The NGO of the Twins

When Marinus “Dick” Koning, MD FACS, retired from his surgical practice in Bend, Oregon in 2008, he traveled around the world with his wife as she taught during the Semester at Sea program. While aboard the ship, Dr. Koning developed a friendship with a professor from Ethiopia, who ignited an interest in Ethiopian history and culture. After returning from his travels and following a lifelong dream, Dr. Koning decided to embark on a humanitarian mission to Ethiopia through Medical Teams International.

For his assignment, Dr. Koning worked as a volunteer consultant and surgeon at the Myungsung Christian Medical Center in Addis Ababa, where he found himself working side-by-side with Ethiopia’s surgeons. Shortly after his arrival, Dr. Koning noticed the common occurrence of mothers seeking care for their babies born with neural tube birth defects, primarily hydrocephalus (known as “water on the brain”) and spina bifida (known as “open back”). With only one neurosurgeon to serve the entire population of Ethiopia, most babies were put on a waiting list or sent away. Without surgery, many of these children died. There was a clear need to help these forgotten children and their families.

In collaboration with the newly formed Neurosurgery Department of Addis Ababa University, ReachAnother Foundation US was founded in 2009 by Dr. Marinus Koning, followed by the founding of ReachAnother Foundation Nederland in 2013 by his twin brother, Dr. Jan Koning, a vascular surgeon in Delft, The Netherlands. These organizations work to create a multi-national collaborative approach, which expands ReachAnother’s capacity to activate change and support Ethiopian partners.

ReachAnother’s first projects included the Hydrocephalus Campaign, which funded surgeries at Zewditu Hospital in Addis Ababa and the opening of three autism schools, Ethiopia’s first schools dedicated to teaching indigent autistic children. In 2017, ReachAnother transitioned to focus solely on expanding the Hydrocephalus Campaign model to other hospitals through the creation of Centers of Excellence in Pediatric Neurosurgery. The autism schools now operate independently without the support of ReachAnother. Known in Ethiopia as the “NGO of the Twins,” ReachAnother Foundation in the United States and The Netherlands work closely with Ethiopian partners to achieve their vision and are committed to giving children born with hydrocephalus or spina bifida the opportunity to grow up to live happy, healthy lives.

First Neurosurgery training program is established as a Norwegian-Ethiopian collaboration in Ethiopia.

Neurosurgery Department of Addis Ababa University established

Neurosurgery Department of Addis Ababa University established

Dr. Marinus Koning travels to Ethiopia through Medical Teams International for the first time

ReachAnother Foundation is born

ReachAnother was founded in the United States by Dr. Marinus Koning at the same time that a new neurosurgery training program expanded to MCM.

Dr. Jan Koning joins his twin brother, Marinus, in Ethiopia

The first 3 neurosurgeons graduate from the Norwegian partnership program.

Start of the Hydrocephalus Campaign to pay for surgical staff to work overtime on Saturdays and operate on children with neural tube defects.

Drs. Mersha, Abat, and Hagos graduate as the first neurosurgeons from the new neurosurgery training program. Beginning of the Hydrocephalus Campaign

The Hydrocephalus Campaign provided funding, equipment,and supplies to allow the neurosurgeons to perform life saving operations for babies with hydrocephalus and spina bifida during the weekend. During the first year of the campaign, 30 patients received surgery.

That year ReachAnother also establishes the Nehemiah Autism Center, which now operates independently.

100 surgeries performed

A baby from Jinka, near the border with Sudan, is the 100th patient to receive surgery.

ReachAnother Nederland is established by Dr. Jan Koning

Through successful fundraising efforts and donor support, ReachAnother doubles the capacity of surgeries to 200.

ReachAnother receives the Surgical Society of Ethiopia Award for “immense contribution to neurosurgery and care”.

500 surgeries performed to date.

The first patient handbook to educate families about neural tube defects is created.

1,000 surgeries performed, 16 graduated neurosurgeons, and the Bethel Adama Center for Autism opens in the Oromia region

ReachAnother’s 5-year goal is 5,000 surgeries and 25 trained neurosurgeons by 2020.

The Bright Autism Center opens in Hawassa

First staff member hired to support the founders and volunteers.

Collaboration with Rotary to create a media campaign to promote prevention, education and training of health workers and midwives.

Start of the Centers of Excellence in Pediatric Neurosurgery program

Start of the Centers of Excellence in Pediatric Neurosurgery program to build partnerships and develop the medical capacity to go beyond individual surgeries to ensure every child has access to treatment.

Reached 4,000 surgeries to-date. Establishment of the first three Centers of Excellence programs

The first 3 Centers of Excellence are located at St. Peter’s Specialized Hospital in Addis Ababa, Hawassa University Hospital, and University of Gondar Hospital.

A pediatric physical therapy module for health extension workers was developed and included in the national training program.

Study shows the prevalence of neural tube defects to be over 30 times higher in Ethiopia than the United States: 40,000 pregnancies are impacted each year.

The Koning twins are knighted by the King of the Netherlands for outstanding humanitarian work.

Presented a plan to fortify iodized salt with folic acid to the Technical Expert Conference in Addis Ababa, which was adopted by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

4th and 5th Centers of Excellence programs established at Zewditu Hospital in Addis Ababa and Ayder C.S Hospital in Mek’ele. First Centers of Excellence Leadership Conference. First neurosurgeon receives CURE Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV) Fellowship in Uganda.

The Tykeson Family Charitable Trust funds the first studies of salt fortification feasibility and distribution opportunities.

Launch of the ReachAnother Pediatric Nurses Training Program. Start of the 6th Center of Excellence program in Bahir Dar.

6 Centers of Excellence are recognized by ReachAnother.

$1 million worth of medical equipment donated to date.

Reached 7,500 surgeries performed. Launched Circular Instrument Project.

ReachAnother partnered with Dutch hospitals to repurpose perfectly viable surgical instruments, which were made redundant due to new EU-regulations. These instruments were shipped and delivered to hospitals in Ethiopia to support surgeons in pediatric neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, and general medical services.

Prevention advocacy increased through the Global Alliance for the Prevention of Spina Bifida and other international partners.

Reached 60 surgeons trained and 8,500 surgeries completed.

Reach Another hired its first Ethiopia Country Director.

2 more hospitals join the Center of Excellence program for a total of 8.

Start of a 3-year collaboration with Rotary to give folic acid to Ethiopian women to prevent multiple neural tube defect pregnancies.

Passing of our founder, Dr. Dick Koning in January.

Start of a 3-year collaboration with Rotary to give folic acid to Ethiopian women to prevent multiple neural tube defect pregnancies.

The WHO passed a resolution to accelerate food fortification to prevent neural tube defects.

The Leona Helmsley Trust partners with ReachAnother to fund the first state-of-the-art pediatric neurosurgery center as well as expand existing programs.

July 1st, folic acid fortified flour becomes mandatory in Ethiopia. Only 20% of the population consumes flour products.

ReachAnother Ethiopia team grows to 4 full-time staff.

Dick receives lifetime achievement awards from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Spina Bifida Association.

“We believe that steadfast advocacy and education, perseverance and a huge dose of compassion will inspire those around us to make a difference”

Dr. Marinus Koning

ReachAnother's Founder