La Perla is a historical shanty town stretching about 650 yards outside the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan bordering the rocky Atlantic coast.


"The Pearl" district is an area where historic drug trafficking, drug abuse and crime was once prominent. This cliff side neighborhood is still considered by many as the most dangerous place in all of Puerto Rico, which contributes to its mystique as a forbidden place; for this and other reasons La Perla is an isolated forgotten place. 


It's an enigma located in the shadows of Old San Juan with probably the most desired real estate in all of Puerto Rico, yet nothing to show for it. 


The music video for Despacito's filming took place in December 2016 in La Perla neighborhood and the popular bar La Factoría in San Juan. This has created a renewed interest in seeing the revitalization of this historic neighborhood.  However, the generational economic, educational and spiritual poverty have decimated this neighborhood, thereby creating an isolated community that seems to be left behind. As resources have poured into Puerto Rico they never seem to touch La Perla. Some have stated that one of the challenges facing the community is that the members are overly territorial and see any external attempts to revitalize the area as a suspicious attempt to invade and supplant the locals. They resist any change to the status quo and so revitalization is elusive!


The good news is that no place is forsaken or forgotten by God. 


EHF is embarking on a mission project in "La Perla” focused on empowering the next generation.  Most of the youth in this community grow up with no hope and no inspiration for a life that achieves any meaningful success outside of what their parents and grandparent achieved. We are partnering with community leaders as we seek to break generational cycles of poverty and dependency. Resources for after school and/or sports activities for this group are scarce and none are Christ centered. 


Our ministry will encompass youth intervention using academic and cultural enrichment, sports and entrepreneurial training mirroring our current City Lights Program in NYC. 


In addition, La Perla will serve as a mission destination place where teams can humbly serve and support the local church, practice generosity while learning how to be present in the lives of the people. 

  • Short term housing will be available. 

  • Long term ministry/service roles will also be available.

Current State









In 2018 EHF secured a dilapidated property within La Perla and garnered community leader buy-in support for future ministry.

In 2019 demolition of the existing structure has begun.

Next steps
  • Secure architectural rendering and development permits

  • Secure partners to help with praying, building and financing 

  • Recruit future ministry staff

  • Launch The Mission


Mission La Perla - Construction and Ministry budget projection $450k

  • Construction cost approx. $350,000k (4000 sq ft space at $87 per sq ft)

  • Ministry (2 year) start up budget $100,000 k 


We Need You

Construction professionals, architects, engineers, electrician, plumbers and mason workers are all needed.  Please contact us if you are willing to serve in any of these capacities.


Call to Action 

Please prayerfully consider donating a recurring or one-time gift to help us build a place that will empower the next generation to escape the poverty cycle!

help support the people of la perla

When you shop on Amazon and select East Harlem Fellowship as your charitable organization, AmazonSmile will make a donation to the La Perla Poverty Relief Mission with no additional cost to you.




Pastor Ivan currently serves as a missionary to the community of La Perla and his desire to establish an Art Center became a reality last year. The Center will provide classes that include; woodwork, painting, mosaic, ceramic, jewelry making and more. In addition, the people will have an opportunity to sell their artwork in the Center. 


The Art Center will be used as a means to present the gospel to the people. 

La Perla missionery
east harlem fellowship

(212) 410-6119



324 Pleasant Avenue, Suite 2D

New York, NY 10035

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