Children of Armenia Fund Summer Soirée In Manhattan


Andrea Martin

By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) held a fundraiser on the evening of June 22 at New York City’s Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. Armenian-American actress and comedienne Andrea Martin, artist and designer Michael Aram and fashion boutique chain founder Khajak Keledjian served as hosts to a crowd of some 230 people.

The event was aimed at attracting a younger crowd than COAF’s annual banquet, and it seems to have succeeded. Despite the early evening thunderstorms, the hotel room and surrounding terrace were packed by fashionably-dressed guests enjoying the view, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. More than $20,000 was raised, permitting COAF to build a wing on one of the schools it is renovating in the large village of Miasnikian.

The formal portion of the event was fairly brief. Martin, a steadfast supporter of COAF, pointed out the importance of the organization’s work. She spoke both at the start and the end of the event with humor and charm. She said that five years ago when she was first approached to serve as the entertainment for a COAF event, she asked for money, a car, a dress and “this and that,” but when she became familiar with the work that COAF did, she no longer could ask for any payment. She said that once any audience member would go to Armenia and see for himself the impact of the extraordinary work being done on people’s lives, “You will sell your house and give it to COAF.”

Aram said that the poverty levels he saw in Armenia after the fall of the Soviet Union were extreme. Students had to go to schools with no heat, crumbling walls and holes in the floors. Aram continued, “Living conditions and study conditions were among the worst I have ever seen in my life, and I have lived in India for 20 years of my life.” One COAF Board member was visiting a school in Armenia, and some students passed out from hunger at that time. Aram asked for the help of those present to improve this tragic situation.

Businessman Dr. Garo Armen, who founded COAF in 2000, introduced two short videos. One was prepared by children in Armenia who had received the necessary equipment and training through a COAF grant funded by the Paul Newman Fund. They showed how buildings and the environment affecting their lives had changed in a two-minute video. The video ended with the children all saying thank you to their COAF donors.

The second was an unfinished draft begun some eight days ago, showing what COAF does in a broader sense through animation. It was the work of a young group of Armenian college students from Boston.

Armen provided the audience with basic information about COAF, recommending that they visit their website for more details (www.coafkids.org). Approximately 30 people work in the Armenia offices. Everything is directly done by COAF in Armenia to avoid corruption. Armen said that in the 11 villages in which COAF works, there are some 25,000 people, of which some 6,000 are school-age children. Economic conditions are worsening there; thus more than 10 percent of the population cannot afford the most basic things. Though the schools are free, books, equipment and personal items such as clothing and meals are not, therefore poor families sometimes cannot afford to send their children. It takes approximately $350 per year per child to provide what is necessary. Approximately 500 of the 6,000 children depend on COAF for these necessities.

Keledjian said that COAF staff members are paid their salaries through board members, so that all donations go directly to the children in Armenia. He gave the example of his own birthday present to his brother Haro, who was in the room. He went with Haro to Armenia, which allowed them to see the difficulties Armenians there are facing. However, despite all their talk and plans, they did not do much until Keledjian joined COAF. Keledjian pointed out to the audience that Larry Feinberg, the biggest donor to COAF, was not even Armenian, and that made him feel even more motivated to participate. So Keledjian donated the presents from his 38th birthday to COAF. He urged those present, lucky to be living in New York, to help Armenians in the Republic of Armenia who are living without the same opportunities.