The Trek Project is a multi-faceted, multi-media project that examines the ways that people see themselves in a global context. The project was created follows 10 high schools students on the same community service trip to Nicaragua that I completed when I as 17 and documents the journey that occurs when people from the US travel abroad as well as all of the complicated dynamics that surround how people claim global citizenship. The piece takes an analytic lens to the aide tourism industry and the US-relationship with Latin America. The piece involved the creation and implementation of Mapping Workshops in the Spring of 2009 both in public events and also privately with the students that I traveled with. These workshops examined how people see themselves in a global context. Additionally, I have been working on a timeline that contextualizes the concepts that come up in the movie and examines the colonization and re-colonization of Latin America. The project culminates in the creation of El Trompo, the documentary that takes the viewer on a journey from New York City and Philadelphia to Gualacatu, Nicaragua. El Trompo seeks to complicate our notions of macro and micro global systems of oppression and examine both the good and bad ways that people experience aide tourism. Additionally, I have created curriculum for various age groups in both in/out of classroom settings to further engage with the topics brought up in the movie.  


The Trailer:


You can view the entire documentary (25 mins):

Helyx is available to screen the documentary as an interactive mapping workshop.  The following blog serves as documentation of the project process, it was kept from 2009-2010 during the peak of pre-production, production and post production.  

Constructing a Gaze

How do I set about constructing a gaze and a culture that is not mine? How do I do it with justice and dignity? Do I have a right to do it in the first place? Originally heading into this project I had wanted to figure out a way to secure some sort of small scale projector so that I could screen the footage I had shot and show it to the people in the community and get feedback. As the time until I leave gets closer and the money in my budget slowly slips away I am realizing that this is less and less of a possibility, and so I wonder, how do I still construct this project in a way that is respectful to the people of another country culture and race that I cannot even begin to fully understand.

I know that I do not want my documentary to be fueled by emotion evoking shots of "poor brown kids" who have no power over their image, like so many of the documentaries I have seen about areas in latin america/africa. One of the reasons I have chosen to intigrate animated maps is because this is an opportunity to shift into something that everyone can control how it is being created (the maps that is, not the animation). But I still struggle with the idea that I am traveling into somebody else's space with the intention to document that...

Mapping Workshop!

You. Me. World.

A workshop on local and global citizenship

On June 24th from 7:30pm-9:30pm Helyx Chase of HH productions will be hosting a dialog and workshop to support The Trek Project. The Trek Project is a project that will follow students from buildOn ( as they travel to Nicaragua to construct a school. The workshop will be a chance to talk about the ways that we see ourselves within the world and also to participate in the mapping project where we will examine the ways that we see ourselves in a global setting.

The Trek Project ( is a multi-faceted, multi-media exploration of global identity, and citizenship. Filmmaker Helyx Chase ( is embarking on this project to create a documentary about how we see ourselves within a global and local community; and how we are accountable/responsible within both of those communities. They will be traveling to Nicaragua this summer and following a group of youth from buildOn after school clubs in the Philadelphia and New York City areas as they build a school in a remote rural village. Ultimately, the maps and discussion generated at the workshop will be included in The Trek Project. While the event is free we are asking for donations to sponsor the trip to Nicaragua and supplies needed while in the country.

Chase is a queer, non-gender identified video maker, social justice activist and youth worker. They are 19; they were born in Philadelphia and raised just west of the city in Upper Darby. Chase, originally Hannah Horwitz, graduated from Upper Darby High School in 2007, with 2 scholarships for media production. They started seriously pursuing video when they were 15 and participated in the Scribe Video Center’s Documentary History Project for Youth in 2005. After the project was completed in January of 2006 they were an active member of Upper Darby High School’s broadcast journalism program.

They have produced multiple short pieces both independently and for classes, the most recent of which is a 25-minute documentary about the ways that women are portrayed in the media and how those images effect girls while they are growing up, it is called "Impacting Girls Influencing Lives". They produce video pieces that promote social justice, queer visibility, youth empowerment, and independent artists. They are heavily influenced by the work of Marlon Riggs and they possess a strong desire to create dialog about issues that are often not covered by the mainstream.

Helyx Chase blogs at, and can be reached at

7:30 pm at the A-Space on 47th and Baltimore, Philadelphia PA

Back from Nicaragua

Monday evening at about 7 pm EST I arrived in NYC back from 2 weeks in Nicaragua. The Trip consisted of about 4 travel days and 10 days in the community of Gualacatu, North of the city of Jalapa, about a kilometer from Honduras. I come back to the United States with a collection of written, photographic, drawn, and video taped representations of Gualacatu, a community that opened their hearts and homes to a group of 10 high school students from New York and Philadelphia, 2 program coordinators from buildOn, 2 New York City High School teachers, 3 Nicaraguan translators, and 1 videographer. I begin now to put together the writting, drawings, interviews and 13 and a half hours of video footage into the final project, and I begin now to insert pieces of that process into this blog, starting with this excerpt from the journal I kept during the trip:

"What becomes apparent to me as I return to buildOn is that the organization serves 2 purposes. To empower youth and to empower communities" (7-10-09)

What I mean to say here is that there is a dual purpose to the work that buildOn does, which is to balance between the work of spreading education in a global sense community by community, but also to allow very specific youth who are involved with the program in the US to empower themselves through the Trek for Knowledge experience. I know that what I saw in the students who came on the trek at the end of the two weeks was students who were strong, and had been permanently changed by their experience, an experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

To the balance between the selfishness and imperialism of aid tourism and the benefit of the work of buildOn is something that I will continue to explore both in this blog and as I move into post-production on the documentary.


As you may or may not know on Monday I returned from Nicaragua at the end of a two-week trip where I completed the bulk of the production for The Trek Project ( The Trek Project is a 3 part multi-media exploration of the way that we (people living in the United States) create and work within communities both at home and abroad. The first part of the project is a timeline of US-Latin American relations that will be incorporated into the final DvD. The second part is a series of Mapping Workshops and Discussions about the concept of global community, responsibility, and accountability.
Due to the fact that it was only possible for me to travel to Nicaragua with the Trek team as a single person the creation of this project, has, up until this point been primarily a solo process. I have had a number of meetings with people to discuss the project and build the concept into what it is now; however, in terms of production I have flown solo. Now I am looking for people who are interested in helping me more directly with the post-production process. I am looking for:

• Help (or continued help) with concept development
• Periodic feedback on cuts of the movie
• Help working on a soundtrack
• Help with Audio post-production in general
• Someone who can show me how to use After Effects
• Help with animation
• Help with checking Spanish-English translations
• Help creating subtitles in both Spanish and English
• Fiscal Sponsorship, or people with a head for fundraising
• Art, by independent artists (visual, digital, written, performed, or musical), that deals with issues of globalization, Latin America, the creation of communities, or any other related issues, to potentially be interviewed, speak about their art who have a piece featured in the documentary.
• Places and/or groups to hold Mapping Workshops with

If you have skills in any of these areas or know someone who does and is interested let me know! Everyone who participates in the creation of this project receives credit and a copy, for certain jobs monetary compensation might also be possible depending on the budget of the project.

***Also, I would absolutely love to have any buildOn students who are interested in the project and want to get involved in anyway.

Thank you for your continued support-

Helyx Chase

One of these things is not like the others:

I came back from Nicaragua with 13 and a half hours of footage to deconstruct, capture, and ultimately turn into the documentary component of The Trek Project. While looking through one of my tapes I isolated a few of these stills that brought one phrase to mind, as the song on sesame street goes, “one of these things is not like the others”. This concept comes to mind when I look at footage or pictures of me with the community, despite my feeling quite at home within the community; it is evident that I am still an outsider. I think that is something important for me, and others, to remember when doing work in, or, when creating work about, communities other than their own. Despite my comfort within Gualacatu, I must remember that it is still a marginalized community in Northern Nicaragua and I cannot hope to fully understand life, or the mindsets of the people in this community, my perspective on this entire project still comes from my position as a white, blonde, Jewish, United States Citizen.