FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
The year 2018 was yet another successful year for Aurora’s projects. The majority of the foundation’s activities are in Sierra Leone although we continue to support some smaller projects in Iceland. The equity position of the fund in ISK is quite good, although it has continued to diminish due to slow markets in both Europe and Iceland and some write down of assets.
Direct contributions to projects in 2018 were similar to the previous year. In total 7 different projects received around 19m ISK or 158,300 USD in direct contribution during the year, with the majority of these projects in Sierra Leone.
The largest contribution was, as in 2017, to the design project Sweet Salone, which received around 5.3m ISK (44,200 USD), but this is one of Aurora´s main project, that is executed by the Foundation itself. The second largest project, also in Sierra Leone, was Aurora Music which received around 4.2m ISK (35,000 USD). But Aurora partnered in 2018 with the Freetown Music Festival (FMF) team to establish the first-ever Freetown Music Writing Week, where we invited Sierra Leonean, UK, and Icelandic musicians to work. They all met in Sierra Leone and spent a week together sharing experiences and creating new music. The third largest project also involved music but this time in Iceland. The Kraumur Music Awards received a total amount of 3.2m ISK or 26,700 USD. This was the 11th year that the Kraumur Music Awards were presented. The other projects received between 0.5m to 2,6m ISK (or around 4,200 to 21,700 USD) each.
Only one of the smaller projects were in Iceland. In that project, Aurora is supporting the finalization of a documentary that is intended to raise awareness of mental illnesses.
The other three smaller projects were all in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, Aurora supported only one project that it is not executing itself. That is a School Feeding project in Magbenteh Community Boarding School. The other two projects were both executed by Aurora. In one Aurora is partnering with Sierra Leone Adult Education Center (SLADEA) and rehabilitating the only Pottery Center in Sierra Leone, as well as establishing a Pottery School. In the other Aurora took the first steps in establishing an Entrepreneurial Hub in Freetown, where the focus will be to held courses and support young Sierra Leonean entrepreneurs.
Aurora received a substantial sum as a repayment of the loans granted to two microfinance institutions in Sierra Leone in 2014 and 2016. These were the final repayments from both of the institutions. In total Aurora received 12.3m ISK in 2018 or 102,500 USD as loan repayment. The loans were paid back in Leones (Le) (the currency of Sierra Leone), but part of the agreement with the microfinance institutions was that Aurora would take all FX risk on these loans. The Le/USD exchange rate has devalued from 4,600Le per 1 USD at the time the loans were issued in 2014 and 6,150 Le per 1 USD in 2016, to the average of 7,900Le per 1 USD in the year 2018, ending the year at 8,400 per 1 USD. Hence, the value of the final loan payments in USD terms was less than 55% and 60% respectively of the initial loan value.
No changes were made in the Board of Aurora during the year but the Aurora office in Sierra Leone expanded. Agnes Sunah Keili was hired mid-year as a Project Coordinator.
I want to thank my fellow board members, the executive director of Aurora and the staff of Aurora in Sierra Leone for good cooperation in the year 2018.
Activities during the year 2018
The Board of Aurora Foundation held eight board meetings during the year. The Annual Board meeting was held on the 17th of April and a strategic planning session was held on the 13th of August.
Board & employers
At the annual board meeting on the 17th of April, the board was re-elected and thus the board is set up of the following individuals:
- Ólafur Ólafsson
- Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir
- Birta Ólafsdóttir
- Stefán Ingi Stefánsson
- Ómar Berg Torfason
President of the board is Ólafur Ólafsson
The Foundation has its permanent residency at 7-15 Kjalarvogur, 104 Reykjavik. Whilst the Freetown office is at 168 Wilkinson Road, Freetown.
The Fund Finances
Financial markets were extremely poor all over the world in the year 2018. In Aurora´s main markets there was a decline during the year, with the decrease in Iceland marking the third year in a row where the financial market is fragile. Against this weak or non-existence growth in Aurora´s financial market, the ISK weakened against its major currencies during the year, which means an increase in the ISK value of the FX denominated assets. Therefore weighing up some of the negativity of the financial market, but only partially. In addition, Aurora needed to write down some of its assets during the year. Hence there was a considerable contraction in the fund during the year, measured in ISK.
Assets at the end of the year 2018 were 1.020.712.198 ISK, thus a decrease of 90,450,847 ISK. Contribution to projects during the year amounted to 18.981.932 ISK, and the operational cost of the fund was 44.069.501 ISK. After allowing for contributions to projects and operational costs and taxes, the return on the fund was negative by 3,9%, which is the third year in a row the fund is experiencing a negative turnaround.
Aurora has a web page www.aurorafoundation.is where the Charter of the Fund is published along with other information on Aurora Foundation and all the projects it has supported and implemented through the years. Information regarding the board members may also be found on the web page.
Aurora operates a Facebook page where all major news are published, as well as an Instagram account where beautiful photos related to Aurora projects can be found.
Contribution to projects in 2018
Aurora contributed in total around 10.6m ISK (88,300USD) to 6 different projects in fields such as arts and crafts, education, economic activity, music, and humanitarian activities, both in Iceland and in Sierra Leone. Out of the six projects, four are Aurora’s own executed projects.
- Sweet Salone: Design, arts and crafts …………………………………..ISK 5,298,702
- Aurora Music …………………………………………………………………….. ISK 4,202,819
- Kraumur, Music Award ……………………………………………………….ISK 3,154,270
- Entrepreneurial Hub ……………………………………………………………ISK 2,571,969
- Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School ………………………………..ISK 1,980,106
- School Feeding Project, Magbenteh Community School ………..ISK 1,086,253
- Þriðji póllinn ………………………………………………………………………….ISK 500,000
1 Own Projects
1.1 Icelandic projects
Kraumur Music Awards
The Kraumur Music Awards is an annual music prize awarded for the best albums released by Icelandic artists during the year. In 2018 the 11th Kraumur Music Awards were awarded in December. All details of the Awards can be found here .
Eldar Ástþórsson has been the director of the awards since 2014 and the president of the jury has been Árni Matthíasson, a journalist at Morgunblaðið newspaper, one of the main newspapers in Iceland.
The panel in 2018 was made up of the following persons; Árni Matthíasson (chairman), Andrea Jónsdóttir, Anna Ásthildur Thorsteinsson, Alexandra Kjeld, Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, Benedikt Reynisson, Birna María Másdóttir, Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir, Jóhann Ágúst Jóhannsson, Sandra Barilli, Trausti Júlíusson, and Óli Dóri.
For further information about Kraumur, and all the work that Kraumur Music Fund has supported please visit the website.
1.2 Sierra Leone projects
Sweet Salone Design Project, Sierra Leone
In 2018, Aurora continued its Sweet Salone project and made a new 3-year agreement with the same design teams from Europe as before. The mission was to continue the work that had started in 2017 and design new products and hopefully engage even more arts and craftspeople in Sierra Leone. The design teams are As We Grow, Kron by KronKron and 1+1+1.
The design teams did not visit Sierra Leone during the year but continued to work on previous items with the Sierra Leonean arts and craftspeople. Aurora hired a project coordinator during the year to facilitate all communication and cooperation between the local arts and craftspeople and the design teams and to monitor production and do quality control. The cooperation of the design teams and their counterparts in Sierra Leone continued to work very well and the communication level continued to improve and many of the Sierra Leoneans have really improved their skills during this cooperation.
The 1+1+1 design team launched its product range at the DesignMarch2018 festival in Reykjavik and received great attention. The whole project received great recognition as well as received the Reykjavík Grapevine Design Award prize Product Of The Year – Looking Forward To.
A substantial amount of products were produced during the year under each label and subsequently sold in Iceland, some sale is also happening locally in Sierra Leone.
The project continues in 2019.
As with the Sweet Salone project, where Aurora built a bridge between the two countries it has focused on by linking together designers from Iceland and arts and craftspeople from Sierra Leone, Aurora was interested to do the same with music. After much discussion and thoughts Aurora teamed up with the Freetown Music Festival team and decided to initiate the first ever Freetown Music Writing Week, where 20 musicians from Sierra Leone, UK and Iceland would be invited to participate. The aim was to share experience, culture, and music between these different countries. At the end of October, five Icelandic musicians, 4 UK musicians, and 8 Sierra Leonean musicians met up in Sierra Leone and spent a week together and created something very special. In total 25 songs were created during the week and live long friendship established.
Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School
Aurora got to know the Lettie Stuart Pottery Center through the Sweet Salone project. As some of the designers were interested to work with Sierra Leonean potters. From the beginning, it was obvious that there were some good talent and experienced potters in the Center, but the Center was slowly deteriorating and not much was happening when we started working with them. After realizing what capacity constraint they had, and after some anecdotal research of expected demand if the Center would be up to scratch, Aurora started a discussion with Serra Leone Adult Education Center (SLADEA) on the possibility of supporting the revival of the center and re-establishing the pottery school. As unemployment is really widespread amongst youth in Sierra Leone, and this could be a great opportunity to teach interested individuals a new trade. SLADEA owns the compound where the Pottery Center is located and was responsible for building it initially. After substantial discussions a project was designed, lasting almost for two years, where Aurora would assist with setting up the school as well as renovating the Center itself, including building a new Kiln for increased production capacity. The project was formally started in November 2019, with the anticipation of the school to start in February/March 2019.
The project continuous in 2019.
Entrepreneurial Hub, Freetown
Aurora took its first steps in starting an Entrepreneurial Hub in Freetown by finding a suitable office space for the project. The Hub is intended to host courses, such as ICT courses and be an incubator the young entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.
The project continues in 2019.
2. Funded projects
2.1 Icelandic projects
The documentary Þriðji Póllinn deals with issues related to mental health in a poetic way. It follows the singer/songwriter Högni Egilsson to Nepal, where he participates in a concert organized to raise awareness of Mental Health issues.
Aurora Foundation supports the publication of this documentary, which is being finalized and will be launched in 2019.
1.2.2 Sierra Leonean projects
School Feeding Project
Aurora Foundation supported the school-feeding programme of Magbenteh Community Boarding School by providing meals for the children three days per week in the first half of 2018. Another organization had already supported the school feeding project for two days a week, hence the children will get meals every day of the week they attend school.
The Magbenteh Community Boarding School, which is in Bombali District was opened in October 2016 by the Swiss-Sierra Leone Development Foundation (SSLDF). With a capacity of 200 students, the children were identified from the most deprived surrounding villages including those left orphaned by Ebola.
An evident need was from the beginning of a feeding programme to be implemented at Magbenteh Community Boarding School. Children were coming to school with empty stomachs which is not conducive to learning and therefore the level of education ingrained.