The HIC concept was born at a kitchen table conference in 2013, when a British expat and a returning Swede discussed the challenges that newcomers face when they move to a different country.
Getting to grips with the local culture, language, and labour market takes time. For those focusing on a new work role, it’s often difficult to build a social network. Those who have followed their partner may have left a flourishing career behind and need to start again in an unfamiliar place. Others may have moved for love, refuge, quality of life, studies, or curiosity; in each case, there is a need for support and engagement in the local community if they are to thrive.
Sally Russell and Jenny Wieslander Chandler were both parents at the International School of Helsingborg and both had experienced life as an expat. They decided that the key to successful integration was a strong network, access to local knowledge, and a central platform where internationals could meet. Over the next few months, they met regularly to decide what form their idea should take and in 2014, Helsingborg International Connections was launched.
HIC started as a voluntary initiative and soon caught the eye of the local municipality, which recognised that HIC’s work aligned with the city’s goals for talent attraction and talent retention. They also acknowledged the clear social impact of HIC’s activities, helping to reduce isolation and loneliness while building a stronger, more sustainable society.
HIC began to collaborate with the municipality, which offered office space and employed HIC for assignments such as Europeade 2015 and individual expat events.
In 2017, Sally took part in the SoPact Accelerator Program for social entrepreneurs, which led to study visits to the Expat Center Holland South in Eindhoven, an international labour conference in Tallin, and inclusion in the 100 Social Entrepreneurs of Skåne website.
HIC formalised its organisational structure in late 2017, when it became an official partner of Helsingborg Municipality. HIC collaborates regularly with International Citizen Hub Lund and Lund University Campus Helsingborg, and a number of actors involved with talent attraction and retention in North West Skåne. In 2022, HIC was made an official Friend of H22 City Expo, taking part in several events and sharing information.
Sally Russell, CEO
Sally is British and has lived in Sweden since 2008, when she moved to Helsingborg with her family. She played an active role as a volunteer and PTA Chair at the International School of Helsingborg, where her focus was on building an inclusive, dynamic community for parents and families. She left her job as school librarian in 2018 to concentrate full-time on HIC, developing the platform further and taking care of all day-to-day activities. In 2021 she ran a Vision Fund project, a podcast called HIC Talks: Welcome to Helsingborg.
Sally graduated from the University of Southampton with an honours degree in French, which included a year living in France. She worked as an operations manager in shipping & freight forwarding and the London jewellery & antique business. She has held a number of language-teaching roles and takes on translation and proofreading assignments.
Leo Swales, Volunteer Coordinator
Leo has lived in Helsingborg since 2014. She and her British family took the opportunity of a job move to come to Sweden and experience life in another country. Leo took on different voluntary roles at the International School of Helsingborg, alongside Swedish studies and dog walks by the sea. She meets and greets new arrivals at HIC drop-in sessions, helping them with a wide variety of issues. She also assists at HIC events and coordinates the HIC volunteer group.
Leo graduated from university in London, and has an honours degree in English Literature and Religious Studies. She worked at IBM UK for many years in various different roles, including Events Management and Customer Care.
Jenny Wieslander Chandler, Co-founder
Jenny returned to her home town of Helsingborg in 2012, after 12 years of living overseas with her family. During that time, she lived and worked in six different countries, leading to an understanding of the processes through which international families in transit go, and the challenges of combining personal career goals with family commitments and expat life. Jenny currently works with market communication for Pingday AB as part of the City of Helsingborg’s digitalisation initiative.
Jenny graduated from Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm and has worked in media, advertising, and design roles for global corporations as well as taking on consular and community liaison roles during her time as an expat.
Åsa Kadom, Board Member
Åsa was born and grew up in Halmstad, Sweden. She has experienced working, studying, and raising her international family in different cultures, including those of Canada and Abu Dhabi. Åsa helped with HIC events and volunteered as a drop-in assistant for several years, joining the HIC Board in February 2019. She now works as an Onboarding Specialist at Koenigsegg Automotive AB, where she continues to help internationals moving to North West Skåne.
Åsa studied at catering college in Sweden and then moved to Canada to become an au pair. After studying as a legal secretary in Toronto she worked as Course Co-ordinator for international students at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, before relocating to Abu Dhabi.
Parul Ghosh, Board Member
Parul and her partner moved to Helsingborg from Delhi, India in 2017. In 2019, with the support of Visionsfonden, she founded This is Hbg, a local recommendation platform for internationals in Helsingborg. She currently works with Contentor, a global content services agency and with Open Space Mindpark, a co-working space in Helsingborg curating exhibitions and organizing events. She has also been part of the SoPact Accelerator Program in 2019.
Parul graduated from the University of Delhi with a degree in Psychology and Philosophy and then pursued her Master’s degree in Special Education. She has previously worked with global disability organizations and continues to work as a freelance writer in the field.