed by Veckans Affären, as well as being invited by them to take part in a panel discussion in Stockholm about the Swedish job market, international competences and international mobility for Swedish employees.
We are now taking HIC to the next stage of its development and are meeting with international companies to see how we can support their international workforce.
By providing a programme of in-house welcome sessions and events, we can make sure that other international people living in our area are looked after. By offering support packages for individuals and families, we can help companies attract and retain their international talent. By developing a steady income stream, we can secure HIC’s future and help other internationals coming to the area. Please feel free to contact us if we can help your business!
We are excited about the future and looking forward to making HIC a long-lasting fixture in this region!