A volunteer is a citizen who is contributing his or her free time or knowledge unselfishly for useful actions to the benefit of others without expecting anything in return. In that sense , volunteerism coincides with philanthropism , as this term was used during the classical era , mainly to convey a new virtue, the "love for the fellow human being" . However, despite the efforts for the two notions to be identified with each other , volunteerism continues to inspire more, especially nowadays where individualism prevails.
The difference between a trained volunteer and the old notion of a philanthropis t is that the volunteer treats people in need, the people to who he/she offers his/her volunteer work, not with pitty but as equals. He/she doesn't think of himself/herself as being superior, knowing more, or being "better".
So, volunteerism covers the whole spectrum of human activity and is offered by each one of us alone, but also through the collective actions of societies, associations, clubs and non-governmental organisations.
Through this term we signify the participation and contribution of individuals in a framework of non-paid actions. Volunteerism, above and beyond personal gain, constitutes the supreme form of social action and contribution, which today's societies must seek and promote every day.
Historically, the volunteer organizations where called upon to compensate for the weaknesses , the shortages and the shortcomings of the state in dealing with the citizens' social needs. We all have experienced volunteerism in its less developed form: solidarity, members of the society or even whole communities serving and helping each other in a time of need (e.g. blood donation at an individual level or dealing with a natural disaster at a community level).
In a society , where it is evident in our daily life that individualism prevails over collectiveness , where personal gain prevails over collective interest , volunteerism adds a collective and social dimension to the individual. Furthermore, volunteerism gives meaning and substance to human values, more or l ess forgotten, like collective action, social solidarity, social work, the love for our fellow human.
To that end the work of all the volunteer organizations must be appreciated and become a conscious offer to man, the environment, the culture and the society.