Jaime DeBruyn finds her calling helping children find families in India
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 8,000 miles and two oceans separate Jaime DeBruyn from her hometown of Charles City.
That’s a lot of water to circumvent, but DeBruyn has found her calling in a bustling and vibrant old world city of almost 10 million residents more than halfway around the world.
There in Hyderabad, India – the “City of Pearls” – she has found a home.
At least temporarily, as the 2011 Charles City High School graduate hopped on an airplane early last month, headed to the country of over 1 billion inhabitants. Thus began a journey in DeBruyn’s own life to help out those less fortunate and to find a home of their own.
“I kind of showed up to the airport, didn’t know anyone. Jumped off the plane and was going to be there for a year. I was just like, ‘I hope this goes well,’” DeBruyn joked.
DeBruyn is a volunteer for Sarah’s Covenant Homes, a family-based Indian orphanage started in 2008 that helps disabled or abandoned children become adopted or reunited with their families. Rehabilitation and sometimes long-term care is needed for these foster children who are desperately seeking a family they can hold on to.
“The value of that and the benefit of going and understanding people that are different from you – I don’t think you can ever be wrong in that,” said DeBruyn.
Her work involves witnessing the heartache and pain of a child yearning for a family and the incredible moment when a family is allowed to accept a child into their home. The in-between time of nurturing friendships as a foster mother and offering unconditional love to the kids has been a blessing for DeBruyn.
“It’s a super fun thing to watch this organization kind of evolve and respond to the needs of the society around them. Really just figure out how we can best support the kids and make sure that families stays together,” she added.
SCH employs more than 200 people including teachers, physical therapists and counselors that help over 130 children. SCH has done over 70 adoptions to date.
“We just try to give them as much love and kind of that semblance of family as we can until the ultimate goal that they’re either able to return to their birth families or adopted into another family,” said DeBruyn.
DeBruyn is one of around 15 at SCH who are unpaid volunteers. She has a one-year visa that can be renewed by the local government for up to five years.
This is DeBruyn’s third trip to India. She stayed for one year as a foster mother from 2015-2016 and visited India for the first time for two months in 2012. All but one of the 13 kids (ages 6 months to 7 years old) she worked with in 2015-2016 found an adopted home.
“I have watched 12 kids that I took care of become sons and daughters. That has been one of the most fantastic things,” she said.
DeBruyn’s duties can be as simple as taking her kids to “The Lion King” movie at the theater or giving tours of the many homes on the grounds of SCH. She also helps kids or young adults get acclimated to the hustle and bustle of such a large city.
The stigma of children with special needs or disabilities that live in India is changing, mostly for the good, DeBruyn said. But she said the country still has a long and arduous path to shatter preconceived notions.
“Here in India, it’s still not there yet,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of work to help change that.”
Hyderabad is where the old world and new order collide, as well as where the wealthy and the poverty-stricken co-exist.
“You’ve got some of the lowest of the low and you’ve got some of the richest of the rich and they live next door to each other,” said DeBruyn.
There are structures and forts from the 1500s that still stand in Hyderabad – all the while the fast-growing city is a technological hub with Western companies like Google, IKEA, Verizon and Wells Fargo taking root.
“You’ve got so much Western influence. If I want to go to Buffalo Wild Wings, I can. If I want pizza, I can go to Pizza Hut,” said DeBruyn.
Through help and funding from Bethany Alliance Church in Charles City and other sponsors, DeBruyn has felt fortunate to be able to return to Hyderabad – the capital of the state of Telangana that lies in central India.
Just recently it took DeBruyn two hours to travel less than two miles in the city to run some of her errands.
“It’s busy and it’s loud. There’s always stuff happening,” said DeBruyn. “One of my favorite things about India is how it clashes with everything. You’ve got super, super old with the super, super new.”
DeBruyn’s crash course in motherhood four years ago when she first became involved with SCH has helped her see that struggles and strength are often intertwined.
“I’ve been able to really just find the really beautiful parts of that like where the really hard and the really good meet,” said DeBruyn. “Those are the moments that I’m like, ‘This is really, really good work.’”
DeBruyn said she needs around $550 a month to live in India. She said without the help of BAC and that monthly support, none of her journey would have been possible.
“You can’t do anything without somebody standing behind you, for sure. They’ve really made it possible, whether it’s finances or prayer or just that text message here or there,” said DeBruyn. “The people that believe in what I’m doing and know my heart – they can see I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing.”
DeBruyn, whose parents are Scott and Julie Cline of Charles City, said she is looking at staying in India possibly on a long-term basis.
“I just love it. I love the culture, love the people,” she said.
“It’s such a gift and honor to be able to be living a life in the midst of work like that happening,” said DeBruyn. “There is always a brokenness with the beauty. There’s always some broken stuff in the middle of some beautiful things.”