2022 IN A NUTSHELL
We celebrated some major milestones, including the launch of several new products and the expansion of our team. It was a year of growth and progress, and we are so proud to have achieved so much in such a short amount of time. We look forward to the future and all the wonderful things the year holds for us!
In January we welcomed a group of students from Iceland University of the Arts, they spent 2 months with us here in Sierra Leone. The exchange program was a success and the students were able to participate in meaningful and creative activities. Visiting the Lettie Stuart Pottery, the weavers in Brama town, and facilitating a workshop with Izelia was a unique and rewarding experience. We’re grateful that the exchange program was able to bring the two communities together and create a wonderful experience for everyone involved.
More solar panels were installed at the Lettie Stuart Pottery Center since the pottery is to prepare the pottery for new machinery and technical upgrading. Both of which were supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland. Using solar energy is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and having new machinery will help the potters at LSP to create beautiful pieces more efficiently. This is an exciting time for the Centre and we wish them all the best in their endeavors and look forward to continuing collaborating.
In February we facilitated an Ideation program, It was amazing to have the Icelandic art students involved in the three-week ideation program, covering topics such as prototype creation and developing a product and/or business idea. In February we were also so glad that we were able to donate 7 desktop computers, mouses, keyboards, and 8 monitors to the Junior Secondary School in Lunsar. This donation will hopefully help to provide students with the resources they need to continue learning and developing their skills. We are grateful for the opportunity to support the education of the next generation.
In March we said goodbye to the students from the Iceland University of the Arts who had a very fruitful stay here in Freetown, resulting in a great exchange of knowledge between sectors, people, and continents that everyone benefitted from. Aurora Foundation participated as an official partner with Innovation SL for the first time in their regular Freetown Pitch Night. The event was themed ‘Fempreneur’ and four women pitched their businesses, it was a great event, and we immediately knew that we had made a fruitful decision by participating as an official partner. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Innovation SL and supporting female entrepreneurs in the future!
Congratulations to everyone involved in April’s amazing accomplishments! It was very eventful. It is so inspiring to see the Sweet Salone project grow, but the Impact assessment for Sweet Salone was published, results were and are very inspiring to say the least. And the members of Aurora Impact’s 4th Cohort continued to excel. And we hosted Aurora’s first Inspirational TOK! We then went to the Netherlands to set up our B2B store and are so appreciative of Rósa for flying in and helping to set up the store with her impeccable attention to detail and beauty.
In general, the impact assessment gives you a snapshot of the economic situation of the Sierra Leonean artisans. It shows the growth of production each year and some testimonials for the artisans that are involved. We were over the moon happy to announce that production in 2021 grew by 983% from the previous year! Yes, this is not a spelling mistake, it is almost a one thousand percent increase in production! Over the last couple of years, we have also steadily been increasing the number of artisans directly involved in our Sweet Salone project, in 2019, they were 31, and they have now reached 44. We are also very proud that the gender ratio improved. In 2021 40% of artisans were women, compared to 30% in 2019. Our focus on youth has also paid off, with the proportion of artisans below the age of 40 growing from 60% to 70%.
May was in no way any less busy than April. We welcomed Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir and Ólafur Ólafsson, the founders of Aurora Foundation. They had not visited Sierra Leone for a while due to the Covid pandemic; they stayed in Freetown and its surroundings for a few days in May. We look forward to seeing them again soon!
The Annual Board meeting was held in Freetown on Wednesday, May 11. We are grateful for the technology that allowed the rest of the Board to join virtually and appreciate the hard work that went into making this meeting a success.
Thirteen ambitious entrepreneurs graduated from our start-up program and are ready to develop their businesses even more and continue to grow. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors and can’t wait to see what path they choose to take with their recently acquired knowledge. Two startups were chosen, based on their pitch, to receive funding from us.
We also did a collaboration with Fashion Industry Insiders and the Sierra Leonean fashion design hub Izelia. Leading up to the high-end fashion show event, a few weeks of training took place for individuals, mainly young people interested in the fashion industry and related creative sectors, entrepreneurship, and business. The same individuals then showcased the work they made during these weeks at the event. We are proud to have been part of this amazing event and are looking forward to more collaborations in the future!
In May we also received funding from the Foreign Ministry of Iceland to start a new project named Empowerment of youth with training in information and computer technology and business management. That was put to great use throughout 2022, and will be continued in 2023.
But no, that was not all. In May we also decided to host a pop-up market! The pop-up was a remarkable success; followed by an even more successful one on the 17-19th of November 2022. Aurora Foundation is notably growing and establishing its reputation of quality.
Last but not least, we welcomed Alfred Akibo Betts to our Advisory Board! Alfred is an incredibly experienced international Tax Expert and Chartered Accountant with sixteen years of experience. His passion for the growth of the entrepreneurship sector in Sierra Leone is highly admirable and his contributions to the expansion of the sector are undeniable. We are very excited to have him join our team and look forward to all the expertise and knowledge he will bring to our organization.
JUNE – JULY – AUGUST
In the summer months we focused on trainings, we hosted two trainings in June, one Intermediate ICT training and then also a Coding Bootcamp. We were very happy with the participants and the trainers, John and Alfred from Byte Limited who did a great job. Plus, we love it when the offices are filled with a vibrant, inspiring atmosphere that inevitably follows the participants. In July we proceeded to host another ICT course as well as ship a full container to the Netherlands and came August, and yes you guessed it – two more ICT training courses! These three months were definitely with a big emphasis on ICT training, we are very grateful for that since that allows us to build connections in a meaningful way since each training is usually at least 3 days long and sometimes the trainings last up to 2 weeks. That way real connections and relationships are established that then continue to prosper.
This September was the first time Aurora foundation participated in the ShowUp event in The Netherlands! We were certainly not disappointed and will hopefully be participating again next year. Regina and Suzanne were Aurora’s representatives, displaying Sweet Salone state of the art artisanship. ,,The event is Trade Only and therefore only accessible for professionals from the segments home, kids and gifts. showUP is not accessible to students or businesses outside retail. Entrance is free, Registration starts three months prior to the event.’’ (ShowUp, 2022)
ShowUp was the perfect fit for our Sweet Salone brand, it was a very appealing space for small companies and start-ups to come and showcase their products since there is a great possibility that each company will be paired up with a potential buyer that is focused on unique, original, quality products. Sweet Salone products are exactly that and more, Aurora works very closely with each artisan and designer to ensure that every part of the process is fair and square and most importantly beautifully and carefully made.
In October we welcomed two new interns, Guðbjörg Lára Másdóttir and Daniella Haja Sesay. Guðbjörg from Iceland and Daniella from Sierra Leone. We are excited to get to know them better and watch them grow within Aurora Foundation. Welcome aboard!
We hosted a three-day Canva training, led by Kharifa who was a member of Aurora Impact’s second cohort, it was a great success, requests for more Canva trainings came to our attention and hopefully more will be hosted in 2023. We welcomed Aurora Impact’s 5th cohort, the largest one to date and we were very excited to listen to and learn more about each and every one. We’re confident that the new cohort will bring innovative ideas, creative solutions, and thought-provoking perspectives to the table. We are sure great impact will be made. We also renewed two contracts, one with Save the Children in Iceland and the other one with Mengi, a space collectively run by artists. They have done incredible work, nourishing the Icelandic music scene and especially focusing on young artists taking their first step and we are very happy to keep on sponsoring them to be able to keep up their work.
November certainly was a busy month! It seemed like there was something new and exciting to look forward to every day.
Aurora Impact has grown substantially and the first steps towards giving Aurora Impact its independence were taken. Aurora Impact got its own Instagram platform in the beginning of November and we were delighted to welcome a new team member, Mavis Madaure, she is Aurora Impact’s new program manager. We are so excited to have her join our team all the way from Zimbabwe! Her years of experience in the entrepreneurship and project management sector are invaluable and we are eager to learn from her and benefit from her expertise. We had the opportunity to take the (new) team upcountry to visit the businesses of Aurora’s 5th cohort as well as meeting their teams. The team made great use of the trip and also co-facilitated a training on entrepreneurship, employability, and empowerment. Mavis’ presence and knowledge was a great help and we look forward to seeing the positive results of our efforts!
We also had our Christmas pop-up market here in Sierra Leone that exceeded all our expectations, we were extremely happy with the participation and joy that reigned throughout the weekend. This year, like previous years, The Lettie Stuart Pottery we support together with SLADEA (Sierra Leone Adult Education Association) and the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also had their own products for sale and they attracted a lot of well-deserved attention for their extraordinary craftsmanship, all 100% handmade with care, as per usual.
We had the pleasure of visiting GGEM (Grassroot Gender Empowerment Movement) in the final days of November and were inspired by the success stories of the four individuals we met there. It was wonderful to hear how GGEM has helped them achieve their dreams, and we are proud to have been supporting them since 2014.
Last but not least, In collaboration with Afriqia HR Solutions, The Sierra Leone Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency , Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project and The World Bank, we hosted a 3-day soft skill training at the office, where 50 young Sierra Leoneans came each day, eager to learn filling the air with power of the young. Together we will be the change we want to see.
Oh jolly December came, and we could hardly believe how fast and eventful this year has been. Regina, Aurora’s Executive Director, flew to Iceland to have a pop-up market over there with all the wonderful Sweet Salone goods. Connecting the North with the South via beautiful craftsmanship. The Kraumur Music awards, that Aurora founded and still proudly represents, were held for the fifteenth time! Awarding promising young musicians in Iceland for their releases in 2022. The Aurora Impact team traveled upcountry to Bo and Kenema to visit members of the 5th Cohort who are all working in agriculture. The trip is made for the Aurora Impact team to meet their teams and get to know their businesses properly.
And last but not least in collaboration with Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone we hosted a 2 week long beginner ICT training at the office for 30 young girls. To sum up – Aurora’s key word in 2022 was G R O W T H and the future is bright. We wish you a very happy and relaxing holiday and look forward to all our encounters in 2023!