A lot has changed for Ilene Reyes since she started her career in massage therapy.
Originally from the Philippines, Ilene wanted to move to Canada since 2001, but processing her visa took a long time, and she finally settled in Calgary in 2008, bringing her two daughters in 2015.
“I decided I would focus on being a mother to them, but also making sure that we were going to prosper,” says Ilene.
With a background in business, Ilene opened her own dayhome, but it was long hours and little sleep.
“Having your own business doesn’t mean having all the money. It means doing all the work. It means getting your hands dirty.”
Although she loved her clients, it was hard to take time off because it would impact their schedules. Plus, she couldn’t always afford to do it.
Everything changed when she started going to the MaKami Student Clinic for massages after a client recommendation. During her massage, she talked to the student therapist about why she enroled and what she liked about it. It planted a seed about pursuing a career in massage therapy.
Eventually, MaKami offered its blended Massage Therapy Program with weekend and evening classes, and that worked for her.
“MaKami is part of my dream in a sense that when I finally decided to enrol in the program, I was talking to the admissions person, Dan. And he assured me that despite the challenges, despite my situation, I would get all the support that I would need.”
She needed a place that would support her, understand her reality as a single mother and help her reach her goals.
“I got that from Dan. And then eventually from the teachers, from even my classmates. There were a lot of times where I felt that this is not for me, I won’t be able to do this, I can’t do this. But everyone in MaKami, they told me, ‘Yes, you can. We will do it together.’’’
Two months after she started school, the pandemic began.
“All the theory parts of it were online, which in a way was a blessing because I was still working full time in the dayhome at that time, and it allowed me to focus in the dayhome during the day and then study at night.”
During school, Ilene found SALT (Strategic Academic Learning Team) to be especially helpful.
“They have been very accommodating and very understanding with situations and it’s not just for me. I know that a lot of students in my class had reached out to SALT, and we’ve been greatly helped.”
MaKami also helped her with business-specific courses.
“My background in business is different from in the Philippines compared to here. So having those classes had really helped.”
She also had the full support of her daughters during her program.
“It’s been teamwork. And ever since they got here, it’s all about, ‘We’re going to do this together. We’re going to make things happen’. And it’s girl power in our house. They’re very supportive of me.”
Ilene worked at different clinics after graduating, but started iCare Massage Therapy and Wellness out of her basement in September 2022. By January of 2023 she had moved to her new location for more space. She is passionate about massage therapy, and it is a natural fit for her because she enjoys taking care of people.
Last fall, she enroled in MaKami’s Medical Office Assistant Program to help her with her business and the clinical aspect, and she is almost finished.
“I like protecting my clients’ privacy and confidentiality and the medical aspect of being a massage therapist. So I feel as though I have that advantage.”
Owning her own clinic has allowed Ilene to work flexible hours, spend more time with her family and take time off.
The financial benefits have paid off because she was able to pay for her parents to visit.
“But it wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t become a massage therapist, if I didn’t start my massage clinic. So yes, my life changed so much since I became a massage therapist and since I opened my own clinic.”
Ilene plans to expand further with her own commercial space, more massage therapists and mobile therapists. Eventually, she would like to include counselling and therapy sessions.
Ilene encourages everyone to pursue their dreams and to work through challenges.
“I want everyone to know that it starts with a goal. It starts with the dream. Whatever your goal is, whatever dream you have, work on that goal, work on that dream. Because as long as you have that in you, everything is possible.”
Find out more about Ilene’s clinic here: www.icaremassage.ca.