A letter from the founders

oiEver since it was first established on Ólafur’s birthday, January 23rd 2007, the evolution of the Aurora Foundation has been an incredible journey.

We first become acquainted with development and humanitarian work as board members for UNICEF and the Red Cross in Iceland. The importance and impact of these two foundations was clearly apparent to us.

Living in Iceland at the time, we were regularly being approached to support various projects. One such project was the Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, a small town in the western part of Iceland. We immediately believed in both the project itself and the inspiring individuals behind it. Kjartan Ragnarson and Margrét Sigríður Guðmundsdóttir were already well known in Iceland for their amazing contributions to the performing arts in the country. With the Settlement Centre, they have taken Icelandic cultural tourism to new heights.

Our visits to Africa have always had a profound impact on us. While fond memories lingered and souvenirs added meaning to our home, our hearts were weighed down by the injustices we witnessed during our travels. Thus, we soon realised that to be the mere recipients of the continent’s beauty would leave a void in our lives. We committed ourselves to contribute towards finding solutions to some of Africa’s pressing problems.

Sierra Leone was the country we thought we could help most. As we believe that an emphasis on education is the best way forward for sustainable development, we decided to put our efforts into schools and education in Sierra Leone, in collaboration with UNICEF. With our support, fifty schools were built in remote and poverty stricken parts of the country in 2005, including those areas most affected by the terrible civil war of 1992–2002.

Our work – in Sierra Leone and to support the Settlement Centre – was the catalyst for the Aurora Foundation. We realised that such a foundation was a necessary step towards supporting future development and cultural projects. The name is important to us. Aurora was the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology and has always represented a new beginning and hope. With the help of the generous and brilliant individuals who agreed to take a seat on the board, the Foundation has consistently endeavoured to broaden horizons and seek challenges where the need is most dire.

Aurora Foundation has always placed emphasis on the profound impact of a few projects rather than the limited potential of many. Obviously, the Foundation itself is not going to change the world on its own. Nevertheless, with dedicated partners, open-mindedness and by learning from mistakes it has managed to be a force for good over the last ten years and to transform the lives of individuals. The projects have been varied as one will learn from our website. However, our earliest experience with development and humanitarian work has always been a guiding light in deciding which projects to fund.

Although many humanitarian projects have been supported in Iceland, the focus has been on culture. Aurora’s daughter funds’ were established with this in mind. We are extremely proud of how the Kraumur Music Fund and Aurora Design Fund have helped to realise exceptional talent and creative forces in Iceland.

Since the turn of the century, a new global movement has emerged led by designers who want to make a positive difference: not only in relation to the environment, but also in terms of improving the lives of people in the poorest parts of the world. The world is starting to recognise that sensible design solutions can be used as a tool to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. A good design can also be a design for good.

Music – or art in any form – is the strongest tool we have to express ourselves, our feelings and emotions, our political views and culture. Music has an enormous impact on people from all cultures throughout the world. It emanates from the deepest part of a person’s soul and can be enormously empowering. Music is an international language that connects people across cultures, continents and religious beliefs.

Our projects in Africa have focused on health, education and vocational prospects, with particular emphasis on those most vulnerable; children, teenage girls and young women. Being one of the countries at the bottom of the Human Development Index, Sierra Leone is the country most of our support goes to. There is no doubt that this resilient nation – and stunningly beautiful country – has great potential. However, the wealth yielded from natural resources has not yet managed to facilitate development. Our work there is challenging and impacted by various complicating factors, but on the horizon there is unquestionably a new dawn – a new hope.

No challenges are insurmountable. While there is much work ahead, it can be done. People should have access to adequate health-care, proper education, necessary nutrition and clean water. Despite all kinds of obstacles, the concentrated effort of many has managed to provide these basic human rights to ever more people around the globe. With the aid of new technologies, better access to information and the power of creative thought, people have been helped out of extreme poverty. Aurora Foundation is deeply committed to contribute to this effort into the future.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African proverb