Taking One Step at a Time

Tina Phillips had always been surrounded by music. A pianist, she started playing before her feet could reach the pedals and she ended up becoming an on-demand accompanist and self-employed music teacher. Students would come to her home, where she’d give lessons on the 100-year-old grand piano that sits in her living room. She did this while also home-schooling her five children.

Fighting through Pain

In 1999, Phillips was hit by a car while driving in Vancouver. While she was able to continue playing the piano, she suffered from whiplash. Three other accidents left her incapacitated and in pain. She also developed fibromyalgia and was later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which went into her bones. She couldn’t sit for long periods of time and her hands ached when she played.

“Ten years ago, I had to stop home-schooling my daughter because the pain was so bad. When I was at my worst, I thought I was going to be in a wheelchair. I couldn’t have sat through a class, let alone at the piano at that point,” says Phillips.

Eventually, Phillips was put on arthritis medication and her movement slowly progressed. Although she couldn’t sit for long periods, she could now walk and partake in some activities.

A New Line of Work

It was then that she decided a career change was in order, and she walked through the doors of the WorkBC Employment Services Centre at Community Futures North Okanagan.

“I told my case manager that I would like to work with adults after being home with the kids and teaching for so long, so we looked at my options,” says Phillips.

“I was supported to take workshops to help me determine my career direction. It was eye opening and confidence building, and it helped me with all sorts of skills.”

Tina found she liked working with numbers and computers and so she enrolled in computer courses at Power Concepts in Kelowna and at Okanagan College, where she received her Sage 50 Accounting and Office Administration certificates.

She was even able to get work preparing personal taxes for one season, but later decided she needed year-round work. That’s when she entered Community Future’s Job Development Services and was assigned to employment advisor Neil Thompson.

“After being unable to find full-time work, we re-evaluated Tina’s situation and she ended up getting two part-time jobs at Vernon’s Salvation Army as an administrative assistant and at Finance Matters as a bookkeeper. The Salvation Army is a great environment for her and the organization matches her personal values,” says Thompson.

“All the pieces have come together — a little bit here and a little bit there. It all adds up and I never thought I’d be successful.” — Tina Phillips

At the Salvation Army, Phillips does everything from meeting and greeting clients, handling accounts payable, bookkeeping and other office duties. She even puts together the odd hamper for the food bank.

“They are really flexible and kind people to work for. I see people turn their lives around there. It’s nice to be part of that story,” says Phillips.

And not to be outdone, Phillips has even found another job, which she obtained on her own. She now works weekends at the Customer Service Desk at the Village Green Centre.

“Back when I was teaching, there were days when I spent the day in bed so I could have the energy for teaching. Now I have all this work and I feel so good about it. I couldn’t have done it before. All the pieces have come together — a little bit here and a little bit there. It all adds up and I never thought I’d be successful,” says Phillips.

“I am so grateful to Neil and Community Futures. They came alongside me and boosted me up when I needed it. Their encouragement has been phenomenal.”

If you are looking to change careers and could use some employment support and training, why not visit us to find out how to qualify for the Employment Program of BC services and supports offered at Community Futures North Okanagan.


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