November 19, 2012 - 20:10 AMT
Garo Armen:
A real philanthropist seeks no excuse
On November 16, the Special Events Auditorium of Cafesjian Center for the Arts hosted the third annual donation event of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). In an interview with a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter, COAF founder Garo Armen shared his thoughts on the goals and prospects of the Fund.
What’s the profession of Garo Armen, founder of a charitable organization?
I have a PhD in physical chemistry; since 1994, I’m the co-founder and chairman of Agenus Inc., formerly known as Antigenics Inc., a biotechnology company that discovered Oncophage, a vaccine for kidney cancer.

How come a successful biologist switched to charity activities?
In 2003, I took my family on a visit to Armenia, and we had a chance to travel through Armenian villages. The things I saw there made me ponder, and I realized that we have to act now for the sake of our nation’s future. I could not remain indifferent to the situation in the rural communities which have many talented kids with great potential. Everything started with a school renovation project.

What does a philanthropist expect from the beneficiaries?
If no progress in the studies is recorded after the school renovation, there is no sense in our initiative. We are trying to provide the tools, while the beneficiaries should think of how to use them. This means that if they are not interested, our efforts will be in vain.

Your Fund implements children-oriented projects for over 27 000 people in 11 rural communities. Do you intend to expand the scope of your activities in the near future?
Indeed, we've always strived for that. The only barrier is the funding; resources play a key role here. The COAF has spent over $15 mln already, and has 40 employees. If we manage to raise more funds we will definitely involve a wider range in our activities.

The Fund established in 2003 will mark its 10th anniversary next year. Do you have any special events planned in this connection?
Yes, of course; the charity events we organize in Yerevan and New York will comprise a wider framework, particularly in New York where the donation event will also be the tenth one in 2013. Most funds are raised during this very event, and we will definitely organize a big one next year.

What would you recommend to those who have the resources and willingness for charity, but are reluctant and make no practical moves, for some reason?
That's impossible. If they are afraid to do something, they will not succeed in it. If you cannot do something, you'd better step aside and make way for those who can. So, a person who is really willing to engage in charity activities will seek no excuse for not doing so; anxiety is a lame excuse here.

Ani Papoyan / PanARMENIAN News