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Essex Teacher to Present 2011 Ellsworth Lecture on ‘Building Schools in Afghanistan’

Essex Teacher to Present 2011 Ellsworth Lecture on ‘Building Schools in Afghanistan’

January 4, 2011

Jonathan Hoffman, an Essex teacher who has been responsible for building 14 schools in Afghanistan, will present JSC’s 27th annual Ellsworth Lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, in 207 Bentley Hall on campus. Hoffman will discuss his remarkable story of bringing positive change to an area of the world that has seen much war, suffering and injustice. The event is free and open to the public.

A teacher and chef instructor at the Center for Technology in Essex, Hoffman has spent his summers in Afghanistan, bringing donations to impoverished families. Each summer, he travels alone – except for a translator and, outside Kabul, a bodyguard – to places deemed too dangerous for travel. So far, in nine trips, his work has resulted in the building of 14 schools, including those for girls previously taught in tents.

For his efforts, he won the National Education Association’s Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award in 2007. “In the best tradition of Vermont humanitarianism, Jonathan Hoffman is a warrior for international peace and social justice,” said Vermont-NEA President Angelo J. Dorta. “He has put his life in danger each summer to personally deliver tangible aid to needy, everyday people in the war-torn countries of Kosovo and Afghanistan.”

Hoffman is founder and director of Direct Aid International (DAI), a small, non-profit, non-political, non-sectarian 501 C-3 organization. He raises money and awareness through presentations to community organizations and schools, in sister school dialogues, and in interviews with the media.

Besides schools, DAI has constructed boys’ and girls’ latrines; built a library in Mir-Bacha-Kot, north of Kabul; obtained rights to a well with clean water for over 1,000 villagers; and distributed over 40,000 notebooks, thousands of pens and pencils, and hundreds of soccer and volley balls to children.

“We are committed to providing direct aid to people of the world most isolated from other sources of assistance,” he said. “We provide essential materials, project planning and implementation, and our community-based initiatives help create an atmosphere of self-reliance and sustainability.”

For more information about DAI, visit