Snohomish group casts a wide net of help in African country

SNOHOMISH — Just a few years ago, a nursing degree was an unattainable goal for Ignace Hounwanou.

Today, the African native is a registered nurse and close to his dream of opening a clinic for people in his home country of Togo.

John and Tomm Stewart of Snohomish had a hand in Hounwanou’s success. To help pay for his education, the brothers started Educational and Entrepreneurial Foundation for Developing Countries back in 2005.

With generous donations from people in Snohomish County and beyond, the nonprofit has funded about a dozen projects, many of them in Togo, a small West African country near Ghana.

One project involved a group of villagers who wanted to sell grain and seeds. They needed the money for supplies and a place to store them. Their business has taken off, Stewart said.

Another successful story involved a young widowed woman with a smart idea, selling toothpicks and toothbrushes on the street. The $600 she got from the foundation went a long way, Stewart said.

The nonprofit distributes funds in the form of grants, he explained. The recipients are asked — if they can — to give back 20 percent within two years.

Stewart first visited Togo in 2003 on a mission with his church.

“I saw the desperate need the people there have. And I noticed that, given an opportunity, they were really hardworking,” he said.

Stewart recently retired from Verizon after more than 30 years. His brother is assistant principal of Centennial Middle School.

Stewart doesn’t believe in simply giving people money, but he believes in giving people opportunities. That’s what he has been doing through the foundation.

He said one proverb sums up what the nonprofit is all about: Give your friends a fish, and they will eat for a day. Teach your friends to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452,

How to donate

Donations are accepted through the Web site at or by mail at EEFDC c/o John Stewart, 14414 139th Ave. SE., Snohomish, WA 98290.

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