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Paul and Janet Pickar in front of the first "Haiti House" built in Riceville. A second house will be built on an adjoining lot. Proceeds from the sales will help fund projects in the country of Haiti.

RICEVILLE —- There are new houses being built in Mitchell County.

In Riceville, there is one named “The Haiti House,” as remaining profits after construction and material costs will be donated for community development project in Haiti.

The other half of the profits will go toward construction of a second Haiti House on an adjoining lot.

The house, at 702 Walnut St., was shown to potential buyers during an open house in November. The 1,500-square-foot, handicap-accessible home has three bedrooms, a weather-safe room, an attached 2.5-stall garage and floor heating in the house and garage.

Paul and Janet Pickar, who headed the project, said it started with a trip to Haiti in 2012 with 13 others from the Riceville and Decorah areas.

“Going to Haiti was quite an experience, with all the sights, sounds and smells,” Paul said.

Traveling to an area 75 miles south of Port-au-Prince, the group met with leaders from six surrounding communities to determine what the Haitians needed — clean drinking water, schools and food.

“The people we met were beautiful people, and at that time we committed ourselves to working with these communities,” Paul said.

After the fact-finding trip, the Pickars and area volunteers started looking into how they could assist Haitians in promoting community pride and self-sustainability.

They formed the Rural Haiti Development Group, which is committed to assisting the Haitians through partnering with local community leaders in the poor, rural areas.

The group mentors Haitian leaders and then provides resources toward community projects.

“This type of assistance helps Haitian communities become independent, rather than continually relying on outside aid,” Paul said.

As the Pickars examined how they could assist with RHD projects, the idea surfaced of using profits from a constructed home.

“This has been an act of faith,” said Janet, who said they personally provided financial security for the home until it sells.

A local construction company built the outer structure of the home, then volunteers donated their services to complete plumbing, heating, electrical, drywall and light construction.

The volunteers’ hours cut the cost of construction dramatically, which helped add to the profit margin, Janet said.

Their next venture is to start a micro-farming project in Haiti, Paul said.

“The idea is to provide small garden plots for them,” he explained. “They wouldn’t have to pay rent or for seed for their personal vegetable gardens, but they will have to donate time to help with a larger farming project that will help subsidize the whole community.”

Janet said the project will also include livestock, helping the Haitians develop a sustainable food source.

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