FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
The year 2021 was eventful for Aurora, as significant milestones were passed and manyevents took place. The world was evolving with the covid pandemic, slowly but steadily advancing out of restrictive measures. Vaccines were rolled out in Iceland and Sierra Leone throughout the year, although in different capacities.
The first full Sweet Salone container was sent out of Freetown in February and shipped to Iceland and the United States, an enormous milestone for us and our artisans. In December, a second container was shipped, with the destination United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Iceland. Production of Sweet Salone items was ongoing, large orders came in, and new projects were in the pipelines. A Sweet Salone Impact Assessment for 2020 was published in May, showcasing the economic situation of our collaborators and the evolvement of the production. With great success, three markets were held with Sweet Salone products, one in Reykjavík and two in Freetown!.
At the start of the year, the students at the Lettie Stuart Pottery concluded their 18 months of training with a grand graduation ceremony. Following graduation, most of them were hired as pottery apprentices. In the first half of the year, we also welcomed two international ceramicists that have worked with the centre before, and they provided their valuable support as usual. Production and development of the Lettie Stuart Pottery advanced ambitiously, a new agreement was signed with SLADEA, as well as a new phase started of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affair’s funded project. Furthermore, the Lettie Stuart Pottery continued to run their Saturday workshops, gaining momentum amongst Freetowners.
The Reykjavík Art Festival was postponed from 2020 but will take place in 2022, and Sierra Leonean musicians have been invited to join the festival next year, and preparations are underway. Another postponed project, the exchange with the Iceland University of Arts, supported by Erasmus+ was also planned this year, and the students will arrive at the very beginning of 2022. Under the Aurora Music project, the collaboration with Mengi continued this year. The space was used for a successful pop-up market in November and then later for the Kraumur Music Award ceremony in December.
Aurora continued its various educational programmes, a web development course and ICT courses were held throughout the year. And most substantially, the pre-acceleration programme under Aurora Impact continued to grow steadily. We are proud to have pursued these projects and are happy to be developing them further in the new year in collaboration with our partners and the Aurora Advisory Committee.
Aurora Foundation donated a substantial amount of hospital beds to hospitals and clinics in Sierra Leone on behalf of Akureyri hospital in Iceland. We provided computers and other technical equipment to one children’s hospital in Freetown. The Foundation then made a clothing donation to Susan’s Bay’s community, which had been very severely affected by a fire incident.
The cost of projects in 2021 was somewhat higher than the previous year. Some of it was due to a more significant contribution to the Lettie Stuart Pottery, but we also supported a new Sierra Leonean NGO for the first time and were part of a large donation from Iceland of hospital beds that ended up costing quite a bit. The total cost for the seven different projects in 2021 was just under 24m ISK or 182,000 USD, with the majority of the funding going to the projects in Sierra Leone.
The most substantial funding in 2021, like in the previous year, was to one of Aurora´s flagship projects, Aurora Impact, which received around 13m ISK (100,000 USD). After having to slow down in 2020 due to COVID, we were in full swing all of 2021. The second largest funding was to the Lettie Stuart Pottery, 4.6m ISK (35,000USD), but Aurora received a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2020 to support that project. Still due to COVID most activities were postponed until 2021.
The following three contributions were fairly equal in size. One of them is one of Aurora´s flagship projects in Sierra, the Sweet Salone project, which received around 1.3m ISK (10,000USD). The Sweet Salone project is slowly becoming a financially sustainable project. The goods produced under the label of Sweet Salone are increasing each year, and the subsequent sale, are starting to cover a larger share of the project’s cost. So despite the project growing every year, the direct contribution is diminishing, and we aim to have it fully sustainable. The second one was the longest-lasting project of Aurora, the Kraumur Music Awards in Iceland, but it received just over 1.6m (12,700 USD). And the third one was Aurora Music with 1,5m ISK (11,500USD), but in 2020 Aurora went into two-year cooperation with Mengi, a multi-purpose event space managed by artists in Reykjavik, where Aurora will give Mengi some financial support. In return, Mengi will host some events for us.
The two smaller projects were one-off projects that the Board of Aurora decided to support last year. One was a new initiative called SkoolGrind that has the intention to introduce entrepreneurship in the curriculum of secondary schools in Sierra Leone, and Aurora was happy to support that initiative with 0,9m ISK (USD 7,000) to take off. The second was a hospital bed donation from the Akureyri Hospital in Iceland. But the Akureyri hospital contacted Aurora back in 2020 and wanted to donate 40hospital beds to Sierra Leone. Aurora got SAMSKIP involved that donated the shipping cost to Sierra Leone. Aurora took over once the container arrived and paid all duties and transport costs inland, which amounted to 700,000 ISK (USD 5,400). Aurora then distributed the beds to four different hospitals.
The loan agreement project with GGEM Microfinance Services, which started in 2019, remains in progress. We helped provide support to their clients at the start of the pandemic. We met up with them in February to assess their current situation and get an update on their developments during the pandemic. We are proud to report that GGEM has weathered the storm and has managed to work with those clients who were severely affected by the COVID pandemic. Although last year was challenging, they have managed to get their books back in order and are disbursing loans again as before, and their clients have been amazingly resilient following the measures taken last year. We started working with them in 2014 amid Ebola, so we knew what they were capable of, and we are happy to see their resilience continues. During our meeting, they presented us with a beautiful picture of Africa made out of Ankara as a token of appreciation for our support through the years.
Changes were made on the Board of Aurora during the year, but Ólafur Orri Ólafsson took a seat on the board, replacing Birta Ólafsdóttir after her seven years of valuable work. We thank Birta for her invaluable contribution to Aurora throughout the years, especially in co-designing the beautiful office in Freetown, and for all the photographs she has taken for Aurora on her several trips to Sierra Leone. There were also changes in the staff at the Aurora office in Sierra Leone. In September, Makalay Suma left us as a Project Coordinator for our Sweet Salone project, and a new coordinator will arrive in the new year. In April, Samuel Mansaray joined the team as an assistant project manager for the Aurora Impact Project. We also welcomed an intern from Iceland, Urður Ásta Eiríksdóttir, at the Freetown office in November, who will stay with us until June 2022. Further changes and growth are coming up in the new year. We will start by welcoming students from the Iceland University of Arts and Eva María Árnadóttir, dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Fine Art at the same institution.
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 2021.
Activities during the year 2021
The Board of Aurora Foundation held eight board meetings during the year. The Annual Board meeting was held in August when the board met for the first time in two years after having held previous meetings on the TEAMS platform.
At the annual board meeting on the 27th of August, the board was partially re-elected, but Birta Ólafsdóttir stepped down after seven years of work on the board and was replaced by Ólafur Orri Ólafsson. Thus, the board is now composed 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
After a fragile year in 2020, all financial markets were on a roll in 2021. Therefore, all of Aurora’s main markets showed an increase for the year. However, the ISK strengthened again against most currencies during the year, especially the EURO, which offset much of the capital gains measured in ISK. Hence, despite some healthy capital gains, larger spending on projects, and slightly higher running costs meant that we again moved into drawing down the assets of Aurora.
Assets at the end of the year 2021 were 945.700.891 ISK, a decrease of just under 38m ISK. Contribution to projects during the year amounted to 23.645.349 ISK, while we received 4.826.800 ISK in project funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland. The operational cost of the fund was 47.450.049 ISK. After contributing to projects and operating costs and taxes, the fund’s return was nevertheless positive for the third year in a row, by 3%.
Website and Social Media
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 and an Instagram account where photos related to Aurora projects can be found. Aurora Foundation furthermore manages the Instagram account of the Lettie Stuart Pottery Centre.
Since 2020 Aurora has also hosted the webshop www.aurorawebshop.com to meet the growing demand for the purchase of Sweet Salone products.
Contribution to projects in 2021
Aurora contributed around 23,6m ISK (182,000USD) to 7 different projects in fields such as arts and crafts, education, economic activity, entrepreneurialism, music, and humanitarian activities, both in Iceland and Sierra Leone. Out of the seven projects, five are Aurora’s own executed projects.
1. Sweet Salone: Design, arts and crafts ………………………………USD 10,000
2. Aurora Music ……………….……………………………………….. USD 11,500
3. Kraumur, Music Award …..……………………………………………USD 12,700
4. Aurora Impact ………………….……………………………..………USD 100,000
5. Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School …………………………….USD 35,300
6. Skool Grind SL …………………………………………………………USD 7,000
7. Hospital Bed Donation ………………………………………………..USD 5,400
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 2021 the 14th Kraumur Music Awards were awarded in December. The award ceremony returned to its traditional form after a different ceremony last year due to the pandemic’s restrictions. Details on the Awards can be found here.
The panel in 2021 was made up of Árni Matthíasson (chairman), Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir, Lovísa Rut Kristjánsdóttir, María Lilja Þrastardóttir, Óli Dóri, Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld, Trausti Júlíusson and Þorbjörg Roach Gunnarsdóttir.
Please visit the website for further information on Kraumur and the work that Kraumur Music Fund has supported.
The project will continue in 2022.
After having signed a two-year contract with Mengi in 2020 to support the running cost of Mengi, Aurora is also allowed to host some of its events there. We used the space twice during 2021, both for the pop-up market in November and in December when the Kraumur Music Award ceremony was held. Mengi is a multi-purpose artistic space managed by artists in downtown Reykjavik.
Planning for the Reykjavik Art Festival has continued this year, and two Sierra Leonean musicians have been invited to attend and perform at the festival in Reykjavik, which was postponed from 2020 to next year if they are granted a Schengen VISA.
The project continues in 2022
1.2 Sierra Leone projects
Sweet Salone Design Project, Sierra Leone
In 2021, Aurora continued its Sweet Salone project in cooperation with its well-rooted design team Hugdetta, and we also collaborated with Terrably Good in the USA. Collaboration with As We Grow was concluded in the year.
A new collaborator was furthermore added this year, the Canadian Green Giraffe, which works with artisans in Sierra Leone to make, amongst other things, sustainable goods from recycled cloths such as pouches and pillowcases that have been a popular purchase in our shop in Freetown.
In July, a collaboration agreement was signed with Barnaheill – Save the Children in Iceland on making hand-crafted bracelets for fundraising purposes in Iceland for projects that Save the Children in Iceland implements in Sierra Leone. Ten artisans (of which seven are women) from Lumley Beach Market were contracted, including the designer of the bracelets, Hannah Samura, and a batch of 10,000 bracelets for Save the Children were made by the end of the year. The artisans are very interested in seeing the outcome of this project, as the bracelets will be sent to Iceland and received by Save the Children and then sold during their fundraising activity in the autumn of 2022.
The sale of Sweet Salone products increased significantly during the year, which resulted in substantial orders to the artisans. Two containers were shipped from Freetown this year, the earlier in February and a later one in December, with Sweet Salone goods that will be sold in Europe and the United States.
In May, a pop-up market was held with the Sweet Salone products in Freetown, and in November and December, further two were held, the former in Reykjavik and the second one in Freetown. Both were a great success.
Aurora continued carrying out Impact Assessments to measure the impact of this project on our partners. A Sweet Salone Impact Assessment for 2020 was published in May, showcasing the economic effect on collaborators and the rise in production. The impact assessment is here, and the assessment for Sweet Salone activities and collaborators in 2021 will be published in the spring months of 2022.
The project will continue in 2022.
Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School
Students at the Lettie Stuart Pottery School started the year by finishing their 18 months of pottery training in January (which was delayed by some months due to Covid-19 measures), followed by a graduation ceremony in February. The graduates were then hired as pottery apprentices at the center.
Guðbjörg and Peter made their way to Waterloo and worked with the potters at LSP in the first half of the year and provided their valuable support to the Centre. Furthermore, Peter has assisted in purchasing machinery necessary to modernize the Centre, and both potters are planning their returns in the first months of 2022.
The Centre participated in an exhibition at the Aurora office in May. Various guests and teams were welcomed at the center throughout the year, such as the IPC travel agency, Agnes and her filming crew, the US Embassy, and workshops for the public continued successfully throughout the year. In November, Humu, the center Coordinator, and Dorcas, one of the apprentices, participated in the Aurora Foundation Christmas Market at the office in Freetown on behalf of LSP. Sales went very well, but participation at the US Embassy Christmas market was, on the contrary, not very successful, which should be taken into consideration for next year if offered again.
In November, a new five-year agreement was signed between Aurora Foundation and SLADEA on continued support for the Lettie Stuart Pottery. In July, Aurora received funding again to support the Pottery Center from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The funding will be used to purchase machinery needed to modernize it and get the two foreign potters back to Sierra Leone to continue their work with the Sierra Leonean potters. This second phase of funding from the MFA agreement is projected to conclude in 2022.
Clay research and testing continued throughout the year as some issues arose and disappointments with leakage and cracking of the clay being used. The process of researching and testing is still ongoing at the end of the year, but some progress was made by mixing different types of clay.
The project continues in 2022.
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, a place to network, and other things that will help them grow and work towards their business ideas and goals.
An ICT course, a web development course, and an ideation program were held in 2021. Aurora Impact had started its first pre-accelerator cohort in 2020, and in 2021 we continued the pre-accelerator program, graduating cohorts 2 and 3 from the program, and starting cohort 4.
Aurora also set up an advisory committee in 2020 to assist Aurora in formulating new courses and assessing the applicants for the pre-accelerator program. The advisory committee’s work continued and was strengthened throughout the year 2021.
The program continues in 2022.
2 Funded projects
2.1 Icelandic projects
No projects in 2021.
2.2 Sierra Leonean projects
Hospital Bed Donation
Aurora had facilitated a hospital bed donation some years ago when the Akureyri Hospital donated 20 hospital beds to Sierra Leone. In 2020, they contacted us again and now had double the amount to 40 beds they wanted to give. Aurora teamed up with SAMSKIP, who generously donated the shipping cost from Akureyri to Reykjavik to Rotterdam and then onwards to Freetown. The first leg of the transfer happened in 2020, but due to the COVID pandemic and closure of the borders of Sierra Leone, the 40 hospital beds ended up waiting at the dock in Rotterdam for almost one year before they got shipped to Freetown. In February 2021, it finally reached Freetown, and Aurora received the beds and donated them to four different hospitals in four different locations, two in Freetown and two up-country.
Skool Grind SL
Aurora signed a funding agreement with Skool Grind SL to support the organisation’s Entrepreneurship Education Clubs. In September 2021, Aurora Foundation received a request for partnership and funding from Skool Grind SL, and an agreement was signed later in the year. Regína Bjarnadóttir, the executive director signed the agreement with the project responsible, Sunah Agnes Keili and Aurora committed to providing funding for establishing and running the Entrepreneurship Education Clubs for the first year.
The project aims to establish entrepreneurship education clubs in seven secondary schools across Sierra Leone’s capital and expose schools and students to entrepreneurship through a practical curriculum providing hands-on experience. The project will be running for nine months on an annual basis, and the aim is also to include primary schools and gain broader engagement at a later stage.
Aurora will also be assisting Skool Grind by promoting their events and in terms of small collaborations.