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Armenia is a unique country in many respects, least of which is its approach to education. For example, chess is a compulsory subject in almost all schools. Thus, it is the ideal place to launch a groundbreaking and first of its kind educational concept: the SMART campus.

Launched by the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), SMART is innovative educational approach that marries new world technology with the practises established in rural cultures. It seeks to provide education and sustainable employment opportunities to the villagers enrolled in the programme whilst respecting the cultural integrity of this exceptional region.

Set up in 2000 by Dr Garo Armen, the COAF serves 28,000 villagers through multi-faceted development programmes in healthcare, economic, and social development, the fund seeks to assist a total of 40,000 with the implementation of its new SMART program. Armen describes the approach used by COAF as “outrageous and exceptional in all its aspects”.

SMART introduces groundbreaking programmes in technology, sustainability, the arts and music, modern healthcare and lifestyle, linguistics and languages, business and civic engagement. These programmes are regional- relevant and superior educational, social, economic, and community based models launched in rural areas.

Armen’s sentiments are echoed by the coterie of recognisable names that support the cause. “I think the work of this organisation is life altering, spiritual, and vitally important,” said Susan Kendall Newman, actress and philanthropist describing the COAF. With the endorsement of such visionaries as the architect Paul Kaloustian, the stylist Patricia Field, Andre Kissajikian, Dr Leon Kircik, the Alemian Foundation, the Hacet Family, and the Starr Foundation, SMART is revered as a singular concept in creativity, education, and connectivity.

According the Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit, activist, and investor, “the reason why organisations like the Children of Armenia Fund are so wonderful is because there is an opportunity the children of Armenia today to have opportunities that are even bigger than the opportunities that I got here in New York.”

This month Dr Armen oversaw a ceremony in  Lori, Armenia (the country’s largest province) to commemorate the construction of the first smart campus. A blessing was performed by Archbishop Sepuh Chuljyan of the Gugark Diocese. The site architecture and design is by Urban Unit LLC. and the construction was implemented by Kanaks OJSC.

Based on models which have charted success in 22 villages in the Armavir and Aragatsotn regions of Armenian over the last ten years, COAF relies on funds collected through its tireless fundraising efforts will be holding its 12th Annual Holiday Gala at Cipriani in New York on December 11 in anticipation of the opening of the campus in the latter half of 2016.

Armen describes the concept as “integrating 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”. Armen believes that by launching the programme, communities throughout Armenia, and the the world, will subsequently advance.

by Yasmin Bilbeisi

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Glass Online art writer

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