For many people, retirement means hunkering down with family and spending long afternoons fishing or traveling to places they've always dreamed of seeing. For ReachAnother Foundation's (RAF) Founder and Board President Marinus H. Koning, MD, FACS, it meant working even harder to improve the lives of some of the world's most vulnerable citizens.
In 2008, Koning retired from his surgical practice in Bend. Over the course of 30 years his accomplishments included helping found Hospice of Redmond and Sisters and co-founding the Rising Stars Preschool for Developmentally Disabled Children in Redmond. Instead of taking some well deserved down time, he went to Ethiopia on a humanitarian mission where he worked in a hospital and discovered the large population of people who were severely medically underserved.
In an effort to make a difference, Koning founded RAF in 2009 with the mission of bettering the lives of the poorest people in the world by increasing their access to health care and education. One of the foundation's first projects, establishing the Nehemiah Autism Center, came about after a conversation Koning had while working alongside an Ethiopian surgeon who asked him if he knew anything about autism. It turned out both men had children with autism.
During his next trip to Ethiopia the same man approached him and asked if he would help start a school for children with autism. "I said if you get the school together and organize it so it's legal in Ethiopia, then we will bring the teachers and the material," says Koning. "Now the school is completely independent and has 55 students." To date, RAF has started the third of five planned autism centers.
Koning's expertise as a trauma surgeon also brought him to the Myungsung Christian Medical Center and the Addis Ababa University hospital, where he worked with Ethiopia's neurosurgeons and discovered that services for treating babies with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and spina bifida were desperately needed.
RAF's Hydrocephalus Campaign was created to bring services to the over 2,500 Ethiopian babies born with the condition each year. In 2015 the foundation reached a milestone of operating on 1,000 babies and the Minister of Health recently mandated that the program be duplicated to increase capacity for surgery.
The goal of the campaign is to help Ethiopia become self-sufficient, so RAF has created a five-year plan that will train up to 25 neurosurgeons and facilitate surgeries for 5,000 babies by 2020.
When asked what the most important thing the RAF does is, Koning says, "People there are used to people dying and we paint the picture of what is possible. When you show people what's possible, they step up to the plate."
On Oct. 22 those interested in supporting RAF will have an opportunity to step up to the plate. The foundation will hold its third annual gala and fundraiser, A Night For Ethiopia, which will include an authentic Ethiopian dinner and auction.
A Night for Ethiopia
Saturday, Oct. 22, 5-9pm
Tetherow Event Pavilion,
61240 Skyline Ranch Rd., Bend