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SIDE students work in diverse places: school rooms, travelling within Australia, and while living overseas. Everyone faces challenges.

In this article we focus on SIDE students, Anna, Joy and Jonathan, and their parents Malcolm and Michelle Plaistowe, who are living and working in Cambodia.

Malcolm has a contract for the year for RAW Impact, a not-for-profit organisation working with local communities. The family live in Phnom Penh and commute to Every Piece Matters village where he works with local builders constructing sustainable homes and village facilities for about 120 families who live in a flood zone. The three youngest children are SIDE students.

In a recent email to Paula Bowen, the SIDE Student Coordinator, Michelle reflected on her children and their studies.

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‘Anna, Joy and Jonathan have been working hard at their schooling despite the heat, humidity and random power cuts. They’ve logged in to their lessons via my mobile hotspot when there’s no power and coped with the heat, humidity and constant noise. We are so proud of their work ethics and “have a go” attitudes! Thankfully the power is only off for a few hours at a time, but this will improve (hopefully!) when the wet season kicks in and there’s enough water to power the hydroelectric plants again. We’ve lost water a couple of times too, but thankfully it hasn’t been too often. We do have a 35L bucket full of water in our bathroom in case we need it.’

Anna, in Year 8 described how the family combine schooling and volunteering.

‘We usually only go to the Every Piece Matters (EPM) village when there are teams visiting from Australia, so I do my school work in our apartment in Phnom Penh and catch up on my SIDE work when we don’t have teams. We go to help and work alongside them and it’s usually too busy to get any school work done there. We can’t do any online work without many curious eyes watching! When we go out to EPM I am always up on the roof with Tre (pronounced Tree) teaching the teams to lash the bamboo, nail it together and then screw on the roof sheets. On the roof you can see all around past the berm and beyond. There is also a cool breeze that blows by which is a nice change from the blazing hot sun. I love working with people from a different culture because it’s amazing to be able to learn a new language and have fun with the happy natures of the Khmer people. ‘