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Community Development Volunteer Project in the USA - Chicago

Community Development Volunteer Project in the USA - Chicago

Apply now. The next available start date for this project is Nov 8, 2021

Interested in being a Community Development volunteer in USA - Chicago? International Volunteer HQ’s Community Development project is a great opportunity for volunteers who want to help disadvantaged people and make a meaningful contribution to the local community. Volunteers gain experience helping initiatives that aim to address the needs of the city’s large homeless and low-income populations by providing them with better access to healthcare, food, shelter, clothing and other basic necessities.

  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from CA$821 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, daily breakfast, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help locals provide support and assistance to disadvantaged communities

  • Grab a slice of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza

  • Stay with other travelers in the dining district of Greektown

Apply Now

Who is this program suited to?

Volunteers with a passion for helping disadvantaged people and communities. You know you will be making a tangible contribution to a worthy cause and having a direct impact to better the lives of people who can often feel marginalized by society, but are exceedingly grateful for the support they receive.
Who is this program suited to?

Key information

Support marginalized & low-income communities
Based with local initiatives
Dormitory-style volunteer accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day
Fully hosted experience from CA$821 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 12 weeks
Catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

Due to the lack of affordable housing, scarce support and economic hardship in certain areas of Chicago, the numbers of vulnerable low-income and homeless people have seen a drastic increase in the past few decades. The Community Development project endeavors to provide support structures in the heart of disadvantaged communities that aim to directly benefit the lives of those who need help with accessing food, shelter, clothing and other necessities.

As a Community Development volunteer you can assist in a range of ways and on a range of different initiatives, all with the aim of helping those who need it. You can expect to collaborate with various community centers, homeless shelters, food banks, and missions to address the needs of health, wellness and hunger within the homeless and low-income populations. Your tasks may include:

  • Meal preparation and distribution
  • Sorting and distributing donations of food, clothing and household goods
  • Community outreach and education initiatives
  • Assisting with other community projects to raise awareness about this vulnerable population
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities

Covid-19 has deepened existing inequalities, hitting disadvantaged and minority communities the hardest. To reduce inequalities, we must provide better services and support to refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities.

Why do Community Development volunteering in Chicago with IVHQ?

When you volunteer to help disadvantaged communities in Chicago you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Improving access to basic necessities for vulnerable people
  • Supporting local initiatives to help their communities
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining a wide range of volunteer experience
  • Learning about community development
  • Exploring Chicago and Lake Michigan

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.

”I really enjoyed my time with IVHQ in New Orleans. The fellow volunteers and accommodation hosts were amazing, being always friendly and helpful.”

Read reviews from Community Development volunteers in United States

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Volunteer Abroad in the USA, Chicago with IVHQ


The IVHQ USA - Chicago volunteer program has volunteer placements located in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, the largest city in the state of Illinois. Here you’ll discover the home of jazz music; intricate architecture; museums; professional baseball, basketball and hockey; and deep dish pizza.

Sadly, there are an estimated 90,000 homeless people on the streets, with over 50 per cent of all city renters classed as extremely low-income households. Volunteering on the Community Development program empowers you to improve the quality of life for these vulnerable populations, whilst experiencing the city through the eyes of a local.

Whether you are looking for short-term volunteer opportunities, or longer volunteer vacations in the USA, the IVHQ Chicago volunteer program can support you to make a positive difference while experiencing everything that this iconic city has to offer.

Arrival and orientation

The program orientation begins every Monday. Volunteers need to arrive in Chicago on the Sunday before orientation day.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago. You’ll be greeted at the airport by a representative of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee if you arrive on the Sunday before your program start date. Pickups are made between 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Sunday, and volunteers must arrive during this period. If you can only arrive after 8:00 PM, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation.

If you are traveling in Chicago prior to your volunteer program, our local team can arrange for you to be picked up in the Chicago CBD area on Sunday between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Alternatively, you can choose to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation.

Orientation is hosted by our Chicago team at the volunteer accommodation. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and runs all day. It covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Chicago. It includes an introduction to Chicago, reflection on the importance of volunteering, code of conduct and expectations, transportation and safety instructions, and an overview of the week. Volunteers travel to the volunteer project sites and take a brief tour of the surrounding area. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.

Volunteer schedule example

First day

Your first day of volunteering in the USA is taken up by a program orientation, which includes a visit to your project placement to meet the staff you’ll be working with.


Volunteer schedules are varied based on where you’re placed and the time of year. Usually volunteer days range from 3 to 5 hours. A typical volunteer day may look like this:

7:30 AM Self-serve breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.
8:00 - 9:00 AM Travel to placement to join local placement staff and begin work on your project.
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch break. In Chicago, a lunch break typically lasts for about an hour, but the timing and length will ultimately depend on the organization that you’re volunteering with.
1:00 - 5:00 PM Work at the project typically ends between these times. Use your free time to either travel back home, sightsee or do some shopping.


Free to use as you wish. Most volunteers head out together to get dinner and enjoy the city.


You’ll have the chance to truly explore Chicago in your free time and your biggest problem will be figuring out what to do first. Chicago is famous for its ability to host visitors from all walks of life. With a lively nightlife, bold architecture, delicious food, and vibrant sports scene there is something for everyone.

Take time to explore the city and its history by visiting spots like Cloud Gate where you’ll find the famous Bean sculpture, the Willis Tower Skydeck, the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Botanical Gardens or catch a baseball game at the world-famous Wrigley Field.

In the summer, Lake Michigan boasts plenty of activities and slightly further afield you can spend a day at 6 Flags Great America Amusement Park.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory-style public hostel in the heart of Chicago, located in the Greektown neighborhood of the West Loop with easy access to nearby shopping and food stores.

You should expect basic dormitory style accommodation. Rooms are mixed gender and you could share a room with up to 16 other volunteers. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds with bedding provided but you will need to bring your own towel.

The accommodation has shared bathroom facilities equipped with western toilets and showers. Cleaning staff clean the accommodation throughout the week. However, volunteers are required to do their own dishes and to keep their rooms tidy.

The accommodation has a kitchenette, library, common area and a TV. There are also vending machines onsite for quick snacks, and a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, supermarkets, and pharmacies in close proximity to the accommodation, not to mention most tourist sites being within short walking distance.

The accommodation is equipped with WiFi for you to use. You can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone to access the internet.

Private rooms, if desired, can be booked after you have registered for the program, subject to availability and an additional cost.


Chicago is known as one of the world’s best cities for food, home to the deep dish pizza and famous Chicago Dog. While daily breakfast is provided as part of the program, you’ll be able to treat yourself to many local delicacies for lunch and dinner.

Volunteers are provided with breakfast foods delivered to the hostel. Volunteers will be able to choose from foods including cereal, granola, toast, eggs, fresh fruit.

Volunteers are responsible for their own lunches and dinners, but with no shortage of delightful food options in the windy city, you’re sure to find a wide range of food to suit your personal taste. You may also prepare your own meals using the kitchenette at the hostel.

Volunteers are expected to do their own dishes after each meal so please be prepared and willing to do this.


Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
1 week CA$819 Equivalent to CA$117/day
2 weeks CA$1371 Equivalent to CA$98/day
3 weeks CA$1846 Equivalent to CA$88/day
4 weeks CA$2327 Equivalent to CA$84/day
5 weeks CA$2743 Equivalent to CA$79/day
6 weeks CA$3166 Equivalent to CA$76/day
8 weeks CA$4037 Equivalent to CA$73/day
10 weeks CA$4557 Equivalent to CA$66/day
12 weeks CA$5292 Equivalent to CA$63/day
  • Accommodation
  • Daily breakfast
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Certificate of International Volunteering

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of CA$389 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in CAD.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, some meals, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Chicago generally find US$200 - US$300 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches and dinners, and local tours and activities.

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Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Safety and support with IVHQ

Protecting against COVID-19:

Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel

Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel

Health & safety information provided during orientation

Health & safety information provided during orientation

Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation

Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation

Greater physical distance between volunteers

Greater physical distance between volunteers

Essential city information

City Chicago
Population 2.7 Million
Languages English
Currency United States Dollar (USD)
Time zone GMT-05:00 Central Time Zone

Weather and climate

Chicago’s midwest location means that the climate is warm and humid in the summer, and freezing and windy in the winter. July is the hottest month in Chicago with an average temperature of 83°F (29°C) and the coldest month is January at 33°F (0°C), though it can get down as low as 22°F (-5°C ). Chicago is partly cloudy year round, with the most daily sunshine hours at 15 in June. The wettest month is May with an average of 94mm of rain.

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