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In general terms, volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life, but people also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that could be considered self-serving.

Volunteering takes many forms and is performed by a wide range of people. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work in, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Other volunteers serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster or for a beach-cleanup.

In a military context, a volunteer army is an army whose soldiers chose to enter service, as opposed to having been conscripted. Such volunteers do not work for free and are given regular pay.

Since the popularization of the Internet, many volunteers (particularly with access to the Web) discover volunteer opportunities via online services.


Social capital

The social capital generated by volunteering plays a key role in economic regeneration[citation needed]. Where poverty is endemic to an area, poor communities lack friends and neighbors able to help. Thus, voluntary mutual aid or self-help is an important safety net. This model works well within a state because there is a national solidarity in times of adversity and more prosperous groups will usually make sacrifices for the benefit of those in need[citation needed].

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