Volunteering is a feature of leisure that has only recently begun to be seriously considered within leisure studies, as it is typically an area that has been considered as more relevant to discussions of work. However, for many people, participating in any number of voluntary organizations or providing other forms of unpaid work can constitute an important and rewarding form of leisure. Considering voluntary work is also important as it highlights the ambiguities between drawing clear distinctions between what is ‘work’ and what is ‘leisure’.
Stebbins (2004: 5) defines voluntary work as ‘uncoerced help offered either formally or informally with no, or at most, token pay done for the benefit of both other people and the volunteer’. Stebbins locates his discussion of volunteering within his framework of serious and casual types of leisure and, similarly, suggests that there can be ‘serious’, ‘casual’ and ‘project-based’ forms of volunteering.
Stebbins (1992) defines serious leisure as a non-work activity that provides a career where the participant can acquire a combination of special skills, knowledge and experience. Corresponding to this, serious volunteering includes activities such as care work, working for political organizations and coaching an amateur sport team, which, similarly, can provide the possibility of (non-work) career progression and knowledge and skill acquisition. Casual leisure refers to pleasurable activities that are immediately and intrinsically rewarding, relatively short term and require no specialist skills.
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