On July 8th 2015, Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Founder and Chairman Dr. Garo Armen, along with supporters, government officials, community and friends broke ground on COAF’s first SMART Campus. “SMART” is a pioneering model for delivering superior and regionally-relevant educational, social, economic and community programs in rural areas with an emphasis on technology, sustainability, arts and music, modern healthcare and lifestyle, linguistics and languages, business and civic engagement.
Operating as a state-of-the-art, scalable learning and knowledge exchange hub, SMART will implement COAF programs based on models which have charted success in 22 villages in the Armavir and Aragatsotn regions of Armenia over the past decade. The SMART concept will allow for scalability throughout rural regions. SMART campuses will respect the integrity of rural aesthetics in sync with modern architectural design, maintaining the authenticity of the region, while encouraging progressive ideology. Each campus will utilize sustainable and green design, off the grid components, and renewable energy, along with recycled water and building materials in its construction.
The SMART Campus will have capacity to accommodate program participants and visiting collaborators in guest quarters, and will feature outdoor activities, indoor workshops and vibrant greenhouses to train and enable developing children and adult villagers alike in regionally relevant skills. On the occasion of SMART’s ground breaking, Dr. Armen stated: “The construction of ‘SMART’ is an experimental, first-of-its-kind, and highly progressive concept. Our objective is to integrate new world methods in partnership with local approaches to iteratively develop a model that can connect rural communities through state-of-the-art, sustainable methods. In implementing this innovative concept, we not only stimulate the advancement of rural communities throughout Armenia, but throughout the world.”
SMART harnesses technology, for not only efficient knowledge acquisition and idea exchange, but in cultivating and stimulating holistic health. SMART will offer education in a wide variety of engaging disciplines ranging from organic and sustainable farming techniques, to health and nutritional guidance, to medical education and robotics. The SMART signature is the ability to engage village professionals with national and international experts in multiple locations synchronously to inspire and propel dialogue and learning. SMART will offer world-class programs from global influencers through interconnected virtual classrooms; meeting areas for student and youth clubs, an auditorium for performances and presentations, a library, and studios for language, arts and music will also be unveiled next year. Located in Debet, Lori Marz, architecture and design works have been done by Urban Unit LLC, and the construction is being implemented by Kanaka OJSC. The Groundbreaking Blessing Ceremony was performed by Archbishop Sepuh Chuljyan, Primate of the Gugark Diocese.
The first “SMART” campus components will be completed by the second half of 2016. Longtime supporters of COAF who were present at the groundbreaking ceremony included Tony Shafrazi and Ara Arslanian. Substantial donors to the SMART Campus and SMART Villages include the Afeyan Family, Larry Feinberg, the Hacet family, Dr. Leon Kircik, Ajemian Foundation, Andre Kissajikian, Starr Foundation, Carl Berg. Other visionary supporters include, Patricia Field, Serj Tankian, Paul Kaloustian, Michael Aram and Susan Kendall Newman.
Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) is a non-profit, non-governmental 501(c)(3) organization. COAF uses community-led approaches to reduce rural poverty, with a particular focus on youth. Since the inception of its programs in 2004, COAF has funded and implemented education, healthcare, community and economic development programs serving more than 28,000 people in rural villages of Armenia. In 2015, COAF debuted SMART, an unprecedented model for delivering superior and regionally relevant holistic educational programs in rural areas, with an emphasis on technology, sustainability, the arts, health, linguistics, business and civic engagement.
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Images Courtesy of Daro Sulakauri