Our Goal, Vision and Commitment
Gilary Massa and Timaj Garad are community organizers, artists, and writers with a passion for creating beautiful spaces for Muslim women to connect and grow.
Together they founded The Sisters' Retreat, a travel company based out of Toronto that specializes in women-only all-inclusive vacations and local events.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”- Audre Lorde
Our mission is to create self-care and vacation opportunities that feel safe, inclusive and are dedicated to nurturing the mind, body, and soul.
Our Panama retreat aims to create an all-inclusive vacation for Muslim women that is intimate and authentic.
Our events and Panama retreat are about supporting and promoting sisterhood and celebrating local economies and culture of women.
Why Women Only?
Because so rarely do we have gendered spaces that allow us to be open and honest about the healing we need.
This retreat is dedicated to the women who spend all their emotional and physical energy healing and caring for others. You can’t heal if you are broken. This is your chance to take care of you.
We created The Sisters Retreat for:
Muslim women artists, educators, healers, professionals, mothers, activists, and change-makers.
If you are are a Muslim woman that spends her days taking care of those around you, and are in need of a break, the Sisters’ Retreat is for you.
Gilary Massa is an Afro-Panamanian Muslim who calls Toronto, Canada her home. As her day job Gilary works as the Advocacy Coordinator for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, where she leads campaigns and training programs that challenge Islamophobia and is pursuing her Masters in Leadership and Community Engagement at York University.
Gilary has been an active member of the student and labour movements for over a decade and is dedicated to creating spaces for communities to unite for social justice and promote civic engagement.
She was driven to create The Sisters’ Retreat, out of her love for her home country of Panama, and her own desire to have some time in the sun connecting with women who spend their days taking care of community.
Timaj Garad is a Toronto-based Ethiopian multi-disciplinary storyteller, using poetry, theatre, and music to bring her stories to life. Her art is auto-biographical, working at the intersections of a black Muslim woman challenging injustice, unearthing truths, and healing. As an award-winning Artist, Timaj Garad has graced over 250 stages and facilitated several arts-based workshops.
Timaj is known for creating and leading community arts programs such as Stellar (R)evolution: a poetry & theatre series for Black Muslimahs, Project Heartwork multi-arts wellness retreat series for Muslimah change-makers, and LUMINOUS Fest - Canada's first Black Muslim Arts Festival, to name a few. Timaj has coordinated a community storytelling initiative for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), in addition to working on her debut album to be released in 2020.
Timaj believes in the transformative power of the arts to meaningfully engage in capacity-building and strengthening communities and brings this element into The Sisters' Retreat's wellness programming. You can follow more of her work at timajgarad.com
Guest Wellness Practitioner
Nada Ashkar is a Registered Acupuncturist, classically trained Taijiquan and Qigong teacher, and a meditation guide. She holds a combined Honours Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Philosophy from Carleton University (The College of the Humanities), a diploma in Acupuncture, and is expanding her scope of practice and clinical skills through the ongoing study of Chinese herbal medicine and advanced TCM training. She has additional special training in Cosmetic Acupuncture, Neuro-Meridian Acupuncture, and Japanese Moxa (Okyu). Nada is also a faculty member at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (OCTCM).
Nada has trained in various martial arts since the age of 10, achieving her 1st-degree Black Belt in North American Free-style Karate at 15 years of age with 11-time World Champion, Steve “Nasty” Anderson. She has more than a decade of training in the classical Chinese Internal Arts system with Sifu Dylan Kirk of Spiritwind Internal Arts. Through Sifu Dylan, Nada has learned Taijiquan (Tai Chi), Qigong, Baguazhang, Kung Fu, Lin Zi Jin Luo Qigong therapy, Dao In Yoga, Neigong (Taoist meditation), I Ching, Chinese medicine principles, and more. Having taught martial arts since she was a teenager, and Qigong, Taiji and meditation for a number of years, Nada has a love for and natural inclination towards teaching.
Nada’s approach to her work has been fundamentally influenced by a unique convergence of her upbringing by her Lebanese parents as members of a large diasporic community, her experience as a child athlete, her academic study of The Great Books, and her encounters through travel, study, and direct experiences of many spiritual traditions and ways of life. She was always naturally inclined towards Taoism as a way of living and relating to nature since early childhood and later, after a friend handed her the Tao Te Ching, became enamoured with Taoist philosophy in its profound simplicity and lucidity. Nada is passionate about traditional, holistic systems of medicine and spirituality and has a deep interest in the mind, its role in affecting health and the body, and the metaphysical process of self-discovery. She has sat through several Vipassana Buddhist meditation retreats (traditional Burmese style), and maintains a regular practice of self-inquiry (atman-vichara) through the guidance of her teacher Mooji, an Advaita Master. She is also studying traditional esotericism and the Islamic sacred sciences with various preeminent Muslim scholars from around the world.
Nada is a fully insured Acupuncturist, a registered member of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) and is certified in Clean Needle Technique and CPR. She supports TCMO (Traditional Chinese Medicine Ontario), promoting Acupuncture and TCM in Ontario.