Art Auction Raises Over a Million to Support Refugee Children

The Association Réttindi barna á flótta, or Rights of Displaced Children, raised ISK 1.082 million [$7,642; €7,209] at an art auction at Iðnó on Saturday, mbl.is reports. Local children also did their part by selling their own artwork and Christmas cards during the auction and raised ISK 36,000 [$254; €239] for the cause.

Homecoming, Úlfur Karlsson (via Réttur barna á flótta)

“We reached our goal, which was to cover the bills that we already owe in connection with the help we’ve been providing children of late,” said co-founder Esther Þorvaldsdóttir.

Saturday’s weather discouraged the happenstance foot traffic that the auction might have otherwise enjoyed given the venue’s central location, but there was still a fair turnout from local art collectors who’d been hoping to add to their collections. A group of tourists were also invited in to come in, enjoy the art, and warm themselves from the cold.

Krasý (hat), GAGA SKORRDAL (via Réttur barna á flótta)

The auction included musical performances from Sigríður Thorlacius and Guðmundur Óskar, as well as author and artist Hallgrímur Helgason’s recitation of a poem he wrote for the occasion. Hallgrímur was also among the artists whose work was sold at the auction.

The system and life, Hallgrímur Helgason (via Réttur barna á flotta)

Úlfur Karlsson, Sunna Ben, GAGA SKORRDAL, Hugleikur Dagsson, Þrándur Þórarinsson, Þorvaldur Jónsson, and Lu Hong also offered work for auction. There was also an original Pippi Longstocking drawing that artist Marit Törnqvist originally made for author Astrid Lindgren.

Pippi Longstocking, Marit Törnquist for Astrid Lindgren (via Réttur barna á flótta)

Not all of the artworks on offer sold at the auction, so any would-be art collectors who want to support a good cause can still make a bid on the organization’s art auction website.

Open Water Swimmer Takes to the Sea for a Good Cause

Open water swimmer Sigurgeir Svanbergsson took to the sea on Friday for a good cause. RÚV reports that the self-trained sea swimming enthusiast set out on his odyssey from the Westman Islands to Landeyjasandur on the mainland at 3:45 pm and was expected to complete the 12-km [7.5 mi] journey in five to six hours, arriving between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.

Sigurgeir is swimming on behalf of Save the Children Iceland. (Donate here.) All the money he collects for his monumental undertaking will be donated. He considers this a truly pressing issue, noting that one in every six children in the world—or 450 million total—live in conflict zones, which is a 5% increase from last year.

Synt frá Vestmannaeyjum, FB

‘I always have to go a little further and try something a little harder’

This isn’t Sigurgeir’s first open water plunge—nor his first for charity—although he is still relatively new to the pursuit. Last year, with very little prior swimming experience, he swam across Kollafjörður from Kjalarnes to Reykjavík. (In that instance, he swam for Unique Children in Iceland, a support group for children with rare diseases.)

Sea swimming was a pursuit he took up during the COVID lockdown years, unable to practice or compete in his first sport, Lethwei, a particularly strenuous, full-contact form of boxing practiced in Myanmar. “I was supposed to be competing in the world championship, but COVID spoiled that. […] So I had to find something else to do.” Sigurgeir had no particular background in swimming and had only really practiced when he was in school. But that was part of the appeal for him. “I’m really interested in putting myself in situations that are really challenging. It’s so interesting to see where your head goes when you find yourself in a situation that’s actually kind of impossible.”

And he learned a lot during the course of that first journey, even if it wasn’t all smooth swimming. “It went well, I finished it, but with all kinds of complications,” he recalled in a recent radio interview. For one thing, the engine went out on his escort boat and Sigurgeir ended up having to swim around it for an hour and a half while he waited for a new one. During that break, the currents in the fjord changed direction and so Sigurgeir had to complete his journey swimming against a strong current. The swim took nine hours.

“It was hard and I almost failed,” he said. “But then I always have to go a little further and try something a little harder.”

Synt frá Vestmannaeyjum, FB

 Learning from experience

Sigurgeir has certainly found something “a little harder” with his current swim. The distance of the Kollafjörður swim was just the same, 12 km, but the swim from the Westman Islands will be much more difficult. “So, this is the open sea, of course,” Sigurgeir noted. “I really have no idea what I’m getting into, in a way.”

He’s learned from previous experience, however, and in addition to training extensively in advance of Friday’s swim—both physical preparation in the form of cold training and mental preparation for better stress management—Sigurgeir has made some adjustments. He said he’d be more mindful of the change currents and planned to bring a kayak with him where he could eat mid-swim. He was also going to practice better feeding methods. Sigurgeir said he didn’t do this very well last year and as a result, ended up vomiting for the last three hours of his swim. “There was actually a trail of vomit behind me the whole way.”

Outlook good

At time of writing, Sigurgeir hadn’t completed his swim from the Westmans to Iceland’s mainland, but the conditions were good when he set out. The currents were favourable, and the weather on Heimey, the only inhabited island in the Westmans from where he set out, was good: 10°C [50°F], with just a slight breeze, a bit of fog, and scattered showers.

Sigurgeir was in high spirits before setting out on Friday afternoon, saying: “In the first place, I just think it’s exciting. Just such an exciting idea to give this a try. And then there’s a good cause, too.”

Check Sigurgeir’s Facebook page, Synt frá Vestmannaeyjum (‘Swam from the Westman Islands’), to see how his saga ended on Friday night.

Around the Westfjords—in a Tractor—in Seven Days

In 2015, Grétar Gústavsson and Karl Friðriksson circumnavigated Iceland on a 1963 Massey Ferguson 35X tractor to raise funds for Vinátta (‘Friendship’), Save the Children Iceland’s anti-bullying project. However, at the time, the lifelong friends skipped over the Westfjords. Visír reports that they’ve now been challenged to complete the full journey-by-tractor by circling the peninsula in seven days.

The pair set out from beloved roadtrip rest stop Staðarskáli in Northwest Iceland on Wednesday, July 13 and are set to finish their 950-km [590 mi] voyage in Hvanneyri on Wednesday, July 20. They will be accompanied on their travels by Blær, Vinátta’s purple teddy bear mascot, and all three will be popping in to say hi at Westfjord kindergartens along the way.

‘It’s important to have dreams’

Karl and Grétar have been friends for sixty years. Their lives have taken them down different paths—Grétar is described as a master auto mechanic and farm equipment and vintage car enthusiast, while Karl is the managing director of the Icelandic Center for Future Studies—but their friendship has never faltered. The ’63 Massey Ferguson 35X tractor is symbolic for them because it’s the tractor that captured their imaginations when they were growing up in Fitjardalur, Northwest Iceland. When the first one arrived in the countryside, it was “like a Rolls Royce had driven into the farmyard.”

“Having dreams is important for people young and old,” remarked Grétar. “Sometimes dreams come true in different forms—which might even be better than the original version. The main thing is to work on your dreams and let them guide the course of your life, within reason.”

Donate to the cause

After their 2015 tractor trip, Karl and Grétar further supported Vinátta by publishing the picture book Friends of Ferguson: A Trip Around the Country Against Bullying. All proceeds went directly to the cause. This trip will also support Save the Children Iceland’s anti-bullying project. To contribute, send a text message (within Iceland) with the message “Barnaheill” to 1900 to automatically donate kr. 1,900. You can also make a donation via the page on Save the Children Iceland’s website, here.

Grétar and Karl’s itinerary is as follows:

July 13: Staðarskáli to Hólmavík

July 14: Hólmavík to Hamar

July 15: Hamar to Ögur

July 16: Ögur to Ísafjörður

July 17: Ísafjörður to Bíldudalur

July 18: Bíldudalur to Flókalundur

July 19: Flókalundur to Reykhólar/Hríshóli

July 20: Reykhólar to Hvanneyri

“I Obey Víðir”

An online gift store is doing its part to raise awareness regarding social distancing protocols, support hospital workers, and celebrate Civil Protection and Emergency Management Division manager Víðir Reynisson all at the same time.

Online gift purveyor Margt smátt has begun selling t-shirts bearing the slogan “Ég hlýði Víði,” or “I Obey Víðir.” The memorable motto (it’s catchier in Icelandic) quickly became a catchphrase last week after a COVID-19 press conference, in which newly appointed National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir remarked that “this all depends on people obeying Víðir.” Shortly after, a frame for profile photos bearing the phrase popped up on Facebook. The frame was designed by one Birgir Ómarsson, who is also behind the t-shirt design.

Víðir has been widely praised for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and is becoming something of a folk hero for his pithy directives and no-nonsense pleas to Icelanders to practice common sense and abide by social distancing regulations.

All proceeds from the t-shirt sales will go to Von, the sponsoring organization of the National University Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Sixteen-Year-Old Walks Around Iceland in 43 Days

Sixteen-year-old Eva Bryndís Ágústsdóttir has finished her solo walk around Iceland, RÚV reports. The 1,500km (932mi) walk – which Eva Bryndís undertook to raise money for the Iceland Children’s Hospital – took her 43 days, during which time she walked an average of 35km (21.7mi) a day. On her longest day, she walked 46km (28.6mi).

“There are so many feelings,” she remarked at her journey’s end. “I’m tired, pretty exhausted. I’m also a bit down. It was obviously a remarkable trip – it was so much fun and it’s too bad that it’s over. Finally, I get my summer break now,” she said.

Eva Bryndís was raising money for the Children’s Hospital in honour of her brother, who has been struggling with illness for a long time, and received good treatment at the hospital. She said she enjoyed seeing Iceland by foot. “It all went amazingly well. I was really lucky with the weather, which is odd, because this is Iceland.”

Other than a blister and a bit of muscle stiffness, Eva Bryndís is none the worse for wear than she was when she started. She raised ISK 1.3 million ($10,563/€9,538) for the hospital during her walk, but hopes that this amount will increase with company and other contributions now that the walk has been completed. She will continue collecting donations for another month, up until her 17th birthday on August 28.

Donations to Eva Bryndís’ fund can be made via bank transfer:

0545-14-001153

Kt: 290802-2290

ICE-SAR Earns Over Half of Annual Revenue from Fireworks

Reykjavík Fireworks New Year's Eve

ICE-SAR earned around ISK 800 million ($6.8m/€6m), or up to 60% of its total annual revenue from New Year’s firework sales in 2017 and 2016, RÚV reports. ICE-SAR chairman Smári Sigurðsson says that this year’s fireworks sales figures are not yet available, and may indeed be somewhat lower than previous years, but it’s possible that sales from this year’s new seedlings initiative will make up for any drop-off in firework sales. Smári predicts that this year’s fundraiser will yield somewhere between ISK 700 and 800 million ($5.9-6.8m/€5.5-6m).

Figures for this year’s sales are not yet available as they will continue through January 6, or Þrettándinn, which marks the 13th and last day of Christmas in Iceland. Bonfires are held throughout the country and many people save their holiday fireworks for this day, which is the last legal day to set them off until the next Christmas season. The bonfires and fireworks are, metaphorically speaking, intended to “burn up Christmas” and mark the end of the festive season.

There’s been increasing concern over the pollution caused by the annual fireworks extravaganza in Iceland, and the resulting difficulties experienced, for instance, by people with respiratory problems. As such, the idea of selling seedlings to be planted in a grove outside Þorlákshöfn next summer had been “well-received,” said Smári, and ICE-SAR intends to continue the seedling sale next year and “…develop this partnership with the Icelandic Forest Service further.”

ICE-SAR is entirely funded by donations; it receives no government support. As such, the annual end-of-year fundraiser is particularly important to the organisation’s success for the rest of the year. However, that doesn’t mean that the organisation is dead-set on the continued sale of fireworks specifically.

“We’re not defending fireworks, per se, but we but we want to spend the profits on the work that needs to be done.”

Students Raise ISK 1.5 Million for Local Search and Rescue Team

Students at Sunnulækur school in Selfoss, South Iceland, raised ISK 1.5 million ($12,153/10,697) for their local search and rescue team, Björgunarfélag Árborgar, Vísir reports.

The students raised the funds on a single day last week, their school’s Charity Day, during which they sold various handmade goods and ran a café. The 700 students at Sunnulækjarskóli selected the search and rescue team as this year’s fundraiser recipients themselves.

“We’re hugely pleased with this gift and it’s great that the students decided to support us and our work,” remarked Björgvin Óli Ingvarsson, who leads Björgunarfélag Árborgar. “We’re going to use the money to buy a new jet ski which will definitely be a great help to us,” he continued, noting that the students’ donation is among the nicest gifts that the team has ever received.