The First Step: How a Bucket List Trip To Timbuktu Became My Life’s Work

In 2010, Barry Hoffner took a bucket-list trip to Timbuktu to celebrate his 50th birthday. Little did he know then that this trip would define his life’s humanitarian work. Lucky to get out Timbuktu in early in 2012, on his annual trip to see the work of his foundation Caravan to Class, after the takeover by a Jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, Barry was not sure he would make it back to Timbuktu again. However, since the French liberation of the area in 2013, Caravan to Class has brought French-based education to thousands of children in this fabled place. Today, Caravan to Class has built 18 schools in rural villages around Timbuktu, many which it continues to support. In addition, it has taught local-language literacy to hundreds of mothers. Finally, after the tragic death of Barry’s wife, Jackie, he launched a program to fund university scholarships for female high school graduates of Timbuktu. Today, the “Bourse Jackie” (the Jackie Scholarship) program has provided twenty-five full scholarships to university in addition to a number of other affiliated programs.


Barry Hoffner

Barry lives in Sausalito, California. After getting his MBA from Columbia University in 1985 and working two years on Wall Street, he spent the next sixteen years working in finance living all over the world including Paris, London, Tokyo, Singapore, Zurich, Buenos Aires and Moscow. He left finance in 2002 and focused on raising his sons with his wife Jackie while growing wine-grapes and making olive oil and also starting his foundation Caravan to Class. Following the tragic death of this wife, Jackie, he gave up most of what he was doing except for his work in Timbuktu. He began a journey of more intentional travel which lead him to pursue going to every country in the world to help heal a difficult loss. His forthcoming book: The First Step: My Journey to Every Country in the World for Healing, Knowledge and Connection explores this topic.

Learn more about Barry and listen to this podcast. 

Barry Hoffner ETF Speaker