This nonprofit was founded in the beginning of 2018, but our story began a long time before that. In this blog, you'll learn about our history and hear from our heart for what we hope the future holds.
In 2004, a man named Albert Wallace was searching online for a worthy cause to give a donation to. He came across a webpage for Pierre Laplace High School located in the small fishing village of Pucusana, Peru. The school was fighting with the local fishermen about the killing of the African Penguins that lived in the caves on the Island and these students were petitioning the City Hall to make it illegal to kill them. The school used this campaign to teach students to stick up for something bigger than themselves and understand their rights as Peruvians. Albert decided to donate to help the school continue in its efforts. With this simple interest, to save Penguins, Albert's donation would change the future for countless people.
In the months to follow, Albert formed a friendship with the Principal of Pierre Laplace, Elena Prado Effio. She expressed the need for new sports equipment for her school and Al decided to send a few boxes along with his son, Topher Wallace. Topher was just 15 years old when he traveled to Peru alone to deliver every kind of sports ball there is and no one knew just how much of an impact this place would have on his life. In the year to follow, Al and his children would travel to Pucusana multiple times, taking school supplies, medical teams and Christian mission trips. It was on one of these trips that The Pucusana Project’s founder Allison Howald-Wallace visited Pucusana as a 17-year-old girl. She was dating Topher and just like him, Pucusana held a special place in her heart.
Around that same time, the Wallace family became aware of a large, abandoned property with a 3 story building on it in Pucusana that was owned by The Brethren Church of Ashland, Ohio. With a few inquiries and emails, a partnership was formed with the Brethren Church to use the land. For the next 8 years, Elena Prado, Pierre Laplace High School and the Brethren Church shared this property for educational and poverty alleviation purposes.
In 2010, a year after high school graduation, Topher Wallace decided to move to Pucusana full time, teaching English at Pierre Laplace and attending Art school in Lima. He spent 2 and a half years in Peru and became fluent in Spanish. He worked for The Brethren Church in Lima City and attempted to bring the Christian gospel message to the youth of Pucusana whenever he could.
In 2013, Topher moved back to the US and married his high school sweetheart, Allison Howald. They remained in the US where Allison finished her degrees and Topher pursued a video and motion graphics career, but they stayed very active with the Pucusana ministry. They became monthly sponsors for many children to attend Pierre Laplace High School and continued to cultivate a working relationship with the Brethren Church. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Topher and Alli took trips to Pucusana to help in the school and oversee the partnership regarding the Brethren Church property.
After a four month solo-stay in Pucusana in 2017, Allison felt a call on her life to further the work her family had started 13 years earlier in a bigger and more effective way, so she created The Pucusana Project nonprofit in the beginning of 2018. For two years, The Pucusana Project worked with Pierre Laplace High School and their affiliated nonprofit, La Asociacion Educativa Y Cultural De La IEP, sponsoring impoverished children to go to school, creating adult business training classes for single mothers and hosting Christian community outreach events.
In late 2019, due to new government regulations, the Pierre Laplace school building was unable to meet the requirements for educational use and was forced to close. For 18 years, Pierre Laplace High School had a 100% graduation rate, and its last graduating class averaged a 90% university acceptance rate. Many of its students have become teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, architects, translators and business people. Pierre Laplace was known for its excellence throughout the community, and it is deeply missed.
Even with the school being forced to shut down, The Pucusana Project and Elena did all they could to continue educational programs in Pucusana. They began work with The Brethren Church to sign over the possession rights to their property so that they could rebuild their school in the years to come. The property easily accommodates the new government regulations. While working on this plan, Allison and Elena continued adult business trainings and community outreach and they were incredibly successful up until the pandemic began in early 2020.
The Covid-19 Pandemic was devastating for Peru. Its medical system collapsed in May 2020 leaving people to fend for themselves. It became a common sight to see dead loved ones wrapped in plastic or cardboard left on the sidewalk for a truck to come pick them up and take them to a mass burial sight. Peru had the highest death rate from Covid in the entire world. In addition to the horrors caused by the illness and extreme lockdown, quarantine measures closed schools for two years and created a massive starvation crisis.
To combat the starvation crisis, The Pucusana Project switched gears toward food relief from 2020-2022. The nonprofit fed thousands of people every month and helped create 12 Soup Kitchens in the human settlements. In 2022, the Pucusana City Hall and Mayor awarded the nonprofit with a “Certificate of Thanks” for feeding the community and saving Pucusana from complete destruction during the height of pandemic.
One good thing to come out of the pandemic was that everyone in Pucusana became familiar with the Pucusana Project and it's logo. It was printed on the bags that their food was delivered in or on pamphlets telling them where to find a soup kitchen or on a letter filled with encouraging Bible verses when they received food. Volunteers wore company shirts and even the City Hall printed information regarding the work we were doing. The people of Pucusana know our nonprofit by name and they believe it to be a trustworthy and helpful organization.
Which brings us to now.
With such a strong reputation in hand, The Pucusana Project re-launched their educational projects post pandemic. Now our problems lie with how to accommodate all the adults and children wanting to attend our programs. It is a good problem to have but one that requires more money and a larger facility to fix. The nonprofit continues to move forward to rebuild their old school and it has also decided to expanded its goals to include planting a thriving Evangelical Christian Church in Pucusana. To accomplish all this, The Pucusana Project needs more boots on the ground, which is why Topher and Allison Wallace decided to move their family to Pucusana fulltime in January 2023. Living there, they will help stabilize ongoing projects and propel our future goals forward. It is critical that we build a new Christian school and relaunch our previous successful model. With a larger facility, we will be able to sponsor more students, host more adult business training classes and help the Pucusana community overcome poverty.
Now is the time to act.
The people of Pucusana are hungry for the word of God. The people are desperate for quality education and training, especially after what the pandemic did to them. We believe the Lord is on the move in Pucusana, that He has orchestrated the events and lives of many over the past 20 years for such a time as this. And we will do everything we can do to fulfill the goals God has called us too.
Will you consider partnering with us to achieve our goals and create Christ-centered change in Pucusana? With the simple click of a computer mouse and a desire to help save the Penguins, God used Albert Wallace to created an intricate web connecting people across the world to desire transformation for this impoverished community. Ask God if He has placed the call on your life to help this cause too. You can help change the future of many for decades to come with the simple click of your computer mouse or swipe of a finger too. Partner with us, become a monthly donor and share in our story changing lives for generations to come.