Showing kindness, being mindful, and having respect for everyone are principles that Rhea Ferrolino lives by and carries into her work as a Registered Massage Therapist.
“If you treat people with kindness, at some point people will mirror this same kindness to you and to others,” Rhea says.
Rhea’s journey to being a Massage Therapist in downtown Dartmouth has been long. She grew up in Halifax after immigrating with her family from the Philippines as a teenager. After moving around the country as a young adult – a few years each in Toronto and Vancouver – she returned to Halifax in 2000.
Rhea then was a Travel Agent for 15 years, but a major event became a turning point for her.“After 9/11, the travel agency I worked with faced financial troubles,” Rhea said. “I was laid off eventually in the summer of 2003.”
After questioning the stability of the travel industry, she decided to go back to school.
With a leap of faith, Rhea entered a two-year massage therapy program at ICT Northumberland College. It was here when she discovered her passion for massage therapy.
Rhea’s passion for her practice arises out of her ability to help her clients. “Clients come to me in pain, but after the sessions, they walk, stand, and move differently,” Rhea says. “I love when I see their faces change and light up after a session with me.”
Helping others learn about massage therapy is also one of Rhea’s passions. She is currently an instructor and supervisor at ICT Northumberland, teaching and sharing her knowledge to new students.
Six years ago, Rhea moved her practice to its current location at 15 Alderney Drive. She was surprised at how welcoming everyone was to her.
“My clients here in Dartmouth are truly supportive,” Rhea says. “They willingly refer me to their friends and family. I’m grateful that they took me in.”
Even through these difficult months, the community continued to support her. Being in a field of work that requires close contact, Rhea admits it was difficult when everything shut down at first. She was heartened to have a supportive landlord and as soon as the public health protocols permitted, Rhea went right back into work. “Clients were eager to come back and experience some relief after these stressful months,” she says.
Rhea is returning her gratitude to the Dartmouth community in her own way. From the Ice Festival to Open City, she actively participates in downtown Dartmouth events to raise funds for local non-profit organizations. Last month, she invited a few of her former students from ICT Northumberland to have 15-minute massages at Pull Up On Portland, an event to celebrate BIPOC-led businesses like hers. Rhea and her students donated all their proceeds from the day and raised $365 for the Street Navigator Program.
“It's up to us to change and do whatever you can to help out the community,” Rhea says. “If I can give my time and use it in a way that can help somebody, why not, right?”
Rhea is exploring all the possibilities of what she can do with massage therapy here in Dartmouth and continues to be open to learn all new styles, from Swedish to Thai-style therapies. “I want to be able to soak up all that knowledge to both share it with my students and improve my services to my clients in my practice,” Rhea says.
And as she looks to the future, Rhea shows no signs of stopping.
“I wake up and still get excited about going to work,” Rhea says. “As long as people keep coming, I’m going to continue what I love doing.”