The formation of a philanthropic foundation, which was later given the name Aurora, was announced at a news conference held at Hotel Borg in Reykjavík on 20 January 2007.
The following news release was distributed at the meeting:
The couple Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, landscape architect, and Ólafur Ólafsson, Chairman of Samskip, have formed a philanthropic foundation that they have personally funded with ISK one billion. Income from the foundation, which will derive from dividends and interest, will on the one hand be earmarked for various projects in developing countries, and on the other to enhance life in Iceland by supporting projects in areas of culture, education and the arts.
This will be done in accordance with the foundation’s articles of association and decisions made by the foundation’s board of directors. It is estimated that ISK 100 – 150 million (USD 1.5 – 2.3 million) will be available for allocation annually.
A five-person board has responsibility for developing policy and operating the foundation. In addition to Ingibjörg and Ólafur, board members are Sigurður Einarsson, Executive Chairman of Kaupthing Bank, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Iceland’s Medical Director of Health who is currently involved in providing development assistance in Malawi on behalf of the Icelandic International Development Agency, and Þórunn Sigurðardóttir, Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and board member of UNICEF in Iceland.
The board will set further operating procedures, but it is expected that foundation grants will be announced early every year beginning in 2008.
Educational project in Sierra Leone and the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes
The new foundation is a direct continuation of two special projects that Ingibjörg and Ólafur are currently involved in at home and abroad, to which they have contributed a total of well over ISK 100 million (USD 1.5 million).
Firstly, they have sponsored an extensive UNICEF educational project in the African nation of Sierra Leone. The support involves building 50 communal schools in cooperation with the country’s Ministry of Education, as well as providing them with furniture and other equipment. About 100 teachers will be trained to work in the new schools, and students will be given the necessary educational materials.
Secondly, the couple has supported the development of the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes in memory of Ólafur’s parents, Anna Ingadóttir and Ólafur Sverrisson, who lived and worked there for many years.
A few large projects rather than many small ones
Ingibjörg and Ólafur envisage the new philanthropic foundation as being involved in only a few projects at any one time, enabling them to provide substantial support to each one. They plan to monitor and participate in projects as much as possible, and have closely followed developments in both Sierra Leone and the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes. Ingibjörg is a board member of UNICEF in Iceland and on the board of the Settlement Centre. For many years, Ólafur sat on the board of the Icelandic Red Cross. They word their personal vision as follows:
“Social responsibility is both natural and self-evident, and in addition to that we are simply interested in doing our bit to provide development support, and to sponsor various projects that enhance life in Iceland. Many people in developing countries live in unacceptable conditions, yet often it does not take much to achieve real improvements. We want the foundation to be a dynamic force in providing development assistance in close cooperation with governing bodies and local populations, just as we have done in Sierra Leone.”
“In Iceland, we envisage taking part in innovative projects that enhance and enrich life in the fields of culture, the arts and education, projects that have a constructive impact on local communities as well as the entire nation. The Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes is an excellent example. Sigríður Margrét Guðmundsdóttir and Kjartan Ragnarsson are the pioneers who launched the project and convinced others, including us, to embrace their vision. This journey ended when the vision was realised, and the Settlement Centre immediately became the pride of Borgarfjörður district, and a magnificent arena of culture and art.”