NEW YORK CITY—Over 300 guests gathered at The Bowery Hotel in New York City on June 27 to celebrate the opening of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) SMART Center in Armenia last month. This was the 8th Annual COAF Soiree, known as one of the hottest summer events for young professionals in the tri-state region. Over $30,000 was raised to provide the COAF SMART Center with additional iPads and kindles needed due to the increasing number of students who have been enrolling in the various programs at the center.
Hailed as a leading model for creativity and innovation, the COAF SMART initiative will establish cutting-edge education hubs, known as COAF SMART Centers, throughout Armenia, in an effort to provide rural populations with holistic environments that offer non-formal educational opportunities.
The first COAF SMART Center opened on May 27 in the Lori region of Armenia; over 1,000 guests from around the world attended the highly anticipated event. The flagship COAF SMART Center, located in the Debet village, will offer 150,000 residents of the Lori region with innovative programs in blockchain technology, robotics, agriculture, child development, media literacy, arts, science and health education. The $5 million investment is aimed at developing local resources to ensure the advancement of surrounding rural communities.
The COAF SMART concept is based on four pillars: innovation and creativity; languages and communication; entrepreneurship and economic development; active citizenship and personal development.
“If you are going to inspire people, to inspire young Armenians, you’ll need to do something that will create a wow factor. That’s what my friend Tony Shafrazian said … And we all got together and created this beautiful center,” COAF Founder and Executive Director Garo Armen said in his welcoming speech at COAF SMART Center opening ceremony.
Special guests included high-level Armenian government officials, heads of international institutions, members of the diplomatic community, COAF donors and supporters, along with individuals from the diaspora who were in Armenia to mark the 100th anniversary of the First Armenian Republic. Special performances included the State Jazz Orchestra of Armenia and celebrated musician Miqayel Voskanyan.
“The SMART Center is a new example of a creative environment. And we’ll do our best to spread these types of examples across Armenia in the near future. My dear young people, keep dreaming and go after your ambitions for these will become a basis for our government projects,” Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said in his welcoming speech.
A number of COAF SMART partners were featured during the official opening. In collaboration with SAP, a Next-Gen Lab located at the COAF SMART Center will bring the latest blockchain technology to students, providing them with access to SAP’s instructional resources in virtual reality design and iOS application development. Other key partnerships include Arloopa, a leader in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) founded in Armenia and operating globally.
COAF is also collaborating with PicsArt, an app that allows over 100 million monthly users worldwide, the ability to edit and share photos in fun and creative ways. A new partnership has also been forged with Instigate Robotics and Instigate Training Center, aimed at bringing diverse technology and educational know-how to the COAF SMART Center. Creative Educational Technologies (CET), the official representative of LEGO in Armenia, will also be conducting workshops with children at the CAF SMART Center. FreeEnergy, a producer of clean energy and solar power will also support the opening. In addition, artworks by Syrian-Armenian children were also exhibited on loan from the Cafesjian Center for the Arts and collaboration in underway for art classes.
The flagship COAF SMART Center in the Lori region was designed by Beirut-based architect Paul Kaloustian and took 22 months to build from the ground up at a cost of $5 million. The building was constructed by Kanaka Building Enterprise.
The COAF SMART Campus also features a 12-room guest house for guests, experts and tourists. The facility’s rugs have been generously donated by Megerian Carpets.
Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) is a 501(c)(3) non-governmental organization working to catalyze the empowerment of children in Armenia’s impoverished rural villages. Their programs create and sustain opportunities for communities in rural Armenia, where difficult economic conditions have persisted for generations. The organization views educational programs in particular as the vital pathways toward growth and progress.