‘I want to get stuck right in there, with local people and small charities.’

The Philippines is defined by its emerald rice fields and teeming megacities. But those cities are host to serious poverty and violence. Freya Blyth went to get involved

Children in Quezon City. | Photo: Freya Blyth.

It took months of planning, dreaming and praying to bring me here. That is what I remind myself of as I stand in the middle of a narrow street in the centre of an illegal settlement community in the capital city of Manila, in the Philippines.

It’s hard. People often forget to tell you that, as they scroll through their travel photos, showing off tanned skin and beautiful images of waterfalls. I have the tanned skin and the photos now, but also bags under my eyes from jetlag, and 3am cockroach scares. I’ve had a funny tummy from the diet change and spend at least eighty per cent of my days very confused by a language I’m still learning.

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