When Daniel and Hayley Novak initially began talking about taking a trip outside of the country, neither of them had any idea just where their journey would take them. The Muscatine firefighter and his wife were looking for a way to make a difference while stepping out of their comfort zone.

After hearing a presentation at their church about Restoring Hope International, the Novaks knew this was the trip they had been waiting for.

Restoring Hope International is an orphanage in South Africa unlike many others. The orphanage is designed to be similar to a small village, sitting on six acres that are surrounded by a wall to help increase security. Children live in one of five houses with six or seven other children and a house mother.

Hayley and Athlehang. "When I first met A, she was lying in a government hospital, frail and sick from malnutrition and complications of HIV. At Restoring Hope she has been lovingly nursed back to life. She can read now, she goes to school, she is vibrant and healthy and strong. When I met her she was so week she needed to be carried. Now she is on my back because she launched herself there after chasing me all over in a water fight."

Hayley and Athlehang. “When I first met A, she was lying in a government hospital, frail and sick from malnutrition and complications of HIV. At Restoring Hope she has been lovingly nursed back to life. She can read now, she goes to school, she is vibrant and healthy and strong. When I met her she was so week she needed to be carried. Now she is on my back because she launched herself there after chasing me all over in a water fight.”

The orphanage is designed to foster a family feel among the children. Hayley explains, “Some of these children live on their own for up to two years before someone is able to step in and bring them to safety.”

She goes on to say, “This last trip, there was a brother and sister, their father has severe epilepsy and their mother recently died in a fire. These children are six and two, and without Restoring Hope, they would be left to fend for themselves.”

After visiting with groups from Walnut Park Baptist Church in 2013 and again in 2014, Daniel was asked to be a member of the board, where he currently serves as treasurer.  Daniel says that the long-term plan of the organization is what attracted him. “They are working with kids to not only meet the immediate physical need, but to make a lasting impact, both physical and spiritually.” He goes on to say, “Children are raised to grow closer to Jesus, which impacts their lives as adults and the communities they live in.”

The first trip was eye-opening for the couple in several ways, one which Hayley says she will never forget. “I was sitting and rocking a baby who was born infected by AIDS, and thinking how this child, who was going to die, only knew the love of strangers. It made me think of my own baby whom we had lost, and I realized how fortunate he was that at four months old, Gabe had known nothing but love.”

The couple decided to return to South Africa a third time in the fall of 2016, this time with their children.  The purpose of the trip was to provide support and assistance to the workers at the orphanage as well as introduce their children to the program.

While visiting the village, the Novak children, Eli (5), Cambria (9), and Jacob (11), were able to learn what daily life is like for the children who live there, including attending school with the children. Daniel says that he hopes that broadening his children’s view of the world will encourage them to seek out ways to help and support others, even outside of their comfort zone.

Daniel saying hello to his two buddies, Tumelo ad Retabile, after two years. Hayley says, "It's been really special to see the kids more than once and begin to build relationships with them."

Daniel saying hello to his two buddies, Tumelo ad Retabile, after two years. Hayley says, “It’s been really special to see the kids more than once and begin to build relationships with them.”


Included in their trip was a delivery of ten totes of donations for the workers and children in the village.  The donations came from individuals in Muscatine and Des Moines.

The Novaks both expressed a hesitancy to ask friends and family for financial support, and intended to fund their trips themselves. Hayley explained that each time they have gone, friends, family and community members have donated to the trip, so much so that they have been fully funded. “It’s really amazing to see that people believe and support something that you feel so strongly about.”

Locally, Restoring Hope is funded by Relay Iowa, a charitable race across the state that donates proceeds to help support the mission. The race is the world’s longest relay run, where teams of 12 participants run 339 miles to cross the state in one long weekend.

More information on the Restoring Hope Village can be found at restoringhopeint.org.

Cambria and Eli coloring with the kids. Coloring books are a big hit.

Cambria and Eli coloring with the kids. Coloring books are a big hit.

The Novaks traveled with carry-ons and used their luggage space to pack then 50-pound totes filled with donations from Calvary Church's Tuesday Morning Women's Bible Study group.

The Novaks traveled with carry-ons and used their luggage space to pack then 50-pound totes filled with donations from Calvary Church’s Tuesday Morning Women’s Bible Study group.

Cambria and her new friend Monica

Cambria and her new friend Monica

The Novak's son Eli making new friends.

The Novak’s son Eli making new friends.