Children of Armenia Fund
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Children of Armenia Charitable Fund (COAF) (Armenian: "Հայաստանի մանուկներ" բարեգործական հիմնադրամ (ՔՈԱՖ)) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to empower rural Armenians through child-centered community development programs. Working mainly with children and youth, COAF implements education, health, child and family services, and economic development programs to comprehensively address rural poverty. It has also undertaken the improvement of more than 170 infrastructures in villages, including renovation of schools, health clinics, kindergartens, community centers, school cafeterias, creativity labs, roads, and irrigation systems.
"Հայաստանի մանուկներ" բարեգործական հիմնադրամ (ՔՈԱՖ)
Non-governmental Inc. is a 501(c)(3)
|Headquarters||New York City|
|64 rural communities|
|Methods||Community development, capacity building, advocacy, youth empowerment|
|Garo H. Armen (founder)|
Korioun Khatchadourian (director)
|Up to 50 million USD invested|
Founded in 2004 in the village of Karakert, Armavir region, COAF has expanded to 64 villages in Armavir, Aragatsotn, Lori, Gegharkunik, Shirak and Tavush regions, serving over 107,000 beneficiaries.
In 2014, COAF began developing a new strategy to address systemic gaps in rural Armenia- the COAF SMART Initiative. COAF SMART aims at further advancing rural communities by increasing accessibility to comprehensive programs, technology, and opportunities in a state-of-the-art hub. The first COAF SMART Center is located in Lori Province, Armenia. It is open to the surrounding rural populations, with a SMART Curriculum beginning at age three. COAF envisions the SMART Center as a model for rural development and the beginning of a mindset change for a whole generation. Since opening their first campus in Lori, COAF aims to launch a SMART Center in each region of Armenia.
Dr. Garo H. Armen began supporting Armenia through various projects in 2000, such as financial support to schools and orphanages, as well as through a de-mining project in Artsakh. In 2003, traveling through Armenia with a group of diaspora Armenians, Dr. Armen visited one of the poorest villages in the Armavir region, Karakert. While asking for a glass of water from an old man sitting in front of his house, Dr. Armen learned that the villagers had to buy drinking water from the nearest city. This shock, and the long conversation that followed, determined Karakert as the location for the Children of Armenia Fund to begin their work.
Dr. Garo Armen founded COAF in 2004 to create opportunities and lasting change in rural communities. COAF began addressing the lack of water, heating, and toilets by making the necessary infrastructure improvements for the community. In 2004, with the organization's first donations, COAF began the renovation of the Karakert school.
COAF's small team in Armenia continued to identify further infrastructure discrepancies in education and healthcare, as well as pertinent social issues needing to be addressed. COAF began to implement community-based approaches to address rural poverty with programs prioritizing education, healthcare, economic and social development as well as infrastructure improvements. In 2005, COAF completed renovations of the Karakert kindergarten, medical post, and community center.
The drastic changes in Karakert inspired nearby villages in Armavir to join COAF programs. COAF started to work in a cluster approach, grouping nearby villages for infrastructure improvements and programs. In 2006, COAF grew to 18 villages in Armavir, implementing the organization's style of community engagement programs, expanding to include healthy lifestyle curriculum in schools, after-school clubs, psychological support, and youth empowerment, as well as professional training courses and supervision by COAF experts.
In 2014, in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of COAF, the organization announced the inclusion of more villages in COAF's network, starting with several villages in Tumanyan sub-region in Lori region. In 2016, COAF grew with the participation of Shirak and Tavush region villages.
In July 2015, COAF held the groundbreaking ceremony for their innovative initiative – the COAF SMART Center, a technologically advanced hub that redesigns the organization's traditional cluster approach. This approach enables COAF to connect more villagers to programs and opportunities offered by COAF, and connecting different regions through hosting organization-wide events. The first COAF SMART Center in Lori opened its doors in May 2018. It offers comprehensive resources for children and their families, with state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, and helps provide access through transportation to and from villages. The COAF SMART Curriculum emphasizes collaborative education, including project-based and action-based learning in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains.
COAF currently operates in six regions of Armenia and has invested over $70 million in development projects since 2004.
COAF utilizes a community-based, holistic approach to its work. Along with infrastructure renovations, COAF implements education, health, social, and economic development programs to empower rural communities.
Working closely with village schools, COAF Education program creates an environment where students have opportunities to utilize their creativity, critical thinking, talents and potential both at school and after. The organization works also with school teachers and management to have high-quality management & teachers, self-reliant student councils, as well as progressive and innovative physical environment.
COAF has a longstanding partnership with the U.S. Embassy to create opportunities for rural Armenian youth to learn English, practice their speaking skills, and learn about United States culture․ The U.S. Embassy and COAF provide online English courses for language learners in remote regions of Armenia, where resources for learning new languages are either limited or non-existent.
Capacity building is another mission of COAF education. Mentorship for Student Councils, Methodology training series for teachers, Education management training series for school administration are being held systematically as internal and external activities․
Health programs enhance the quality of primary health services in villages through programs that promote the well being of the entire community. The focus is on disease prevention through promotion of healthy behavior starting from primary school age and early detection. Hands-on education of local health providers and revitalization of the health facilities ensure high-quality implementation of primary health services. 
Health capacity building includes Health management hands-on training for the administration, capacity building hands-on training for health providers, revitalization of the health facilities. As for medical services, it includes early detection of breast, thyroid and prostate cancer through:
Dental Treatment comes to somehow overcome the image in rural villages. The lack of drinking water in many COAF-supported villages has resulted in poor dental hygiene for many residents. Dental care is emphasized by COAF, encouraging practicing oral hygiene starting at kindergarten age. COAF implements brushodromes, stations for teeth cleaning, in schools as a solution to address poor dental hygiene. Dental care further consists of dental fluoridation for kindergarten and primary school children twice a year.
International Missions are cooperation with a partner, Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO), who visits Armenia every year to provide medical assistance for free in the villages. These trips include doctors’ trainings to provide new methods and tools to local doctors and nurses.
Child and Family ServicesEdit
The Child and Family Services are relatively new and are part of COAF's most recent expansion. COAF provides social support through speech therapy, psychological assistance, child development, and socialization support for kids with learning difficulties.
COAF's Social worker support is a new institute established in COAF villages. Due to lack of local professionals, COAF hires specialists to train and work within communities. These social workers provide individual and group support to families and children in rural communities. They also identify issues such as bullying, domestic violence, interpersonal relations, and barriers for people with disabilities as they work both one-on-one and with the whole community.
COAF's psychological assistance program works with kindergartens, schools, families and villagers in various capacities. Professional education in this field is not common in the rural communities, so COAF identifies possible specialists, trains them, and provides guidance, knowledge and professional supervision during the contract period. As a tool of community mindset change, COAF implemented a new art therapy program called Psychological Theater, that helps kids to open up and express themselves in a creative and constructive way, and includes people with disabilities.
Another component of the Child and Family Services program is the creation of Child Development Centers, or Sunny Corners. These renovated rooms provide a supportive environment to foster early childhood development. They feature both learning and recreational areas for children, and are equipped with toys and activities that provide an outlet for self expression.
Community work also includes providing assistance to children with learning difficulties who may struggle with being active in the classroom and understanding their schoolwork. Specialized assistance is provided to children with learning difficulties as well as to parents to assist them in effectively working with their children. This support consists of homework preparation, personal and collective education, and motivational support to improve their academic performance. Sometimes speech therapists are also involved, working to identify the issue and assist both the child and their parents to overcome psychological, speech, and integration difficulties.
One of COAF's goals is to achieve economic vitality within Armenia, demonstrating the potential for opportunity and growth within villages to adults and young people.
Some areas of economic development provided by COAF include interest-free loans for local businesses, entrepreneurship training for high school students, and installation of irrigation water pipelines. These programs provide residents with the tools needed to succeed and generate income, fostering a deeper connection between citizens and their communities.
Aiming to expand their work to all of the Villages in Armenia, Children of Armenia Fund developed an innovative approach – the COAF SMART Initiative. This is a new model to develop rural communities, providing villagers with a state-of-the-art environment featuring the tools, knowledge, and motivation necessary to be a 21st-century citizen.
The COAF SMART concept provides children and their families with resources to improve their lives and explore future possibilities. COAF SMART aims to prevent the emigration from villages to big cities or other countries by showing local citizens new opportunities and providing tools to be successful within their communities. COAF also cooperates with villagers, local government, international organizations, and start-ups to bring best practices to rural Armenia.
COAF SMART CenterEdit
The SMART Initiative is implemented through the COAF SMART campus, an education hub for children and adults to explore their intellectual curiosities and push the boundaries of the fields of study that compel them.
The first SMART Campus is located in the Lori region in Armenia, near the village of Debet. It consists of the COAF SMART Center and a guest house. COAF is working on expanding the campus by constructing a dormitory, greenhouse, and sports ground. It is located on 50 acres of land and is accessible to over 250,000 villagers from across the region.
Opened on 27 May 2018, the SMART Center in Lori is a technologically advanced and innovative education center where kids learn languages, computer skills, robotics, media literacy, design, music, agriculture, and more. Education at SMART is provided at no cost and COAF also provides transportation between the villages and the SMART Center.
The center provides after-school classes and activities to local youth. They not only have the chance to attend their regular classes, but also are able to participate in festivals, master classes, concerts, and guest speakers’ trainings.
The Lori COAF SMART Center was designed by Lebanese-Armenian architect Paul Kaloustian. The building was designed to embrace the landscape and exist in harmony with its natural surroundings.
COAF SMART RoomsEdit
Prior to the COAF SMART Center's opening, SMART rooms existed within the villages. These education rooms have all the necessary equipment and internet connection to provide local people with new possibilities. It helps connect communities with each other and the world. SMART rooms provide education in self-development, medicine, social services, computer literacy, and media literacy.
These rooms enable people to continue their education during winter months, when traveling in the Lori region is difficult. SMART rooms are accessible not only for rural youth, but also neighboring students and community members.
These kind of rooms are present in the Lori and Tavush regions. Tavush SMART rooms also provide shelter in case of potential weapon use in border villages (Koti and Aygehovit) due to ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan. SMART Safe rooms are a secure space for 200 people per village with water, food, and additional electric generators.
Doctor Garo H. Armen is a US Armenian businessman and scientist. Born in Istanbul, Turkey to an Armenian family, Garo Armen had been beaten at his school for talking about the Armenian Genocide of 1915. At the age of 17, he had to leave for the US to save his life.
With no knowledge of English, he was hosted by an Armenian family that helped him learn the language and attend college. He worked as a messenger boy, gas station attendant, and dishwasher. Simultaneously, Garo Armen studied chemistry, eventually gaining his PhD before beginning to work as a scientist.
Later he became interested in Financial markets and became very successful there. During the energy crisis, Armen stopped at a gas station and noticed that gas pumps only displayed two digits for the price of gas. "Realizing that continued rising prices would force the pumps to be replaced in the near future, I borrowed $5,000 to invest in gas pumps." Armen's prediction soon proved correct and nearly every gas station pump in America had been replaced.
After losing his mother because of cancer, Dr. Armen was inspired to find new methods of cancer treatment. He founded and currently is the CEO of Agenus, a biotechnology company focused on immunotherapy. He also has an organic farm in Maine
Beginning in 2000, Garo Armen became actively involved in the financial support of Armenia. In 2004, he founded Children of Armenia Charitable Fund to support economic advancement of rural communities.
In 2002, Ernst & Young recognized him as the NYC Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year. Garo Armen is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his humanitarian efforts in Armenia. He has been awarded the Mkhitar Heratsi Medal by the President of Armenia. He is also the recipient of the Golden Medal, awarded by the Armavir provincial governor for his investments in the region. He was awarded the Honorary Medal by the Prime Minister of Armenia.
Each December, COAF holds a fundraising gala event in New York City. Friends and philanthropists gather to celebrate the year's success, hear children from Armenian villages share their personal stories, and learn about the impact COAF has made. The annual COAF Gala consists of a charity dinner, concert, live auction, and silent auction.
Every year COAF raises up to 4 million dollars to implement its programs for the next year.
COAF maintains strong partnerships with different companies and institutions, such as the Armenian government and the United States government, International organizations, Banks, and local companies that have sustainable CSR.
The New York office primarily focuses on fundraising, donor relations, and the annual COAF Gala event. The board of directors is also based in New York, chaired by Dr. Garo Armen, with Michael Aram, Peter Balakian, Khalil Barrage, Gregory Ekizian, Larry Feinberg, Diron Jebejian, JoAnn Luehring, Shaké Nahapetian, Vahé Nahapetian, Debbie Ohanian, Mary Pendergast, Alice Saraydarian, and John Saraydarian currently serving as board members.
The Yerevan office is responsible for the field work, programs implementation, new initiatives, impact monitoring, community advancement guidance, government relations, partner cooperation, specialists’ trainings and kids empowerment.
COAF's Board of Trustees is located in Armenia. The Chair is Richard Bezjian, founder of Energize Global Services (EGS). The Board members are Garo Armen, Alice Saraydarian, Serob Khachatryan, Ovsanna Yeghoyan, Pakrad Balabanian.
COAF's programs operate in 44 villages in 6 regions in Armenia, impacting over 75,000 beneficiaries.
COAF works at the grassroots level, collaborating directly with community leaders and local government officials to understand the issues facing their citizens, and begin developing projects and programs to address their Needs.
Since 2004, COAF has undertaken over 100 infrastructure improvement projects—rebuilding schools, clinics, and other vital village facilities and reconstructing kindergartens, community centers, and public spaces for village youth and their families.
In rural areas of Armenia, many villages are isolated by long-neglected road systems, and access to quality drinking water is an ongoing challenge. To date, COAF has provided clean water for more than 18,000 villagers through community collaboration.
Started in 2011, 400 students have graduated from the English Teaching Access program. In 2019, 148 teenagers from nine villages are currently involved in the program. COAF organizes 50 after-school clubs with 973 participants, and over 500 children participate in summer schools.
Other noteworthy highlights of COAF's programs:
- Since 2013, more than 2,000 high-school kids have been taking part in the Professional Orientation program. COAF Student Council programs involve 307 children in nineteen COAF-supported schools.
- 91 university students received full and partial scholarships to continue their education in higher educational institutions for the past four years. This program is a collaboration between COAF and HSBC Bank.
- Seventeen COAF beneficiary schools are members of Schools for Health in Europe (SHE) Network. 2,481 students participated in Healthy Lifestyle Clubs since 2009.
- 2,203 primary school children receive healthy, hot meals and brush their teeth in renovated cafeterias and COAF Brushodromes.
- 12,490 women have undergone breast and thyroid screenings for early detection of cancer since 2008.
- Around 700 children receive free dental care annually.
- Around 600 children have participated in Child Development Center and Child Development Corners since 2011. 87 children from 8 villages participated in Emotional IQ clubs. More than 150 children have taken part in Drama therapy since 2012. In 2018, over 3500 children participated in group development activities.
- 973 children, parents, and teachers received individual psychological counseling. 704 parents and 348 teachers participated in seminars conducted by psychologists.
- Community social workers continuously work with 270 families, and 104 cases have already been resolved and closed.
- 739 children and 130 adults from 13 neighboring communities currently take part in COAF SMART Center activities.
Children of Armenia Charitable Fund receives the highest evaluation results according to GuideStar, Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.
Notable affiliated personsEdit
Many well-known people in the world support COAF in its cause. Among COAF supporters are:
- Alexis Ohanian, Internet entrepreneur
- Andrea Martin, actress, singer, author and comedian
- Ariana Grande, singer, songwriter and actress
- Cher, singer and actress
- Conan O’Brien, television host, comedian, writer, and producer
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenian professional footballer
- Jennifer Aniston, actress, film producer, and businesswoman
- John Stamos, actor, producer, musician, comedian and singer
- Khloe Kardashian, media personality, socialite, model, businesswoman, and entrepreneur
- Leonardo DiCaprio, actor, film producer, and environmentalist
- Martin Short, comedian, actor, singer and writer
- Nathan Lane, actor and writer
- Patricia Field, costume designer, stylist and fashion designer
- Sean Hayes, actor, comedian and producer
- Serj Tankian, musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, poet and political activist
- Tom Hanks, actor and filmmaker
- Tony Shafrazi, owner of the Shafrazi Art Gallery
- Usher, singer, songwriter and dancer
- Vanessa Williams, singer, actress, and fashion designer
- Victor Garber, actor and singer.
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- "Beeline and COAF renovated the kindergarten I Shenik village and built a playground". ArmLur Online News Portal. 26 November 2014.
- "Children of Armenia Fund". Bravo online magazine, Entertainment. 15 October 2010.
- "COAF Annual Gala Raises Record $4 Million". Aravot Newspaper, News and Articles. 8 January 2019.
- "Cutting Edge COAF SMART Center Set to Transform Lori Region of Armenia". The Armenian Weekly Newspaper. 17 May 2018.
- "20 SMART Centers can be lifechanging for rural Armenians". Yerkir Newspaper, Society. 22 September 2017.
- Hovhannisyan, Ani (27 May 2018). "COAF SMART Center: A Chance for Rural Community Residents to Unleash Their Potential". Hetq Online, Investigating Journalists.
- Minasyan, Gohar; Mkrtchyan, Aghassi (January 2005). "Factors Behind Persistent Rural Poverty in Armenia" (PDF). Armenian International Policy Research Group.
- "The Image of Poverty in Armenia in 2008 to 2016" (PDF). ArmStat (Armenian National Statistics). 2017.
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- Hounanyan, Samvel (23 May 2005). "I hope Karakert will not be the only one". Asparez Journalist Club.
- "Empower a Generation – COAF SMART Center". COAFkids; Youtube Page. 12 April 2017.
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- Mkhoyan, Armenuhi (24 May 2005). "New Strategic project is Implemented in Karakert". Armenpress National News Agency.
- Margossian, Roubina (23 February 2016). "SMART Campus in Lori". Civilnet Online TV.
- "Children of Armenia Fund Raises $2.3 Million for Model Cluster Project". Business Wire, News. 26 October 2006.
- "COAF Conducts of Healthy Lifestyle in Communities of the Republic". Armenpress National News Agency. 17 December 2008.
- Sargsyan, Davit (24 November 2017). "The Government and the Oligarchs should secure a knowledge-based future". Yerkir Media TV, "The Issue of the Country" Talk Show.
- Hakobyan, Gohar (22 February 2017). "If the US Armenians and foreign people support Armenia, it would be great that Moscow Armenians do the same". Aravot Newspaper.
- Poghosyan, Lusine (4 February 2016). "COAF's mission in Shirak region". Tsayg TV.
- "Summer Camps participants visited Soldiers in Artsakh". Artsakhpress News Agency. 11 August 2016.
- Sargsyan, Gohar (5 October 2016). "SMART Center in Armenia is the path to prevent the migration". Sputnik Armenia TV and Radio Holding.
- Van, Karine (26 July 2015). "COAF's Next 'Smart' Move in Lori". Im Yerevan Online Magazine.
- Aghalaryan, Kristina (27 May 2018). "Educational SMART Center opens its doors in the Lori region of Armenia". News.am Online Portal.
- "COAF 14th annual Gala raised 3.6 Million USD". Yerevan Today Online portal, Social New. 20 December 2017.
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- Glumov, Yegor (26 December 2017). "SMART Center will open soon, and it is already called the epicenter of kids happiness". Radio Van, Glumovo Utro Morning Show.
- Hakobyan, Gohar (22 February 2017). "If the US Armenians and foreign people support Armenia, it would be great that Moscow Armenians do the same".
- "COAF is expanding its programs". Public TV, "Hraparakum" program. 8 April 2016.
- Harutyunyan, Ani (16 July 2017). "Access Program in Armenia". 17.am Online Portal.
- "U.S. Embassy and COAF Continue Expansion of English Language Courses Throughout Armenia". US Embassy, News. 13 November 2015.
- "US dental specialists will run a project at rural schools". News.am, Medical news. 13 May 2016.
- Sargsyan, Gohar (11 November 2016). "One toothbrush per each child in the village". Sputnik Armenia TV and Radio.
- Antonyan, Gagik (20 July 2017). "US Armenian Doctors in Armenian Villages". Hayastani Hanrapetutyun newspaper.
- "COAF providing healthy food to children in Armenia's provinces". Hayern Aysor Online Media, News. 15 May 2017.
- "Arteni community has its own speech therapist". Noyyan tapan News Agency, News. 1 June 2016.
- Poghosyan, Sahakanush (1 June 2016). "Looking for a 'better life'". Yelaket online media.
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- "Kids Country News". Yerkir Media. 17 July 2016.
- Karapetyan, Anahit (11 July 2017). "Sunny Room in Lori". Fortuna TV.
- "COAF Sunny Corners Kindergarten Takes on New Approach to Child Development". COAF. 14 July 2017.
- Sardaryan, Arevik (23 June 2017). "Training at Karakert School". Luys TV.
- Minasyan, Armenuhi (8 April 2016). "COAF is expanding its programs". Public TV, Hraparakum program.
- "Economic programs". Children of Armenia Fund.
- Margossian, Roubina (1 July 2016). "Smart Centers: An Investment in Armenia's Potential". Civilnet, Interviews.
- "Interview with COAF Founder Garo Armen". Factor.am Online TV. 24 April 2018.
- Sargsyan, Davit (24 November 2017). "Government and Oligarchs should secure a knowledge-based future". Yerkir Media TV, talk Show.
- Papinyan, Hrachya (4 May 2016). "New SMART Center is being constructed for Lori youth". Public TV, news.
- Goqoryan, Sargis (24 October 2017). "The biggest COAF SMART Center is being constructed". Armenia TV, News.
- Minasyan, Armenuhi (27 May 2018). "What will change newly opened COAF SMART Center?". Public TV, Hraparakum Program.
- Aghalaryan, Kristina (27 May 2018). "There are new perspectives in Lori". 1in.am Online media.
- Voskanyan, Margarita (17 September 2017). "Come to Arevatsag village". 17.am Online media.
- Balyan, Lusine (15 September 2016). "SMART Safe Rooms opened in Tavush region". Shoghakat TV.
- Seiffert, Don (10 May 2016). "Agenus CEO Garo Armen on entrepreneurship and being an immigrant". Boston Business Journal.
- Brower, Vicki (22 November 2004). "Profile Garo Armen". The Scientist.
- Trvants, Anush (15 September 2016). "Կարօ Արմեն. "Ես չեմ խորհիր, թէ սովորական ժողովուրդը պատերազմ կ՚ուզէ"". Arevelk.am.
- "Agenus Inc (AGEN:NASDAQ)". Bloomberg. 4 April 2013.
- "Past medals". ELLIS ISLAND MEDALS OF HONOR. 25 February 2012. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012.
- "COAF Annual Gala raises record 4,1 million USD". Armenpress News Agency. 21 December 2018.
- ""Հայաստանի մանուկներ" հիմնադրամը Նյու Յորքում կայացած գալա երեկոյի ժամանակ 3 մլն դոլար է հավաքել". Tert.am Online magazine. 16 December 2016.
- "Tom Hanks, Conan O'Brien Among Celebrities Promoting COAF Gala". ANCA. 9 December 2016.
- "Children of Armenia Fund Annual Gala Raises $2.4 Million for Expansion into Rural Armenia". Horizon weekly. 18 December 2014.
- "Tech Trailblazer Richard Bezjian to Chair COAF Armenia Board". Mirror-Spectator. 4 October 2018.
- "Board of Directors". Children of Armenia Fund. 2018.
- "COAF infosheet-profile". GuideStar. 2017.
- "Board of trustees". Children of Armenia Fund. 2018. Archived from the original on 22 February 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- "COAF's new Managing Director is Korioun Khatchadourian". Mediamax. 16 January 2019.
- Abaroa, Patricia (2016). "Children of Armenia Fund: Supporting Underserved Communities". Azure Azure.
- Ashot Poghosyan (25 November 2016). "Հայացք Ամերիկա․ Ստելլա Գրիգորյան". The Voice of America.
- "Reports and Financials". Children of Armenia. 2018.
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- "$3.6 Million Raised for Villages in Armenia During COAF Gala". Asbarez. 20 December 2017.