NEW YORK – Over 450 people from around the world gathered in New York City on December 17 for the 19th annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala: Building a Nation. After two years of virtual galas, due to the pandemic, this year’s event was met with enormous generosity once again, raising an astounding $6 million to support COAF’s rural development projects in Armenia.
The evening, hosted by KTTV FOX11’s Good Day LA anchor Araksya Karapetyan and COAF Senior Director of Development Haig Boyadjian at Cipriani – 25 Broadway, featured tantalizing musical performances by world renowned musicians, including violinist Ara Malikian (Spain) and cellist Sevak Avanesyan (Armenia). Musical guests included 12 year-old cellist Lyanna Ulikhanyan and 13 year-old violinist Davit Babayan from Armenia who delivered heartwarming performances.
One of the highlights of the evening was when high school students Anna Rafayelyan from the village of Lanjik (Shirak region) and Artur Simonyan from the village of Arteni (Aragatsotn region) took the stage to share with everyone the impact COAF has made in their lives. They touched upon the various COAF programs that have empowered them to try their best and study hard to become successful so that they strengthen their country.
This year’s Humanitarian Award was presented to benefactors Peter and Marilyn Sarkesian of Michigan in recognition of their generous contributions to COAF’s various education and healthcare programs, including the establishment of several cafeterias in rural schools and the establishment of the Regional Health Center in Dsegh village, Lori province.
All funds will go towards enhancing the quality of life of village youth and their families through COAF’s education, health, psychosocial support and economic development initiatives. For nearly two decades, COAF’s classic village-based and SMART programs have demonstrated their expendability, sustainability and scalability. Each rural population of 100,000 requires a capital budget of $15 million and an annual budget of $2 million. The $15 million capital budget is allocated towards the construction of COAF’s SMART complexes in each rural region, while the organization’s $2 million annual budget covers operational expenditures.
COAF’s goal is to expand its reach to all of rural Armenia’s population of over one million. To date, the organization has served over 100,000 people in five regions of the country. To serve the entire population of Armenia will require an expenditure of $150 million for capital expenses and an annual budget of approximately $20 million.
In his address, COAF founder and chairman Garo Armen spoke about the dire situation in Armenia and in Artsakh, where a humanitarian crisis is currently in the making, due to Azerbaijan blocking the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the rest of the world. He stressed the urgent need to support the people of Armenia by continuing to carry out the important work of nation building and uplifting youth to become the catalysts for change. “We need to show them our commitment; we need to show them that they will not be abandoned in their quest to be important contributors to advancing their country,” stated Armen. He also announced the EU’s commitment of 20 million euros to build two more COAF SMART Centers in the southern region of Syunik in Armenia.
Major sponsors included Jack and Zarig Youredjian of Los Angeles who made a $1 million donation to open three COAF Child and Family Centers in Goris, Gyumri and Vanand, in addition to the family’s scholarship fund which has so far provided over 350 students with access to higher education in Armenia. Another anonymous donation for $1 million was made by longtime COAF supporters. Armen also once again made an annual $1 million donation which covers most of the organization’s administrative costs.
JHM Charitable Foundation also made a $250,000 donation in support of the COAF SMART Center being built in the Armavir region. The Sarkesians’ $200,000 gift will go toward the future Regional Health Center in Dsegh (Lori) where a wing will be named in honor of them.
Platinum sponsors and donors include four anonymous donors at $100,000 each, as well as Aleksandr Yesayan, Victor and Judy Zarougian, Michael Panosian, and Paul and Aline Griffin whose gift will go toward the auditorium of the future COAF SMART Center in Armavir. There were eight gold sponsors at $50,000 and six silver sponsors at $25,000.
Supporters worldwide can tune in to watch and contribute to the “Building a Nation” benefit on Thursday, December 22 on USArmenia TV and ARTN at 7 PM PST, as well as online through the end of January.