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Former Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica was once described as the world’s poorest president. Serving until 2015, Mujica was known for his modest attitude on life; emblematic of his famous refusal to live in Uruguay’s Presidential Palace. These values of simplicity, humility and a desire to improve the lives of others resonate strongly with Vinicius Guim. Vinicius is an EWB Australian Volunteer Field Professional, and currently supporting rural Cambodian communities in a remote-field placement. Commencing the role in 2021, Vinicius is assisting the improvement of rural sanitation in Cambodia.

Vinicius’ admiration for Mujica stems from his desire to give others more time than himself. With this attitude leading to a purposeful tendency to support humanitarian causes, it is no surprise that Vinicius is inspired by Mujica’s humble passion for innovation and positive social change. Motivated by an urge to help others, Vinicius’ journey with EWB began through his want to utilise engineering for positive social good. 

With a degree in Sanitation and Environmental Engineering from the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil, Vinicius wants to use his expertise to transform human realities. To transform realities, Vinicius acknowledges that human achievement requires persistence to a planned process of learning. 

Making a difference to rural sanitation in Cambodia

The process of learnt transformation is reflective of Vinicius’ current efforts with rural Cambodian communities. In his current role on the project, Vinicus advises on the execution and evaluation of sanitation development for rural communities in Cambodia.

The importance of this work is essential to improving Cambodia’s current shortages in human access to safe water and consequently sanitation. With approximately 77% of Cambodians living in rural areas, poor access to safe water and sanitation is having a disproportionate impact on Cambodians that live in rural communities. With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting additional health concerns, improved access to water, toilets, and clean household living has never been more important. 

Engineering with a community-centred focus

Supporting the project remotely from Brisbane, Vinicius has seen first-hand how sanitation solutions depend more on the cultural nuances of each community, rather than specific technologies. Vinicius is continuing to assist the Cambodian team in the ‘ideas stage’ of the project in creating engineering solutions with a community-orientated focus. 

“When I saw that sanitation solutions depend more on the cultural environment than technology development, I understood the role of EWB as an institution devising engineering solutions with the community always in mind.”

However, engaging with the Cambodian team and communities remotely has presented its challenges. 

 “The fact that I can’t be there to physically experience Cambodia makes it harder to feel people’s challenges,” explains Vinicius. “To overcome this, I try to stay informed and ask as many questions as I can to the Cambodian team to gain understanding from the ground.”

Personal and professional growth

Beyond the placement’s challenges, the experience is enriching Vinicius’ personal and professional growth. 

“Through working with overseas teams, I’ve realised that global challenges require the collaboration of many different perspectives,” explains Vinicius. “The remote placement has also helped develop my communication and strategic planning skills, as I have been dealing with a very different reality from my working life in Brisbane.” 

A look to the future

Outside of the field placement, Vinicius is currently working as an Operations Assistant in Brisbane, drawing on his background in logistics in previous roles as a technical advisor and sanitation and environmental engineer in Brazil. Alongside his work, Vinicius recently completed an MBA specialising in Project Management at Kaplan Business School. 

Vinicius has a lot on his plate, but greatly values friendship and spending time with those closest to him. With a strong appreciation for others, and a value on determination, honesty and integrity, Vinicius is a fantastic representative of the EWB ethos that aims to improve the lives of others. Contributing to EWB’s vision, Vinicius’s time with EWB has been one of the most enriching experiences of his life. 

“EWB has given me a diverse and unique experience that is helping me understand my purpose in life.”

Getting involved with EWB comes in many forms, spanning from Vinicius’ direct work as a field professional with overseas rural communities, to local engagement via EWB’s extensive Chapter network. If you’re interested in getting involved with our work, join a local chapter to find out more, or register your interest to hear of future EWB Australian Volunteer Field Professional Placements.