Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 4:59 PM on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homer Rotarian to lead team of health care professionals on exchange to Fiji, New Zealand


Vivian Finlay

Just when many Alaskans are thinking of warmer climates, Homer resident Vivian Finlay is preparing to head to Fiji and New Zealand. However, the five-week trip south of the equator isn't a vacation.

Finlay, a Rotarian with 36 years experience as a mental health practitioner, is the team leader of a Rotary Group Study Exchange. Finlay's team includes Brenda Lamont, a registered nurse from Bethel; Katie Rulapaugh, a physician assistant from Adak; Becca Van De Water, a certified nurse-midwife advanced nurse practitioner from Juneau; and Brook Davis, a primary health care nurse in charge from Carcross, Yukon, Canada.

"From the very beginning I wanted to join Rotary because of the international aspect and always wanted to lead a Group Study Exchange," said Finlay, a member of Homer Downtown Rotary Club and past president of the Wasilla Rotary Club.

Rotary Foundation's GSE program is a cultural and vocational exchange program for business people and professionals between the ages of 25-40 in the early stages of their careers.

Travel grants provided by the program allow teams to exchange visits with teams from other countries for a four- to six-week period. Team members experience the host country's culture and institutions, observe their vocations being practiced, develop relationships and exchange ideas. They also give presentations at the Rotary clubs they visit and participate at a Rotary District conference. The leader is the only one that is a Rotarian.

"I applied last spring and was interviewed in Homer when the district conference was held here," said Finlay, one of three interviewed for the team leader position. "The main thing we have to be able to do is show we've had leadership skills and abilities, negotiation skills, an ability to keep a team functioning as a team and we need to have some experience with travel."

Finlay was born in Burma in 1950, to a British father and American mother. She was raised in Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and the UK, receiving her university education in the United States.

She moved to Homer from Wasilla, where she had a practice as a marriage and family psychotherapist. Since last year, she has shared office space in Homer with two other psychotherapists and narrowed her practice to only a few clients a week.

"I need to be able to travel. That's why I cut back," Finlay said of the reason for limiting her practice.

The itinerary for Finlay and her team includes activities as a team and as individuals. There are 20 Rotary Club presentations and attendance at Rotary's district conference in New Zealand.

A presentation after they return also is planned, "but the whole team is not likely to get together again because we're so scattered," said Finlay of the broad geographic area represented by her team members.

An inbound team of four young professionals and a team leader from New Zealand and Fiji will arrive in Alaska, with a visit to Homer, in April.

"No family or spouses are allowed. This is strictly business, but I think it will be a lot of fun," said Finlay. "It's strictly a vocational exchange."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com.

cutline: Vivian Finlay