On Oct. 15, Philip Koning, a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., was one of 31 Albertans to receive the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. The award, presented by Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Lois Mitchell on behalf of the Governor General of Canada, recognizes the passion, dedication, and commitment that Canadian volunteers share with a wide range of community charities and organizations.
Since 1990, Koning has volunteered thousands of hours with organizations that help individuals and families deal with mental health issues, including the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta and the Canadian Mental Health Association. As well as fundraising, Koning, who himself has lived with schizophrenia since his early years at university, shares his personal story at schools and colleges to help educate others about mental illness. He also volunteers at the local Mission Thrift Store.
“It was just awesome,” said Koning’s mother, Jetske, about the ceremony. “Phil is just so brave to live with this like he does.” Harvey Voogd has been Koning’s friend for 34 years. “The award is a testament to Phil’s courage to speak frankly and publicly about his personal mental health experience,” commented Voogd. “This courage is grounded in Phil’s deep concern for others and commitment to a gentler and kinder world.”
When asked what he would like to share with Banner readers, Koning quoted from a newspaper article written by a woman who lives with a form of schizophrenia. “I am not crazy, I am not dangerous. I just need your understanding. I insist and work on being a good, kind person.” He then added his own words: “I insist on being a Christian.”