Its hard to find reliable figures and I must admit, I haven't put that much credible effort into digging up the numbers- but I've read that roughly 30% of volunteers don't finish their full term. What's even more interesting is that the number of volunteers whom opt to end their service early are actually higher in countries that presents a higher incidence of HIV/AIDS among its population (notably, sub-Sahara African countries). I can only assume, and its been hinted at me, that the experience of living among neighbors and friends who are dying of the awful disease takes its toll on the American volunteer whom up until that moment had lived a sheltered life.
Its been stressed to me that I shouldn't just blindly accept my position without having given extensive thought on the offer. Having read through the detailed literature that came with my invitation kit I realized that what I'll be immersing myself in will be real. To be honest, I've exhausted countless moments over the past 10 months or so mentally preparing myself for this assignment. I've always known that it'd probably be the most challenging period I have yet to face and go through in my life. Not just due to the expected hardship associated with the job itself, but also to my overall lifestyle. Getting used to reading by candle light, fetching for water and living life with no electricity will take getting used to - but with time it'll happen. But the so called "extra challenges" that I will face associated with my individual identity: ethnicity, hearing-status, education level, sexual orientation and so forth. Those may be what will make or break me.
From the perspective of someone who is so inexperienced, I humbly acknowledge that I have so much more left to learn. I expected to read about all of the "extra" hardships I would encounter, just being myself. Reading it on a tangible piece of paper, like I said, made it all the more real. Even so, I phoned the Placement Office and accepted. The only way for me to learn all the things I still have left to learn is to proceed and take things head on. To be cliche for a moment, I'm reminded of a Peace Corps motto: Never start a sentence with, "I should've..."
The Deaf community in Kenya, although having established schools, are still very much underserved. Furthermore the majority of Kenyans get their information through radios - a technology inaccessible to the Deaf and therefore leaving them highly prone to contracting the HIV virus. Who am I to be a so-called qualified Deaf educator, not only in the primary schools but also as an outreacher trying to bring awareness of the dangers of HIV to the deaf in an accessible mode of communication? I've wondered that same thought time and time again. I'm a first-generation Asian-American, raised in a middle-class suburb and allegedly intelligent enough to have graduated from a private university. I'm in no way better or worse than the people I will be around.
I welcome the challenge. As for the outcome, I may come out stronger or broken but either way I have no expectations. I can only take care of myself and hope for the best.