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FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
The year 2017 was a very successful year for Aurora’s own executed projects. Whilst most of the foundation’s activities were in Sierra Leone, where we now have a fully operating office, we also continued with some projects in Iceland. The equity position of the fund in ISK is quite good, although it has diminished over the past few years due to slow markets in both Europe and Iceland and some strengthening of the Icelandic Króna.
Direct contributions to projects in 2017 were substantially lower than in previous years, despite Aurora supporting 7 different projects during the year. The main reason is that Aurora was the initiator and an active partner in the execution of most of the projects and thus contributed significantly in kind to these projects as opposed to direct contribution. In total around 18,5m ISK or 173,000 USD were donated to 7 different projects, with the majority of these projects in Sierra Leone.
The largest contribution was to our new design project Sweet Salone, which received over 9.7m ISK (just under 91,000 USD), but a large part of Aurora’s work was focused on that project during the year. The second largest project was in Iceland, which was the Kraumur Music Awards that received a total amount of 4.2m ISK or just less than 40,000 USD. This was the 10th year that the Kraumur Music Awards were presented. The other projects received between 0.3m to 2m ISK (or around 2,800 to 19,000 USD) each.
Two of the smaller projects were in Iceland. In one, Aurora supported the publication of the book Art and Culture as therapy: Icelandic Museum and Alzheimers. Another was the finalising of a feasibility study of building a restaurant in the vicinity of one of Iceland’s prisons. The aim was to provide the prisoners with the chance to undergo training in cooking, servicing and related skills, in order for them to stand a better chance of making a living after their release.
The other projects were in Sierra Leone. Aurora launched its third ICT training programme, this time in cooperation with a new partner in Sierra Leone Revolutum and a new partner in Iceland Islandsbanki. Samskip continued its support to this ongoing project by shipping the computers free of charge to Sierra Leone. Aurora also donated some hospital beds to three hospitals in Sierra Leone, sourced from Akureyri Hospital in Iceland. Finally, Aurora took the very difficult decision to close down its fishing project Neptune, due to various obstacles in making the project sustainable.
Aurora received a substantial sum as a repayment of the loans granted to two microfinance institutions in Sierra Leone in 2014. In total Aurora received 15.5m ISK in 2017 or 145,000 USD as a 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, to 7,600Le per 1 USD at the time of payment. Hence, the value of the loan payments in USD terms is only 60% of the initial loan value.
No changes were made in the Board of Aurora during the year but some staff changes were made. Two new personnel were hired for the office in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Foday Balama Serry was hired mid-year as a Finance and Logistics officer and Juma Musa as a driver.
I want to thank my fellow board members, the executive director of Aurora and staff of Aurora in Sierra Leone for a good cooperation in the year 2017.
Activities during the year 2017
The Board of Aurora Foundation held seven board meetings during the year. The Annual Board meeting was held on 1st of May and a strategic planning session was held on 2nd of August.
Board & employers
At the annual board meeting on 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 Fund has its permanent residency at 7-15 Kjalarvogur, 104 Reykjavik.
The Executive Director handles all the day-to-day business of the Fund. Bruellan Wealth Management in Swiss handles the financial management of the Fund to some extent, whilst Róbert Aron Róbertsson, an employee of the founders in Iceland, gives professional advice regarding investments in Iceland. The Payroll office of Samskip handles wage calculations and all accounting activities are done by Festing hf.
Aurora wants to thank all of the individuals for their important contribution to the operation of the fund.
The Fund Finances
Financial markets turned around again – although the growth in Iceland was only 6% during the year, whilst European markets, where most of Aurora’s stocks are located, closed somewhat higher. The ISK weakened against the USD during the year, which means an increase in the ISK value of the USD denominated assets. Against this strengthening of the Aurora portfolio, the foundation had to do some write-off of its assets, due to a close down of a start-up investment. The Icelandic Króna also strengthened by 5% against the Euro, the currency in which most of Aurora’s assets are denominated in, hence, resulting in a contraction of those assets. In total the write-off of assets and strengthening of the ISK against the Euro more than out weighed the weakening against the USD and a general increase in markets. Hence there was some contraction in the fund during the year, measured in ISK.
Assets at the end of the year 2017 were 1.110.610.981 ISK, thus a decrease of 72,231,378 ISK. Contribution to projects during the year amounted to 18.431.735 ISK and the operational cost of the fund was 46.269.785 ISK. After allowing for contributions to projects and operational cost and taxes, the return on the fund was negative by just under 2%, which is the second year in a row the fund is experiencing a negative turnaround. Weak returns in the markets, together with some assets being written-off and strengthening of the ISK against the Euro were all contributing factors to the negative return.
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 constantly works towards improving the web page and in 2017 it was re-designed in order to make all information regarding the Foundation and its projects more easily accessible. Note that Aurora changed its web address during the year from www.aurorafund.is to www.aurorafoundation.is
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.
Donations in 2017
Aurora donated in total nearly 18.5m ISK (173,000USD) to 7 different projects in fields such as arts and crafts, education, economic activity, culture and humanitarian activities, both in Iceland and in Sierra Leone. Out of the seven projects, six are Aurora’s own projects.
- Sweet Salone: Design, arts and crafts …..ISK 9,744,601
- Kraumur, Music Award ….ISK 4,244,703
- Neptune, Fish Landing Sites ….. ISK 1,062,077
- Art and Culture as Therapy, Book Launch …..ISK 1,000,000
- Maternal Health Facility support …..ISK 596,597
- Computer Project ……ISK 530,356
- Áfangar, Feasability Analysis of Educational Support to Prisoners ..ISK 300,000
1. Project Description
1.1 Own projects
1.1.1 Icelandic projects
Kraumur Music Awards kr 4,244,703
Even though Kraumur Music Fund is not active anymore, Aurora is continuing some of the legacy work carried out by Kraumur, such as the 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 2017 the 10th 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, journalist at Morgunblaðið newspaper, one of the main newspapers in Iceland.
The jury of the Kraumur Music Awards in 2017:
- Árni Matthíasson, president
- Andrea Jónsdóttir
- Anna Ásthildur Thorsteinsson
- Alexandra Kjeld
- Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen
- Benedikt Reynisson
- Berglind Sunna Stefánsdóttir
- Heiða Eiríksdóttir
- Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir
- Hildur Maral Hamíðsdóttir
- Jóhann Ágúst Jóhannsson
- Óli Dóri
- Tanya Pollock
- Trausti Júlíusson
In addition, a new web page for Kraumur was launched in 2017, capturing all the work that has been done through Kraumur Music Fund since it was launched 2008.
Áfangar, Educational Support to Prisoners ISK 300,000
An idea which originated from the Board of Aurora and was about building a restaurant close to one of the open prisons in Iceland, where prisoners could get a formal training in various professions relating to the restaurant business; ss chefs, waiters, bakers, meat processors etc. A feasibility study, initiated by Aurora, was conducted on the pros and cons of the project, as well as to establish which institutions would need to take part in the cooperation. A report was submitted in early 2017. The board of Aurora decided not to proceed with the project at this stage.
1.1.2 Foreign projects
Sweet Salone Design Project, Sierra Leone ISK 9,744.601
In 2017, Aurora started its newest project, bringing designers from Iceland, Sweden and Finland, together with arts and crafts people in Sierra Leone, in order to design and produce various products which could be sold in Europe. In 2016, Aurora had done a preparatory research on the country’s arts and crafts production. Aurora made a one-year contract with three design teams to visit Sierra Leone and work with arts and crafts people that had been identified during the mapping process in 2016. The design teams were As We Grow, Kron by KronKron and 1+1+1.
All teams visited Sierra Leone in the second half of the year and teamed up with a total of 13 different arts and crafts makers and groups based in Freetown, or just off the Peninsula. The cooperation of the design teams and their counterparts in Sierra Leone went very well, during which they managed to overcome various hurdles in communication and cultural differences.
The collaboration resulted in various products being produced and consequently sold in Iceland. The first two teams; As We Grow and Kron by KronKron, launched their production in November. The entire range of products was very well received by customers. Immediately after the launch, new orders were made and the total sale in 2017 was well beyond our anticipation.
The third team continued developing their products with the expectation of being able to showcase their products at the Icelandic design festival DesignMarch in 2018.
The projects continues in 2018.
Neptune, Fish Landing and Processing Sites, Sierra Leone ISK 1,062,077
Due to various operational complications, it was decided by the Board of Neptune to end the project and close down Neptune itself. It could not be foreseen that the project would become sustainable and therefore this decision was taken. All operation stopped in January and the following months were spent unwinding the business. In June, the Government of Sierra Leone formally took over the security surveillance of the sites, and all keys to the sites were formally and finally handed over to the Government in November.
Some legal issues remain regarding the termination of the project, and Aurora still has a substantial amount of goods on the premises of the fish landing sites that will need to be removed or sold to the Government of Sierra Leone.
Computer Project, Sierra Leone ISK 530,356
Aurora continued with its successful computer project in 2017. This time Aurora worked with new counterparts both in Sierra Leone and Iceland.
In Sierra Leone, Aurora teamed up with Revolutum a Sierra Leone based company, who helped execute the project. In Iceland, Aurora cooperated with Islandsbanki, one of the largest banks in Iceland, who donated computers to the project and sent two of their employees to participate in running the week-long course in November. Samskip, a global logistic and shipping company, was again one of Aurora’s key partners and shipped all the computers to Sierra Leone from Iceland.
Over 300 persons applied to participate in the project. However, there was only space for seventy students. The chosen applicants sat through a five-day training course, where they received training in Microsoft applications and use of the Internet. At the end of the training, each participant received a certificate and a free computer, donated by Islandsbanki.
Maternal Health, Sierra Leone ISK 596,597
Upon the request of Her Excellency, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, the first lady of Sierra Leone, that Aurora would help to support Maternal Health Care, the Board of Aurora decided to conduct a feasibility analysis on supporting a construction of Maternal Health Care Facility in Sierra Leone. After a thorough analysis it was decided not to go ahead with the project. However, as a first step in supporting maternal health, Aurora acquired 18 hospital beds in Iceland and had them shipped to Sierra Leone with the support of Samskip, shipping company.
In 2017, Aurora donated the hospital beds to three different Maternal Care Facilities. Some beds were donated to the District Hospital in Kono, run with the support of Partners in Health, some went to the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, the only government-run Maternity facility in Freetown, and the remaining beds were donated to Aberdeen Women Center, a Maternity Hospital and a Fistula Center in Freetown.
1.2 Funded projects
1.2.1 Icelandic projects
Book launch of Art and Culture as Therapy: Icelandic Museums and Alzheimer’s disease ISK 1,000,000
The handbook Art and culture as therapy: Icelandic museums and Alzheimer’s disease, introduces theories and methods of using art to increase the well-being of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Aimed at the numerous museums of Iceland, the handbook is intended to prove useful for all cultural institutions and families in improving lives of AD patients, and help increase understanding of their needs.
Aurora Foundation supported the publication of the book, which was launched on 20 September 2017, in accordance with the World Alzheimer’s day on 21 September.