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.  

Entries in helyx chase (5)


So I know that it has been a while since I updated, but the end of the semester was pure hell and I am just now recovering and getting back on my feet with this project. So here it is as it stands:

I have about 1200 dollars raised. Which means that I am still about 800 short, I will be applying for a do-something grant but I still need some way to make that up. Also buildOn has requested that I hire a translator to be one-on-one with me in Nica. This will be an additional $300 and so I agree that it is a good idea but it presents another part of the budget that needs to be covered.

the trip:
the dates of the trip are July 6th thru the 22nd, I will be somewhere near Esteli and close to Honduras again, but not in the Ocotal region where I was last time and the village primarily farms tobacco. The name of the village is Gwalacatu (I would love to look into the origin of the name). Because the name does not seem traditionally spanish one of the buildOn staff suggested it was potentially of indigenal origin, although to the best of my understanding there are few strong indigenous communities in that area of Nicaragua. Also I still need to make sure that all my vaccinations and medical things are in order before I go.

mapping workshops:
I completed my first mapping workshop on May 1st at the A-space in Philly and I will be holding my second one this weekend on saturday with the group of buildOn students who are traveling on trek from New York. There is also a third scheduled for the evening of June 24th (the day before my birthday ;-)) in Philly at the A-space again.

Ok, so this is probably what I am paying the least attention too right now, in the next few weeks I will be expanding on the research I did this semester and start creating a comprehensive timeline of US-Latin American relationships that will be the focus of the zine, which will also serve at the DvD insert. Also in terms of research I bought the Radical Cartography series of essays and maps at food for though books in amherst today and will be reading that to develop language and discourse around the construction of maps. I will be starting with the essay about the following map:

I am rounding up equipment for production right now. Joe Gro, my friend is working on the solar charger and I am officially putting the call out to find low/no cost audio equipment to borrow for the trip because I would hate for the quality of the project to be diminished due to poor audio quality. I also need to order batteries and tapes soon so that I can receive them before I leave on the trip.

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

Journal Reflections

Excerpt from a conversation I had shortly after returning from Nicaragua:

me- "My host mom had never heard of the Jews, and when she told us this we asked her if she had ever heard of Hitler and she said no, she hadn't"

someone else- "You'd think that would have come up in a history class..."


I didn't really know how to respond to that, my host mom only had a basic first grade education. When she was elementary school age the revolution was happening in Nicaragua and she had to flee to Honduras with her family; and Nicaraguan refugees were not allowed to attend the schools in Honduras. She eventually returned to Nicaragua and at age 18 she took first grade. I am pretty sure that she had her first son when she was 19. She never had a history class.

Colonialism/Capitalism Journal Writings

We are forever spinning in a world of our own creation
Capitalist Marketing Schemes pulling us farther into spiraling chaos
What choice is there but to keep spinning, or we fall.

Breaking the cycle
Deconstructing our own interactions
how do we see each other
human to human relationships
country to country destruction
is it our place to cross borders
created by our ancestors
destroyed by our governments
why do we do it?

The title of the documentary is El Trompo, which refers to a spinning top, a toy for children all over the world. Personally I suck at throwing them, but Olman would patiently let me try time after time. The spinning, the spinning reminds me of the world, of our lives, of me, and him and Gualacatu and Los Estados.

As far as a production update goes:
I am almost done with the trailer (i swear), and am currently working on getting a rough cut of the documentary together by Saturday for Post-Trek 2 in NYC.

I still need help if anyone out there wants to help with:
setting up the US-Latin American Timeline
color correction
using the programs motion or after effects

What does a Colonizer Look Like?

There are 4 elements at play in the definition of a country as a colonial power over another:

(1) the economic: appropriation of land, exploitation of labor, and control of finance; (2) the political: control of authority;
(3) the civic: control of gender and sexuality;
(4) the epistemic and the subjective personal: control of knowledge and subjectivity.

With regards to the US and Latin America the United States has some hand, if not a full fist, in all of these areas. I have started reading the book The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi. The first section of the book attempts to define and depict the colonizer.

"Today, leaving for a colony is not a choice sought because of its uncertain dangers, nor is it a desire of one tempted by adventure. It is simply a voyage towards an easier life." Memmi goes on to describe the colonizer as one who leaves their country not simply for adventure, because if that was the case why would they not go somewhere among their own country men? "Our traveler will come up with the best possible definition of a colony: a place where one earns more and spends less". As he goes on it descibes the difficulty for a colonizer to leave the colony. After a few years returning to the "slow progress" of home, and more expensive lifestyle is no longer appealing. Additionally the colonizer has laid roots in their new home, and lost roots in their old one. Why should the colonizer then leave the colony, especially when their privilege makes life in the colony easier then it would have been in the home country.

This perspective on the colonizer brings me back to the expatriate community that I saw when I was in Guatemala last January. For the most part the people I met were white US citizens who for one reason or another (primarily political) had decided to leave the United States. While I understand the desire to leave the United States out of frustration, I also feel the need to stay out of loyalty and obligation to my people. One of the fellow students at the Spanish school where I was taking classes mentioned to me that all the expatriates there seemed to be lost. To me the idea of leaving the US in political protest seems to be in vein. First off, no change can come from a few individuals, that were likely to radical for the government anyway, leaving. Secondly, their efforts to escape the US government may as well be void because they have moved to a place that is, in many crucial ways, a colony of the US, or at the very least a place that the US holds colonial power over.

In his book, Memmi describes 3 types of individuals in the colonizer/colonized relationship. They are the colonial, the colonizer and the colonist. The colonial is described as a European (or for our purposes one from the United States) living in the colony but having none of the privileges of their position. "a colonial is a benevolent European who does not have the colonizers attitude towards the colonized", in the next sentance Memmi goes on to say "a colonial so defined does not exist, for all Europeans in the colonies are privileged".

What I am attempting to begin to examine here is what is the role and power that one posses in moving to an expatriate community in Latin America. How can one move in an effort to escape the imperialistic policies of the US while simultaneously re-enforcing that colonialism.