23.01.08

Aurora Charity Fund allocates ISK 210 million to four projects in Iceland and Africa

The Board of Aurora Charity Fund announced today its decision to allocate a total of ISK 210 million to the fund’s first projects. The couple Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, landscape architect, and Ólafur Ólafsson, Chairman of Samskip and Alfesca, established the foundation one year ago on Ólafur’s 50th birthday, 23 January 2007, with an initial donation of ISK one billion. It was later given the name Aurora Charity Fund, a charter and operational procedures were approved and a Board of Directors appointed.

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 in accordance with the fund’s charter.

The Board of the fund now announces its first grants, a total of ISK 100 million earmarked for four projects this year. Two of the projects are for three years, so the Board is actually allocating a total of ISK 210 million:

  • Sigurgeir’s Stuffed Bird Collection in Mývatnssveit district, receives ISK 20 million to fully complete exhibition facilities with all necessary equipment in the museums new building at Ytri-Neslönd in Mývatnssveit district.
  • Mangochi District Hospital in Malawi, Africa, receives ISK 20 million to build a children’s wing and strengthen the infrastructure of the children’s ward.

Two projects received grants for three years:

  • A UNICEF educational project in Sierra Leone, receives a total of ISK 120 million over three years to develop a child-friendly educational system, including the building of schools, in particular with the needs of girls in mind, i.e. ISK 40 million this year, ISK 40 million in 2009 and ISK 40 million in 2010.
  • New fund to strengthen young musicians, Kraumur Music Fund, receives a total of ISK 50 million to support young musicians in performing and presenting their works: ISK 20 million this year and a total of ISK 30 million in 2009 and 2010. The Kraumur Music Fund was established on the initiative of Aurora Charity Fund.

Sierra Leone’ Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah, came to Iceland on the occasion of the Aurora Charity Fund’s decision to support develop his country’s educational system. He met with Iceland’s Minister of Education, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, and visited both the University of Iceland and Reykjavík University.

  • The Board of the Aurora Charity Fund comprises the founders, the couple Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, landscape architect, and Ólafur Ólafsson, Chairman of Samskip and Alfesca. The other Board members are Sigurður Einarsson, Executive Chairman of Kaupthing Bank, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Iceland’s Medical Director of Health and Þórunn Sigurðardóttir, Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Art Festival.
  • The Board of the Kraumur Music Fund comprises Þórunn Sigurðardóttir, Ásmundur Jónsson and Pétur Grétarsson. The newly appointed Managing Director of the fund is Eldar Ástþórsson.
  • The Consultancy Committee of the Kraumur Music Fund comprises Björk Guðmundsdóttir, musician, Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir, Managing Director of Iceland Music Export (IMX), Árni Heimir Ingólfsson, Music director of Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Árni Matthíasson, journalist on the daily Morgunblaðið, Mist Þorkelsdóttir, Dean of the Department of Music, Iceland Academy of the Arts, Kjartan Sveinsson, keyboard musician for Sigur Rose, and SJÓN (Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson), author.
  • The Aurora Charity Fund has opened a website www.aurorafund.is where detailed information can be found regarding the foundation, the Kraumur Music Fund and projects being supported.

Sigurgeir’s Stuffed Bird Collection is named after Sigurgeir Stefánsson from Ytri-Neslöndum in Mývatn, who had a keen interest in birdlife and nature, and who died in an accident in 1999. He collected stuffed birds and eggs, and had accumulated about 320 from some 100 species of nesting birds in Iceland. After his passing, Sigurgeir’s relatives decided to build a museum in his memory to house the collection, along with Sleipni, a boat owned by Jón Sigtryggsson from Syðri-Neslöndum and one of the first modes of transportation for the people of Mývatn. The new museum was weather-tight in 2006, but various equipment and displays were still needed. The Aurora Charity Fund intends to provide the support necessary to open the museum to the public.

The Board of Aurora Charity Fund explained the reason for the decision:

“The family of the late Sigurgeir Stefánsson deserve credit for having built a home for the stuffed bird collection, and for having shown great determination and perseverance in their efforts. The Board of the Aurora Charity Fund has decided to take part in the project in order that Sigurgeir’s Stuffed Bird Collection receives the equipment necessary to enrich life and culture in Mývatn as well as the entire country.”
Health Project in Malawi. The Aurora Charity Fund is financing the building of a new addition to the children‘s ward in the Mangochi District Hospital in Malawi, expected to be fully operational by fall 2008. The current children‘s ward is much too small, and the new addition will double its size, adding 36 new beds to the 36 already in place. Also intensive care and newborn units with 10 additional beds will be established, as well as a reception area and a duty station for the health care staff. Furthermore, necessary work will commence on the hospital‘s sewage system and septic tanks.

The Board of Aurora Charity Fund explained the reason for the decision:

“It is imperative to improve and strengthen health-care services in Malawi, in particular for children. Ten percent of all newborn children die before reaching their fifth birthday. This must certainly change, and the Aurora Charity Fund intends to play a role in improving health-care services at the children‘s ward of the Mangochi District Hospital in Malawi.”
Educational Project in Sierra Leone. The goal of this project is to support UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone to ensure a primary education for all school-aged children by 2015. The Aurora Charity Fund will collaborate with UNICEF in Iceland to ensure that 85% of the children in Sierra Leone will be receiving a primary education by 2010. The foundation will grant USD two million over the period three years (2008-2010) to build schools in Sierra Leone. Each school building will have 3-6 classrooms for children between the ages of 6-12. Furthermore the foundation will provide furniture and necessary supplies for the schools, including water, bathroom facilities and playground equipment. It will also finance the educating and training of teachers, as well as putting a special focus on the education and ensuring the safety of girls, and support women‘s and mothers‘ groups.

The Board of Aurora Charity Fund explained the reason for the decision:

“Education is one of the most powerful weapons fighting poverty in the world. In particular, it gives children the opportunity to achieve a decent living, increases their self-respect and goes a long way to creating an informed society. UNICEF has formulated, in the opinion of the Aurora Charity Fund’s board, a well-rounded programme for developing primary education in Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries. Solutions are focused at the roots of the problem: addressing most factors that prevent children of primary school age, especially girls, from receiving the education that is rightfully theirs.”
Kraumur Music Fund is an independent fund established by the Aurora Charity Fund. Its aim is to strengthen Icelandic musical life, primarily by supporting young musicians in performing and presenting their works. This will be done by strengthening the position of young musicians in Iceland through direct grants, professional assistance and various forms of cooperation. The fund also intends to fulfil its mission by sharing knowledge in the field, for example by courses, consulting and workshops, as well as through working in cooperation with those who share the same goals. The Board of Aurora Charity Fund explained the reason for the decision:

“Icelandic musical life has a special uniqueness, in particular because of the palpable power and boldness that characterise young musicians. The Sugarcubes and Björk pioneered the global explosion of Icelandic music, and many musicians have followed in their footsteps with amazing results. Today, the Icelandic music experience has become one of the strongest elements of the image that Iceland and Icelanders enjoy abroad. The unusual interplay of pop and classical music can be a driving force in ongoing successes. The support of young musicians in their works, and in various forms of cooperation, creates a stronger foundation under this important growth area of Icelandic culture.”