GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Like a well-organized assembly line, students in the YouthBuild Program began sorting the piles of personal hygiene products into individual bags on Thursday.
"We sent out flyers. We packed bags. We tried to get as many donations as possible from as many people as possible," said YouthBuild student Ashley Hammett.
And tucked inside each bag was a card written in both English and French. It tells the earthquake victims in Haiti that the gift is from the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast who know all too well what it's like to survive a disaster.
"Our house was messed up real bad, so it'll take a couple of years to get it right," said YouthBuild student Asante Williams. "I was very grateful that we got all the stuff after Katrina. We had a lot of help, so I just want to give back and help other people."
The non-profit group International Relief and Development launched the Haiti Hygiene Drive immediately after the January earthquake.
"Folks here on the Gulf Coast remember what it was like receiving those love kits, those hygiene kits, those essentials with notes in them that say 'We're thinking of you, hang in there' and prayers. I think it's very important for us to pay it forward," said Lori West, IRD Mississippi Gulf Coast Director.
Seven other non-profit groups also pitched in. And Bayou View Elementary in Gulfport was one of 16 schools that collected supplies to support the relief effort.
"This old earthquake happens down there and they don't have anything. Like I've heard awful stories about it and you know, it's really nice to be able to help out," said fifth grader Ashley Caranna.
So far, more than 3,000 bags of hygiene products have been collected. Local doctors and hospitals also donated medical supplies, like crutches, medicine and baby kits. The supplies will be shipped the first week of March. An IRD team on the ground in Haiti will distribute them to families in need.
Fayard and Sons has donated a container and pallets to ship the donations. But IRD is still trying to collect monetary donations to help pay for the shipping costs. To donate to the IRD Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, you can text REBUILD to 85944. You can also donate by calling (866) 595-1100.