COMPASSION and the need to do something to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people moved two students to launch a blanket collection drive.
First, Zharrif Afandi and Too Chee Hung set up Axis of Love (Axol), an independent student body at KDU College in Petaling Jaya.
''We did not like what was happening in Iraq and wanted to do something. We have been trying to create awareness among our fellow students at the college about Iraq,” says Zhariff, adding that Axol has organised a project, called Blankets for Life, to collect blankets for the Iraqis.
He adds: ''We understand that Malaysian blankets are not likely to withstand the cold there, so we have decided on a two-pronged plan. One is that the blankets we collect will be distributed to welfare homes locally.
''The second part of the plan is that a company will match the number of blankets we collect by giving a cash donation to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which will then purchase appropriate blankets for the Iraqis.”
Chee Hung says this means that if Axol collects 10,000 blankets, the company will donate enough money to the ICRC to buy a similar number of blankets for the Iraqis.
''We are still negotiating with the company, so we are unable to name it,'' says Chee Hung, a second year Diploma in Mass Communication student.
Zhariff, a first-year law student, says Axol has been working closely with the ICRC and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.
''The people at these two organisations have been really helpful. They have guided and encouraged us, rather than tell us the project is not feasible.”
He says Axol hopes to work with other organisations as well to collect the blankets. ''There is no way we can collect the blankets on our own, so we are urging interested parties to contact us so that we can work together. Don't donate only old blankets which even you wouldn't want to sleep under; instead, make sure they are clean and in good condition. Although the blankets we collect will not be sent to Iraq, they will be distributed to the needy by welfare organisations.”
Though born without arms, Zhariff does not feel sorry for himself and has never allowed his disability to deter him from leading a normal life.
''My parents don't treat me any differently and I have learnt to adapt. I use my feet to do everything,'' says the eldest of three siblings.
During the interview, Zhariff answered his handphone and removed his spectacles deftly with his feet.
Chee Hung shares that he has always been very passionate about issues, particularly concerning the environment.
''I'm a one-man activist as I believe you have to stand up for issues close to your heart. People may think we are idealistic, but there is nothing wrong in having a goal and doing what you feel is right,'' says the 22-year old.