TRINIDAD — “That’s how we serve our community,” said Kay Evans, director of the Holistic Health and Massage Therapy program on the Trinidad Campus. “In the time I have been here massage has gone from this weird touching thing to a mainstream form of therapy. That’s a significant jump in the last 15 years. You don’t have to explain to every single person what massage is. They know.”
Evans thinks stress and unresolved pain are probably the root cause of more people seeking alternative health care.
“Everybody has a unique story,” she continued. “That’s what you feel when you work with a human body on your table. For me, it’s the most exquisite magical thing, to work with another person on an energetic touching level.”
Her story is certainly unique and reaches from New Zealand to China to the United Kingdom and then to Colorado. In all her stops, she has picked up tools to help people deal with pain and stress.
One of her loves -- therapeutic massage -- has exploded and demand for graduates is high, but student numbers are not. There is a shortage of therapists.
“It’s not an easy course of study. It’s intense and physically demanding, but incredibly rewarding.”
An advocate for life-long learning, Evans recently taught a community class in Qigong, an ancient Chinese healing art involving meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises. She said, “It adds the mind and emotion part too. It’s so much broader than just the physical.”
Evans interest in things natural was evidenced at age seven when she announced to her family in New Zealand that she was joining the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. She said her dad very bravely joined her and they learned about the native species in their area and grew plants together.
“Plants have always been important to me; they help me evolve,” she said. “Because we lived rural, we always had a big garden and grew our own food.”
She said in her generation everyone had to leave the country for at least one year to complete an OE (overseas experience). “New Zealand with its three islands is so small that you have to leave there to see the world,” Evans said. “But America is so big you go to New Mexico and it seems like you’re in a different country.”
Before she left home at the age of 21, she had completed her nurses’ training including operating “theatre” (room) training. She would seek work in the United Kingdom (UK) but visit China first. Her OE began there. She loved the food and the country’s rich history and the massive city of Hong Kong with its dramatic geography. But she stood a head taller than the Chinese people. She felt uncomfortable especially when a monsoon hit, and all the extended umbrellas came right to her throat! At that time restrooms (“the loo” in New Zealand) consisted of shacks built over small streams of water where you simply squatted to do your business! Considering toilet paper was not provided, she said this was a bit disconcerting!
From China, Evans traveled to the UK where she worked in a children’s hospital for a year and then took a job in Cyprus where she set up two operating “theatres” and a 28-bed hospital. When she arrived there, she had the expectation of an English-speaking staff, “but they knew about six English words they learned from TV!” she said. Evans enrolled in class and bought a Greek dictionary. Because Greek and Russian share the Cyrillic alphabet, learning Greek was easy for her. She learned Russian in high school and she also speaks Indonesian-Malay. In Cyprus her interpreters were 10-year-old children who could easily speak four languages and were often escorted by their grandparents. During her nearly four-year stay, she explored the region. To date her travels include 53 countries!
Evans returned to the United Kingdom once again, this time to recruit doctors and nurses to go to the Middle East. While there, she studied Chinese medicine. The first modality she learned was Jin Shin, the art of releasing tensions that block the energy pathways in the body. She also did her massage training there. She thinks her interest in body work began in high school where she grew up playing sports “because that’s how we are in New Zealand.” She always wanted to heal any sprains as quickly as possible and get back to playing. Although untrained, she would massage everybody’s feet. She played netball (like basketball without backboards and dribbling) at an international level, but she also played cricket and tennis – and she swam.
“Everywhere in New Zealand is less than two hours from water, so you have to be able to manage in water,” said Evans who was a lifeguard in high school. “Sailing is the one thing I truly miss from home.”
Evans added sports training to her massage work and was doing body work for sports injuries in the United Kingdom. A couple of her clients were on the UK Cycling Team and that opened doors for her to go wherever they were competing. She learned about body work and psychology which helped her to understand that mental and emotional states can impact body cells.
Her keen interest in plants and healing led to essential oils and then to her aromatherapy business. Her mentor, an Englishman named Mike Homes, whose family owned a lavender farm in France, taught her all about essential oils. Through her aromatherapy business she met the health and beauty editor for the Daily Mail Magazine with the biggest circulation in Europe at that time. She was featured in that magazine often and wrote many articles for it which eventually led to her book about essential oils, Arousing Aromas, (not her choice of title) published in 1997. It’s still available today. She uses it currently in her Essential Oils class.
When the European Union passed a law that essential oil products had to have a shelf life of two years, she sold her business. She could not, in good conscience, preserve her aromatherapy products by adding anything unnatural.
At that point she said, “OK, universe, all I want to do is serve, so take me where I can serve the best. I’ll go anywhere except China!”
While she considered her options, she came to the United States to attend a workshop in Boulder. After the workshop, Evans’ flight home was delayed for two weeks due to a plane malfunction. Ironically, during that time, she would meet the man she would marry. Ultimately, she moved to the United States, married, completed her intensive nursing registration, and went to work at Parkview Hospital in Pueblo. While there, she was asked to teach Aromatherapy at Trinidad State and then several other classes. The next year (2004) she was asked to take over the program at the college and has been there since.
“All my jobs have been creating something that hasn’t existed before,” said Evans. “Training was very good at home and I never felt out of my league. I have always asked myself, ‘How can this be done?’”
Evans has applied that attitude to Holistic Health and Massage Therapy and has helped to create an entirely new program in an ever-evolving alternative health care industry. She coordinates the program with Julie Kotalik, the director in Alamosa who teaches an identical program on the Valley Campus.
Kotalik said, “She’s been my mentor. We work very well together, and we know the importance of teamwork.”
“We think alike so we’re on the same page,” said Evans. “She comes from a kinesiology background and together we have enormous strength. We have the ability to deliver what is needed now which is very different than what was needed ten years ago. The program is a lot more sophisticated. The exam and what is expected of a beginning massage therapist is a lot tighter and some would say academically harder.”
“What I love about my life is the people I find along the way!” said Evans.
It doesn’t seem like there is much in Evan’s life that she doesn’t love. Her vibrant can-do personality is contagious, and she seems to think everything is fascinating. She has never considered the possibility of failure.
Caption: Cheyenne Arlint learns anatomy from both Trinidad State Massage Therapy and Holistic Health directors, Kay Evans (Trinidad) and Julie Kotalik (Alamosa). Courtesy photo by Steve Wharton