The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) grew out of the desire of a successful businessman to reach into the country of his forefathers and embrace their greatest resource – children. In 2000, Dr. Garo Armen founded COAF to achieve that goal and provide the resources to transform impoverished villages and lift those children out of poverty.

In August 2003, Garo Armen was visiting Armenia to survey the impact of COAF to date. Working with several other organizations, COAF put a team of bomb-sniffing dogs on the ground to help eliminate the deadly land mines that still dotted the countryside, a legacy of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict with Azerbaijan.

COAF also aided various schools and orphanages, but Dr. Armen was seeking a situation where COAF could have a more enduring impact. He learned that in order to create sustainable change one village at a time, COAF would need to take a multi-dimensional approach in creating programs.

COAF’s First Village

“Our children attend school for a future that doesn’t exist. We have no jobs. We live off the land,” whispered the decrepit old man in the desolate village of Karakert.

Dr. Armen turned away from the elder to face the pockmarked fields and randomly scattered hovels. The village’s quiet desperation ignited Dr. Armen’s passion to do what he could to make a lasting change, one impoverished village at a time.

Karakert was the first COAF village and the initial plan was to fix the bombed out school building; but Dr. Armen quickly realized that infrastructure basics, health and safety needed to be addressed before growing the skills of the populace. During his next visit to the village, Dr. Armen organized a town meeting.

Over 700 people attended, indicating just how ready they were for a chance to improve their situation. While their priorities needed to be identified and acted upon, it was important that COAF make those decisions in partnership with the villagers rather than unilaterally.

“They know their lives better than we do, and if we listen to them and work collaboratively, we can have wonderful outcomes,” Dr. Armen stated warmly.

Today

In less than three years, Karakert, with a population of 5,000 (with about 1,250 children), had a renovated kindergarten, school, health clinic and community center, all with running water and indoor lavatories. Neighboring villages asked if they too could work with COAF, and as funding became available, five communities were added to the project by 2006. All presented similar problems and opportunities, and in each case, education was their number one priority. COAF and village leaders united around one major goal – to provide every single child with essential opportunities for self-development and growth.

COAF now has implemented its model in 44 villages and is eager to expand further. Having increased its staff from just a few in 2003 to more than 25, along with partners like you, COAF continues with its comprehensive approach, working with villagers to set priorities and to build the infrastructure, physical and institutional, that will allow them and their children to succeed far into the future.