Winchester Fourth Grader Collects Books for South African Children
Ella Ross of Ambrose has collected over 40 boxes of books that, with the help of Sen. John Kerry, she will be shipping off to South Africa.
This story is part of a nationwide Patch series probing the economy's effect on local schools.
Everyday for the last month as students, parents and teachers walk into the Ambrose Elementary School they've been greeted by Ella Ross. The fourth grader has a table set up in the lobby adjacent to the main office.
As she would wait for school to begin, Ross would collect books, organize them, place them in boxes, stack them and put stickers inside the front cover. She has over 40 boxes filled with a variety of different literature ranging from adult books down to children's readers.
Last summer Ross and her family traveled down to South Africa to watch the World Cup and go on Safari. Her family saw the United States play Algeria and Slovenia, she witnessed Germany defeat Ghana and they saw Ghana advance past Australia. But it was the safari that inspired Ross to start collecting books.
"We went to the town and the kids were playing soccer in their bare feet," said Ross of the South African town of Molatedi in the Madikwe reserve. "They were just happy with what they had. They had clay houses, but they were happy, they weren't asking for anything else."
In speaking with the South African parents, who were also their tour guides, Ross and her family found out that the school library had very few books, and the ones they did have were passed down from generation to generation.
On her arrival back to the states Ross decided she wanted to collect and send as many books to the town as she possibly could.
"We were thrilled when she told us about this," said Michelle Ross, Ella's mother. "To help children who she's never going to see again is really special."
"She's an amazing child," said Ambrose Principal Barbara Manfredi. "These books mean a lot because it goes to children that have nothing, and we realize how much we do have and how little they have."
So, after the school's first assembly of the year, Ella went up and spoke with Principal Manfredi. About a month later, at the next assembly, there was Ross standing in front of the whole Ambrose community explaining her plan.
"It was interesting, Ella's first reaction wasn't to be nervous standing in front of her classmates," said Michelle Ross said. "She was more concerned that the students weren't going to bring in any books."
Maybe it was the pictures of the beaten up school or the images of the arid terrain, whatever it was, Ross and Manfredi were a little taken aback by the amount of books they've received.
"It's really surprising," Ella said. "It seems like everyday more and more books come in. It really seems like everyone cares and wants to help."
"I'm so happy Ella was able to get the kids to respond to this," Manfredi said. "I'm overwhelmed by how generous this school is."
Now the next task will be trying to ship these books over to South Africa.
Ross and Manfredi reached out to Senator John Kerry, and his office expressed an interest in helping them organize the boxes in order to fly them out. They informed Ross that they would do everything they can to secure a plane for the books.
"We're thrilled Senator Kerry's office is willing to do this," Manfredi said. "Michelle (Ross) reached out and they were very receptive and eager to help out."
As for Ella, she's just happy she could help out and deliver some books to Molatedi.
"I'm just really grateful for how much the Ambrose community has helped us collect all these books," Ross said. "They've been really generous."