Aurora fund allocates USD 800 thousand to four projects in Iceland and in Sierra Leone

The board of the Aurora Fund announced last week, March 16th, its decision to allocate USD 800 thousand in support of four projects in the field of humanitarian aid, education, and culture in Iceland and in SierraLeone.

One of the Fund’s latest projects is supporting Brúðuheimar in Borgarnes – a Centre for Arts and Culture which will become an important part of cultural tourism in the area. Brúðuheimar will receive USD 120 thousand, USD 55 thousand of which will be in the form of a loan.

Three projects will be receiving grants for the second or the third time: The Aurora Design Fund will receive USD 200 thousand, Kraumur, Aurora’s Music Fund, will receive USD 150 thousand, and an educational project in the African nation of Sierra Leone will receive USD 330 thousand.

The Aurora Fund was founded in January 2007 by husband and wife Ólafur Ólafsson and Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir who contributed the initial capital of USD 14.3 million. This is the third year Aurora distributes grants, supporting projects that contribute to the betterment of society in Iceland and in the developing countries. The initial capital has grown nicely, today amounting to around USD 1.8 million.

One of Aurora Fund’s goals is to support few but large projects that can really benefit and flourish from the support. The Board of the Aurora Fund also considers projects which have a decisive impact on their communities. For the Icelandic projects the emphasis is on empowering innovating, new projects and thereby adding to the variety of the market. Aurora Fund’s projects in the developing countries are related to education, culture, and health care. The Fund places an emphasis on following through with projects and to assist the beneficiaries of these grants and their co-workers as much as possible.

The Aurora Fund has allocated grants in total of USD 3.2 million to 11 projects over the past three years. 1.5 million of these have gone to four projects in Africa and Nepal, and 1.7 million to 7 Icelandic projects. Before the Aurora Fund was created, Ingibjörg and Ólafur gave USD 800 thousand in support of two projects, one in Iceland and one in Sierra Leone, which brings the total amount of grants up to USD 4 million.

The Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, one of the two original projects supported by Ingibjörg and Ólafur, marked the beginning of the Aurora Fund. In many ways the Centre is typical for the kind of projects the Fund supports in Iceland, and it has unquestioningly had a great impact, both in the rural Borgarnes area and the whole of Icelandic society. Sigurgeir’s Stuffed Bird Collection by Lake Mývatn is another interesting project that the Aurora Fund has supported outside the capital area. The Fund has also initiated the creation of two specialized funds: Kraumur, Aurora’s Music Fund, and the Aurora Design Fund.

Brúðuheimar (e. Puppet World) will receive will USD 120 thousand, for the creation of a Centre for Arts and Culture in Englendingavík in Borgarnes, Iceland. USD 65 thousand of this amount will be a grant going towards the design and development of a Puppet Museum, while USD 55 thousand will be in the form of a loan to secure accommodation and preparing the premises. This is the first time that the Aurora Fund provides support in the form of a loan, a form of assistance the Board can see increasing, especially with projects that are business-related.

Brúðuheimar, a Centre for Arts and Culture, is founded by husband and wife Bernd Ogrodnik, puppeteer, and Hildur Jónsdóttir, general manager. The Centre will be located in the old buildings that used to house the rural area’s grocery store. These houses date back to the 19th Century and are an important part of Icelandic history. They are under protection and are now being renovated according to 19th Century building styles. The Centre will be an interactive Puppet Museum on one hand, and on the other a Puppet Theatre showing pieces for children and adults alike. There will be a café on-site with an emphasis on serving healthy food. A visit to Brúðuheimar will be an enchanting adventure and an enjoyable activity for people of all ages.

Brúðuheimar is set to open in May of 2010.

Brúðuheimar have everything it takes to become a magical world for both young and old. Its artistic director, Bernd Ogrodnik, is among the foremost puppet artists in the world. Brúðuheimar is a great addition to the cultural tourism in Borgarbyggð, and will support other local tourist attractions, such as the Settlement Centre and Snorrastofa in Reykholt. The future vision of the people behind the project is both ambitious and professional, which is why the board of the Aurora Fund has decided to assist them in enriching the local daily life and culture.

An educational project in the African nation of Sierra Leone will receive a grant USD 330 thousand to create a child-friendly educational system and to build schools which take special note of the needs of girls. This is the third of five grants which have been allocated to the project. Aurora Fund’s largest project to date, it is developed in collaboration with the country’s educational authorities and UNICEF in both Iceland and in Sierra Leone.

Over the last four years, USD 1.5 milljon has been put into the project, including USD 500 thousand, Ingibjörg and Ólafur had donated before the foundation of Aurora to build 50 schools in the country’s poorest regions.

As a result of this project over one hundred teaches have been re-educated and around 60 schoolhouses have been built with running water, toilets, irrigation systems, furniture, and other materials needed for teaching.

Last year a decision was made to improve the quality of education and to adjust it specifically to the needs of the children, girls in particular. The goal is to keep the girls in school for as long as possible, hopefully to prevent them from getting married and having children at much too early an age.

More effort has been put into educating teachers and providing them with training in a manner of teaching where the child is put first, as well as involving the community by creating Parents’ Associations in the schools and Mothers’ Clubs. More information on the project can be found on Aurora Fund’s web-page, www.aurorafund.is, and also on UNICEF Iceland’s webpage, www.unicef.is

Kraumur, Aurora’s music fund will receive USD 150 thousand to strengthen the music life in Iceland, primarily by supporting young musicians in performing and presenting their work. This is done through direct grants, professional assistance, and various forms of cooperation. Instigated by the Aurora Fund, Kraumur was created in early 2008 and is now receiving a grant for the third time.

Kraumur’s activities have been extensive and successful. Over the past two years the fund has given over USD 300 thousand in direct grants to 74 musicians, bands, and music related projects. Kraumur has also collaborated with a wide array of people, groups, and institutions within the musical spectrum – providing support for concerts, road tours in Iceland and abroad, the marketing of Icelandic music overseas as well as instigating a new music award, Kraumslistinn.

It is quite clear that the presence of this fund is hugely influential in the Icelandic cultural life. The manager of Kraumur is Eldar Ástþórsson. Further information can be found on Kraumur’s lively web-site http://www.kraumur.is/

Aurora’s Design Fund will receive USD 200 thousand, to strengthen the roots of Icelandic design by giving financial support to talented designers so they can get their designs produced, noticed, and sold both in Iceland and abroad. The Design Fund was created in February 2009 with the initial capital of USD 250 thousand.

The Design Fund’s goal is to harness the power that lies within the sphere of design through direct financial contributions to outstanding designers, and to assist them in getting themselves, their ideas, and products noticed. The Design Fund is also meant to promote information regarding design, encourage innovation, and to be a platform for cooperation between designers and members of the production/business sectors. It also provides support to young designers through counselling, networking, and scholarships.

The Fund also emphasises supporting project that excel in some way, thereby encouraging originality and creative thinking in Icelandic design.

The Aurora Design Fund has allocated in total of USD 300 thousand in grants to 25 projects and designers, and participated in various projects within the field of design. The Fund’s manager is Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir. Further information regarding the Aurora Design Fund can be found on its web-site www.honnunarsjodur.is