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