Last year, when we visited the Comarca for our annual scholarship award ceremony, we realized that we had a problem. Our organization had an English name, Few for Change, and a Spanish name, Unidos por el Cambio (directly translated, United for Change), but we were missing a name in the most important language of all: Ngäbere. Ngäbere is the language of the Ngäbe people. For many of our students, and their families, it is their first language and the one they use at home almost exclusively.
During our past couple of visits to the Comarca for our annual scholarship award ceremony, we had started to pick up a few words and phrases in Ngäbere. We learned how to say "yes" ("jän"), "no" ("ñagare"), and "my name is" ("ti ko"). This year we arrived intent on improving our Ngäbere language skills and finding ourselves a new name. We sat down over dinner with our volunteer Ramon and asked him how he would translate our Spanish name, Unidos por el Cambio, into Ngäbere.
After a few minutes of thinking, he revealed that there was no exact translation. You see, there is no exact parallel for "unidos" (united). After a couple more minutes of puzzling, Ramon turned to us and said, "Let's call ourselves 'Ari Cuitde Guaire'."
"Sounds great!" we said, "What does it mean?"
"It means, 'Let's go together to make change,'" Ramon replied. And that says it all, really. We're working together with the Ngäbe, helping them make positive change in their communities by empowering the generation of the future.
To learn a little Ngäbere, check out the Ngäbere Talking Dictionary from Swarthmore College.