Today I’m writing about the fall of Saint Judie. No, not like the fall of Adam and Eve. This fall happens to so many senior citizens that results in either their death or a great reduction in their quality of life. Saint Judie took that fall on November 19, 2022, in Mexico.
My story starts in 1988 when my wife and I built a little home in Baja Mar, Mexico, about two hours from our home in California. We loved to go there to escape.
A year later, we met Ken and Judie Kesson, who were moving there permanently. For the previous fifteen years, they had been traveling all around the world, mostly in a Volkswagen bus. They were an interesting couple, and we soon became friends.
Judie shared the following story: One Sunday afternoon in 1995, Ken and Judie drove to a small Mexican town, La Mission, to buy some groceries. There they met the teacher of the little local rural elementary school and started a conversation. Judie asked him what his greatest need was. He shared his frustration of having some bright children from very poor families who couldn’t afford the required books and uniform (elementary school was free), so they had to drop out. These families were caught in the cycle of poverty with little chance of escaping it.
The teacher told them about a sixth-grade girl who had just dropped out of school because her dad couldn’t find work. Judie asked if they could sponsor that child so she could continue her schooling. The parents were contacted, and the Kessons went to visit the family, who lived in a makeshift tin shack in the country with no running water or electricity and hardly any food. They lived in abject poverty. Ken and Judie offered to pay for not only their daughter’s uniform and books but also a new laptop.
They quickly realized a big problem. Their lean-to had no electricity. Ken, however, managed to pirate electricity and provide a little stand (the only furniture in the shack) for the laptop. This act was the informal start to what would become the Baja Scholarship Foundation (BSF), a life-changing organization.
When this young woman graduated from elementary school, Ken and Judie then paid her tuition to middle school (not free) and give her money for books and a shuttle bus to take her to school every weekday. Long story short, they then supported her through high school, university, and medical school, all in Mexico. Today she is a physician in Ensenada. This young woman also made sure her brothers and sisters continued their education, and she was also able to move her parents into decent housing. That poverty cycle has been broken.
Friends of the Kessons, including us, also became interested in sponsoring children who did not have the resources to be able to continue their education. Today, twenty-five years later, BSF has over twenty students and 125 alumni, who include social workers, businesspeople, firemen, paramedics, engineers, chefs, dentists, beauticians, teachers, and musicians.
When Ken died in2015, he left a grant that pays for all BSF students to attend Cambridge Rosarito Institute of Languages in Baja so they can become fluent English speakers, a tremendous asset.
BSF has been Annie’s and my favorite charity. The volunteers who run it support not only the children but also their families and have been responsible for breaking the cycle of poverty for over 125 Mexican families.
Unfortunately, when Judie took her terrible fall while visiting BSF in Baja this year, it caused irreparable damage in her brain. Her family is honoring her wishes and allowing her to move on. This has been a terrible shock to the BSF family as well as the hundreds of friends she and Ken had around the world.
When Ken died, I took it upon myself to bestow the title of “saint” on both of them because in my eyes the legacy they have left has made a lasting impression not only on all the students, their families, and their worldwide network but also on the hundreds of people whose lives have been touched by BSF.
Saint Ken and Saint Judie are my kind of saints because they have given their time, talents, and treasures so unsparingly to make this a much better world to live in.
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo courtesy of Sonja Stump