What. Is. Your. Name. The children in Malawi have punched these words at us for weeks. Today, we were able to return the favor. Yet, instead of asking for a person’s name, we tried to discover the name of the illusive ankle joint.
It started when we were attempting to finish booklets for the Community Health Workers. Our colleague, Alex, had finished all of the translation, except for the page on ankle range of motion. Dr. Nesbit and I thought this would be a quick fix. We planned to ask a nurse or a ward worker for a quick translation of the word “ankle,” thinking it would take no time at all. We were wrong.
This is how the search for the Chichewa translation of ankle joint began. It was almost a 24 hour process. We searched high and low, asking nurses, clinical officers, ward workers, patients, and even the local Father. No one knew the translation. The search for the ankle joint spread like wildfire throughout the hospital. Everyone wanted to help, but no one could find the answer. After hearing from a clinical officer that the Chichewa word for ankle was “kakolo,” we thought we were in the clear.
Yet, then we went to the Community Health Workers’ monthly meeting, and again discovered we had been politely misinformed. The word “kakolo” actually meant tendon, not ankle. It was quite a goose chase, yet full of laughter and collaboration. The meeting with the Community Health Workers was still a success, even though no one knew the word for ankle. We surveyed the volunteers and discovered that, after only 2 weeks, they had already been implementing physiotherapy skills in their patient care and guardian training. So, though there may not be a reliable word for “ankle” in Chichewa, we see that our volunteers are reliably and wholeheartedly serving the local community. And that is just fine with us.