As a student at IDC Herzliya studying conflict resolution, Schoffman yearned to learn outside the classroom.
“I felt I was lacking practical experience and wanted a truly authentic volunteer opportunity,” Schoffman said. He found an online ad seeking volunteers at a school in Uganda and, after exchanging many emails with the school administrator, he flew to Uganda on his 21st birthday.
“It was a big risk since I didn’t know if this man was legitimate, but it ended up being one of the most satisfying experiences of my life,” he said.
He worked at Kikaaya College, a school attended largely by teenage orphans who lived on the school’s Spartan campus. “There were no toilets, no showers, and I was scared at first,” said Schoffman, who taught computer science and athletics there for two months. “However you imagine rural Africa, it was 10 times worse. Still, everyone welcomed me and treated me like family.”
After he left Uganda, Schoffman wanted to continue giving back. He launched The Nation Foundation to address the community’s needs, starting with funding scholastic materials to help bring the school up to 21st century standards and recruiting a cadre of passionate volunteers to teach any number of subjects.
“It’s difficult to get any nonprofit off the ground,” he said, “but our volunteers have been very dedicated and, through mobilization, fundraising and outreach, we’ve been able to succeed in raising tens of thousands of dollars that go directly into helping the schools purchase textbooks, equipment, and scholarship assistance for students.”
Schoffman requests that volunteers live on the school’s compound, as he did, rather than travel around Uganda and act more like tourists than teachers.
More than 80 percent of the volunteers are Jewish, and many are Israeli, said Schoffman. “Israel and Uganda have historically been linked, and it’s nice to know we’re helping continue that connection,” he said.
Since the nonprofit is volunteer-driven, Schoffman works fulltime as an office administrator at another nonprofit, but envisions making The Nation his eventual fulltime career and expand its reach throughout Africa.
“It’s a huge motivator,” he said, “when you combine your profession with your passion for tikkun olam and effecting positive change in this world.”
Before Louis CK sold out MSG: Schoffman played babies Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in one of Louis CK’s first short films, “Ice Cream,” in 1992.