Global Activism Expo: Volunteer Around Chicago

04/30/2011 11:35 am ET | Updated Jun 30, 2011

Those headed to the UIC Forum on Saturday will not be drawn to the expo there for food or music but out of hearts seeking to serve others. The free, six-hour event, the Global Activism Expo, features nearly 100 nonprofit organizations that bolster communities and make social change. We've scoped out these Chicago-area organizations that will be showcased at the expo and that are in need volunteers, giving you the chance to make an impact right away.

Get Bike-Handy and Earth-Friendly: If it wasn't for the Working Bikes Cooperative, Chicago would have thousands of rusty metal chains, cogs and other random bicycle parts in its landfills. Instead, thousands of bicycles have been shipped to Latin America and Africa for people who rely on the bikes as their only mode of transportation. Other bikes are redistributed to charities throughout the Chicago area while still others go through a refurbishing process so they can be resold to help run Working Bikes, which houses its two-wheel machines in a massive 22,000-square-foot warehouse, display and shop space in Little Village. As far as volunteers, anyone with an interest in helping out the organization can drop by and learn new bike repair skills from Working Bikes' half-dozen mechanics. Or they can contribute on the administrative side. "We don't have any specific requirements," says Raul Gonzalez, the general manager at Working Bikes, of the volunteers. "We really have open hands when it comes to needs. Just drop by. You can walk in and help put working bikes in motion."
Volunteer hours: 5 pm - 9 pm Tuesdays, noon-7 pm Wednesdays, noon - 5 pm Saturdays.
2434 S. Western Ave.; 773-847-5440

Go Global: Heartland International exists in part to show that we don't have to live on either coast to use our resources for the rest of the globe. The nonprofit organization, with offices in the Loop, uses resources and ingenuity from the Midwest to reach out specifically to women in emerging democracies while encouraging development through microenterprise. The organization currently runs an exchange program between grassroots leaders in the United States, Nicaragua and Belize, as well as another exchange between young entrepreneurs in the United States and Kenya. Volunteering opportunities in Chicago include office work, strategic planning, providing a homestay for a Heartland program participant and taking part in a four-day job shadowing experience with the leader of a nonprofit organization in an emerging democracy.
70 East Lake; 312-750-9888

Heart for India: The act of reading a sentence may come without thought for us, but to millions of Indian children who do not have access to literacy education, reading words, much less sentences, presents an impossible task. To combat this, there is Pratham. Meaning "first" in Sanskrit, Pratham aims to motivate Americans to raise funds for literacy and become more aware of the issue and its consequences in India. The newly formed Chicago chapter of Pratham USA holds galas, socials, networking events and fundraisers to both connect those interested in the plight of Indian children and the state of their education, as well as to raise money that will ensure they receive assistance from reading and writing programs.
For more info, e-mail

Connect with Uganda through Art: Sparked by the visit of three students to Uganda, ProjectFOCUS concentrates on connecting communities in the United States and Uganda through art. The first art project began with 1,000 photos taken by Ugandan youth with donated cameras, which sparked dual art exhibitions in Chicago and Kampala, Uganda. Started and based primarily in Chicago, ProjectFOCUS then branched out and raised funds through art exhibitions in several U.S. cities; its current goal is to work and research closely with the people of the Lyantonde District to identity needs and continue raising funds and awareness of Uganda in the U.S. through art exhibitions consisting of photos and handmade quilts. Some of that work has already borne results, as an Internet Cafe was established last June in Lyantonde.
1618 W. 17th Street, Unit 2R

Translating Mayan Artwork into Economic Development: Bright magenta, blue and yellow woven handicrafts made by Mayan artisans in the Guatemalan highlands can be purchased by Americans with the knowledge that the revenue will go toward education and economic development for the weavers and artists. MayaWorks coordinates volunteers who want to host a sale of Mayan handicrafts, like bags and beads, and channels products to their event. If you're looking for a way to volunteer with a group of friends, especially a group of friends that likes to shop for novelties, MayaWorks has the intricately patterned runners, potholders and aprons to make you feel good about shopping for original, handmade items.
1732 W. Hubbard; 312-243-8050

The Global Activism Expo runs from noon-6 pm Saturday at the UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road. Admission is free.

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