FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
The year 2019 was a big year for Aurora, where we laid the ground for the projects Aurora will be focusing on over the medium term. The majority of the Foundation’s activities continue to be concentrated in Sierra Leone, although some smaller projects in Iceland are still on our agenda. The equity position of the fund in ISK is quite good, although it diminished slightly due to increased spending on projects and some write-down of assets.
Contributions to projects in 2019 were substantially higher than in previous years, as we had some capital intensive projects during the year. In total, six different projects received around 33.3m ISK or 272,000 USD in contribution during the year, with the majority of these projects in Sierra Leone. The seventh project, also in Sierra Leone, received around 12m ISK or 100,000 USD in the form of a loan.
The most substantial contribution in 2019 was to Aurora´s newest project Aurora Impact, which received around 12.3m ISK (100,500 USD), but this is one of Aurora´s main projects. The year 2019 was the start-up year of the project, but this project is expected to last for some years. With Aurora Impact, the main aim is to held courses and support young Sierra Leonean entrepreneurs. The second-largest project, also in Sierra Leone, was GGEM Microfinance, which also received around 12m ISK (100,000 USD), but GGEM receives these funds as a loan that gets repaid in Leones. Hence, Aurora bares all FX losses of that lending. This is the third loan contract that Aurora goes into with GGEM after GGEM successfully has paid back previous loans. The total amount paid for the earlier loans in Leones was around 60% of the original loan amount in USD.
The third capital intensive project in 2019 was Aurora Music, which received around 9.2m ISK (75,000 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. The collaboration continued in 2019 when we asked the foreign musicians to Sierra Leone to participate in the Freetown Music Festival. Aurora also supported the Freetown Music Festival of 2019 financially. Later in the year, an album with the songs written in 2018 was released, and a launch was done in London, where many of the musicians performed together, with the Sierra Leonean musicians traveling outside of their home country for the first time.
The fourth-largest project, also in Sierra Leone, is the support to the Lettie Stuart Pottery and School. Aurora has partnered with Sierra Leone Adult Education Center (SLADEA) and rehabilitated the only Pottery Center in Sierra Leone, including setting up solar panels to generate electricity, as well as building a new Kiln. Aurora is also supporting substantially in the running of the Pottery School that started in 2019. This project received in total 6.6m ISK (54,000USD).
The last three projects were less capital intensive, but two of them are significant projects implemented by Aurora. One is the Sweet Salone project that received around 3m ISK (24,500USD), but this project has been running now for a few years and continues to grow and increase its impact on beneficiaries. The other one is the only project in Iceland in 2019, the Kraumur Music Awards, which received a total of 1.4m ISK (11,400 USD). This was the 12th year that the Kraumur Music Awards were presented.
In Sierra Leone, Aurora supported one small project that is not executing by Aurora. That is a School Feeding project in Magbenteh Community Boarding School, but this was the second time that Aurora has supported the School Feeding project. It received around 900,000 ISK (7,300 USD).
No changes were made in the Board of Aurora during the year, but there were changes in the Aurora office in Sierra Leone. At the end of August, Agnes Sunah Keili, who had been working with us for over a year as a project coordinator, left. At the same time, Suzanne Regterschot joined our team as a project manager of our new project Aurora Impact. In November, the office expanded as we were joined by Veronica A.N.O. Ogunade, who became Aurora´s receptionist.
In October, we had the honor of welcoming a delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to our office in Freetown. The Director of Aurora gave a short presentation about the different projects Aurora has been and is working on in Sierra Leone.
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 2019.
Activities during the year 2019
The Board of Aurora Foundation held eight board meetings during the year. The Annual Board meeting was held on 1st of May.
Board & employers
At the annual board meeting on the 1st of May, 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 186 Wilkinson Road, Freetown.
The Fund Finances
Financial markets both in Iceland and Europe and the USA finally showed some improvements in 2019 after a few extremely poor years. All of Aurora´s main markets, therefore, showed an increase during the year. Also, the ISK weakened against its major currencies during the year, which means an increase in the ISK value of the FX denominated assets. Therefore, further improving the financial gains in the year in 2019, measured in ISK. However, weighing against a large part of this positive gain in the financial market, Aurora needed to write down some of its assets during the year. Hence, there was some contraction in the fund during the year, measured in ISK, as the financial gain wasn´t large enough to compensate for the Funds spending on projects and its running cost.
Assets at the end of the year 2020 were 941.161.075 ISK, a decrease of almost 80m ISK. Contribution to projects during the year amounted to 40.632.876 ISK net, and the operational cost of the fund was 46.873.466 ISK. After allowing for contributions to projects and operational costs and taxes, the fund´s return was positive for the first time in four years, albeit only slightly or 0,9%.
Aurora has a web page, www.aurorafoundation.is where the Charter of the Foundation 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 photos related to Aurora projects can be found.
Contribution to projects in 2019
Aurora contributed in total around 45m ISK (367,000USD) to 7 different projects in fields such as arts and crafts, education, economic activity, entrepreneurialism, music, and humanitarian activities, both in Iceland and in Sierra Leone. Out of the seven projects, five are Aurora’s own executed projects.
- Sweet Salone: Design, arts and crafts ………………………………………USD 24,000
- Aurora Music ……………………………………………………………………….. USD 75,000
- Kraumur, Music Award ……………………………………………………………USD 11,300
- Aurora Impact ………………………………………………………………………USD 100,000
- Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School …………………………………….USD 54,000
- School Feeding Project, Magbenteh Community School ……………..USD 7,300
- GGEM, microfinance ………………………………………………………………USD 100,000
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 2019 the 12th 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 2019 was made up of the following persons; Árni Matthíasson (chairman), Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, Birna María Másdóttir, Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir, Óli Dóri, Tanya Lind, Trausti Júlíusson, and Þorbjörg Roach Gunnarsdóttir.
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 2019, Aurora continued its Sweet Salone project in cooperation with three design teams As We Grow, 1+1+1, and Hugdetta.
The teams visited Sierra Leone early in the year and continued to improve previous designs and start new products. The cooperation of the design teams and the artisans in Sierra Leone continued to work very well, and the level of professionalism in the production has continued to improve.
A film crew from Iceland also visited early in the year and met with many of the artisans´ Aurora is working with. They were doing a documentary about the design team Hugdetta and followed them around during their visit. The documentary was aired in Iceland in March and can be seen on our website under PRESS.
In August, an event was held at the Icelandic Museum of Design and Applied Art, where the Director of Aurora gave a presentation about the Sweet Salone project. A pop-up shop was also put up with the different Sweet Salone products.
There was a steady sale of products in Iceland throughout the year, which meant that orders to artisans in Sierra Leone were substantial. Also, some transactions were recorded within Sierra Leone. To further increase sales, a web sales page was developed by Aurora to be launched in 2020.
The project continues in 2020.
After a successful Music Writing Week in 2018, Aurora, together with the Freetown Music Festival team, decided to continue to collaborate. Aurora became a big sponsor and partner in the 2019 Freetown Music Festival that was held during the last weekend of March. All musicians who were part of the Music Writing Week were invited to the Festival, where they performed as a team the songs produced during the Writing Week and also individually. This was the first time there were international musicians at the Festival. All the five Icelandic musicians and two of the UK based musicians came and performed, along with the Sierra Leonean musicians.
Following the successful performance during the Festival, it was decided to publish 12 out of the 25 songs written during the Writing Week. The first song was released in September, and again the musicians met up, this time in London where the first single was launched in a sold-out concert. A single came out for 12 weeks in a row, with the final album being released in 2020. The Sierra Leonean musicians who were able to attend the launch went on a music tour in the UK at the same time, traveling outside of West Africa for the first time in their lives.
Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School
The renovated Pottery Center was formally launched in February, and all significant stakeholders in the Waterloo area and within SLADEA attended. The Pottery School then started in March when ten students joined the 18-month long program. The school is taught in 7 semesters, each ten weeks long, and students finish an exam at the end of each seminar. At the end of the year, only one student had dropped out. Aurora financed a substantial renovation of the Center during the year, including setting up a solar panel system to electrify the Center, but the Center had not been on the national grid.
Throughout the year, Aurora continued working with the Center to improve production techniques and organization and improve the working conditions in the Center. Due to a request from the potters, Aurora financed a new Kiln, much larger than the previous one, to increase the Center’s capacity. A Kiln maker and potter from Hungary came to teach the local potters the Kiln building, and he also assisted in the school. He came twice during the year and spent a couple of months in total within the Center. Another potter from Iceland also came to give assistance in the Pottery School and to facilitate some of the improvements in the Center. She had already worked with Aurora and the LSP in designing the School curriculum and the project itself. She spent one month at the Center.
Large orders were received through Aurora’s Sweet Salone program during the year, and improved efficiency is needed in the Center to be able for the production to be at a sufficient level for the Center to become sustainable.
In August, an event was held at the Icelandic Museum of Design and Applied Art, where the Director of Aurora gave a presentation about both the Sweet Salone and the LSP projects. Gudbjorg Karadottir, the Icelandic potter supporting the project, gave a presentation about the Pottery Center and her work there. A pop-up store was also set up with items from the Pottery Center.
The project continues in 2020.
Aurora created a new program in 2019 called Aurora Impact. A program whose primary focus is to inspire and empower young entrepreneurs. Within Aurora’s office, there is a space where entrepreneurs and small companies have access to excellent facilities, a creative environment, mentors, place to network, and other things that will help them grow and work towards their business ideas and goals.
Aurora Impact will also provide courses and workshops to the general public in various sectors such as IT, Fashion Design, and others. Additionally, now and then, we will open our doors to great speakers who will give empowerment talks in various fields.
Aurora kick-started the Aurora Impact program with the first IT course in October 2019 and subsequently started looking for entrepreneurs for the pre-acceleration program. The second IT course was held in November, but the pre-acceleration program begins in 2020.
Through Aurora Impact, substantial amounts of Computers were donated to different institutions/projects, and Aurora supported Technovation Girls financially, but Technovation is a global tech education nonprofit, which’ aim is to empower girls and families, and they launched their first Sierra Leonean project in 2019.
The program continues in 2020.
2 Funded projects
2.1 Icelandic projects
No projects in 2019
2.2 Sierra Leonean projects
School Feeding Project
Aurora Foundation supported again the school-feeding program of Magbenteh Community Boarding School, which provides meals for the children twice a day five days per week.
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 program 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.
GGEM, Micro Credit Facility
Aurora made a new loan agreement with GGEM in the year 2019. That is the third agreement that Aurora does with GGEM and the longest one to date, but the agreement is for four years. Aurora has been collaborating with GGEM since 2014 and has had an excellent relationship with GGEM, therefore a longer agreement was signed. The loan amount was USD 100,000, but payment was made in Leones, and all repayments will be made in Leones. Hence, as before, Aurora bears the cost of the FX loss due to the anticipated depreciation of the Leones to the USD.