Happy to Help with Dimitrios Aerakis

That 'Happy to Help' attitude inspires many to join our team of Festival City Volunteers, as Dimitrios Aerakis explains.

It’s that time of year again - when streets get more crowded, shops get busier, and there are performers everywhere. I mean everywhere. It’s a wonder anyone can get around or even wrap their head around all of the buzz going on in Edinburgh during the August frenzy of the Festivals.

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This is where the Festival City Volunteers step in to help visitors navigate the labyrinth that is known as Edinburgh’s historical streets. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for about five years now and every year the Festival seems to get bigger and bigger.

More performers come to showcase their talents and more visitors arrive to indulge in the numerous food, drink, and entertainment. How does anyone manage to get around their first day with the new influx of smells, sounds, and sights hitting them all at once? It’s a lot to take in, especially immediately after a long journey into the city.

Living in the city centre of Edinburgh has made me well acquainted with the streets, monuments, and popular eating places - basically all the great local knowledge that would be useful to a confused Festival visitor. Throughout my time of living in Edinburgh, I found myself giving directions to the odd group that needed help getting to the train station, castle, or to a popular cafe.

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Most of the time, I approached the tourists knowing that they would be too shy, or flustered, to come up to a local for directions. The confused looks, frantic pointing at a map, and then random gestures towards a street are all indications of someone not knowing where they're going - so I would kindly offer to assist.

Besides, we have all been there before - coming to a new city, prepped with a map and smartphone, yet still managing to turn yourself around on the confusing streets. It’s not so hard to imagine the relief of being able to get to your destination without having to hunt it down for an hour.

The Festival City Volunteers allowed me to get together with a team of like-minded people. We all want to help visitors have a great experience in Edinburgh and make it as easy as possible to get around to venues. I gave advice here and there throughout the year, this opportunity just made it possible to join in with others during one of the busiest tourist times of the year. It’s a great feeling to give back just a little bit of my time to the city that hosts so much entertainment.

By undertaking the training I quickly got to know my fellow volunteers, everyone sharing the same vision of helping and giving something back to the community. This helped me during my shifts as I came across some familiar faces.

I found the shifts both enjoyable and interesting, being part of a friendly and welcoming team makes all the difference in helping to answer queries. No shift was the same, which kept things challenging, you would come across a wide range of queries and background of people attending the Festivals, but I knew I had the help and support of my team if required at any instance.

As a group, you get to learn more about each other, and even fun facts about the city you might not have known before.

This August was certainly easier for visitors to navigate with this amazing 2019 team of volunteers helping out - as a volunteering opportunity it's something that I’ll definitely be participating in again next year and can’t recommend strongly enough for people to be part of!

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