Friday, December 18, 2015
Living Leyte People Features: Randy Mindt, Philanthropist
Randy Gene Mindt
Originally from: Born on Oregon, USA, grew up in Portland, also lived in Montana, Washington State, lived fifteen years in Tucson, AZ.
Randy is sometimes called “Tatay” (father) by the people who work for him and he has this avuncular air about him. He possesses an amiable demeanor and is approachable. His humanitarian efforts ranges from empowering people, improving lives, granting scholarships to deserving individuals and more. His efforts are faith-based through what he refers to as “Lifeology” which translates to exhibiting his faith by his deeds.
LL: Randy, can you describe the place and vibe where you come from, the most recent one?
RGM: Tucson is an ethnic city with Spanish-Mexican influence, it’s twenty minutes to one hour to the border (of Mexico). It has a heavy Catholic community, beautiful outdoors. It’s hot, it’s the desert, it has some of the greatest lightning storms in the world, I like it for that.
LL: You take photography of lightnings? They make good photographs.
RGM: I used to be an avid photographer before it became digital. I went to film school, we would shoot from sixteen - eighteen millimeters then it became Beta then VHS and so on.
LL: What was your life like before you came?
RGM: I was a missionary-pastor’s kid. Coming over (to the Philippines) has always been a part of my life. I traveled a lot, my parents traveled a lot, they started coming over to Leyte about 25 years ago. We worked in Mindanao, but Region 8 was their primary ministry. I came over to Leyte 15 years ago. I had a family but I did not bring them full time. I ended up having export business, began an export business in the northwest of the US; I had that for almost 10 years, my specialty are books and medicine then I created a book franchise outfit here in the Philippines.
LL: Can I name the book franchise? *Randy winks at me and I get the code for “best not.” Which is cool with me.
LL: What's your impression of our place?
RGM: The reason why I was attracted to the Philippines is because of the people. Filipinos love life, laughter, art, they are artistic, musically inclined, they have an artistic flair within them. From the first friends I’ve had in the 40 years that I’ve come... the capacity of the Filipino's mind is greater than what they realize. Languages, they have taken it to another level, they have a greater capacity to learn and this is what created the Filipino endurance, patience and ability to go forward in spite of. This component of the Filipino I am always amazed by, for example, a person can come out from a mud house and put me to shame with what they know in languages.
LL: Why do you think we possess this?
RGM: I think it’s because of the different cultures present in the society. The Philippines is a melting pot, because of that you have so many languages, from the Spanish heritage, Chinese, Southeast Asian, because of all these components, because of the melting pot, you either survive and integrate the languages. All of a sudden a family has learned a lot of languages.
LL: Wow, you have good things to say about us! We have this issue though, after the typhoon (Yolanda) many good things came out of it as well as not so good ones, nationwide studies have shown that our region is the highest in teenage pregnancy after Yolanda, why do you think this is happening?
RGM: I believe it's because of the drive for human connection, it’s the fear of not being able to experience bearing life.
LL: Can you say something towards our level of materialism, I mean, I personally have not seen this many luxury vehicles, gadgets or accessories after a massive tragedy.
RGM: As for materialism, they do it because they think it adds value to themselves, they believe it enhances how people "look at me,” also, materialism is increasing because of integration. They look at the world around them and they aspire, this is no different than in the US. Filipinos see the foreigners that are here right now for example who will order coffee for hundreds of pesos and that’s nothing to an westerner, but to the Filipino who is looking, they will aspire. I was at Robinson’s the other day and what were people looking at? this iPhone 6 or 7 and I said, “Shoot me if I buy this thing,” I will not buy a phone that costs one thousand dollars when I could drop it, break it, it might slip in the toilet or someone might take it from me.
LL: I see pretty much that we have been able to rebuild after the typhoon.
RGM: The rebuilding can take fifteen years; and because of the Filipino’s resiliency and fortitude… There’s this grasping of the Filipino culture NOT to dissolve, there’s this component. There’s a percentage in the country that is pushing to a new paradigm. Filipinos are not dumb, they know that there’s a component in this world that it (The Philippines) can even be a greater nation. I call the Filipino people as the “Daniels” of this world.
LL: The Biblical prophet Daniel?
RGM: Yes, Filipinos are in all different types of work all over the world, they are engineers, medical people, laborers, one day they will rise up and one day they will have a voice. The younger ones right now, the 20’s group, they are the ones that will make or break a people.
LL: You recently had a symposium for women, can you tell us more about that? Was it for improvement of conditions?
RGM: I conducted a women’s conference, I brought in team members from the US, my goal was to expand their capacity for who they think they are, I work in the faith community, so I try to bring people together who want to experience that. I want for people to identify what they have. In that conference, I wanted Filipinos to partner with the Americans so that they can work alongside. In that environment we move to a community and the components are health, feedings, conferences and seminars but these are not about me, I’m just the one who orchestrates it. My mission is when we leave the conference, someone will feel refreshed, empowered and they will talk about what they learned, even if it is to disagree, it’s OK if people disagree.
LL: So it’s information and empowerment.
RGM: I look at the positive first. In the Philippines, it’s the women that move things.
LL: Yes, I think we are a matriarchal society, it didn’t use to be that though.
RGM: It’s because of the the number of women in the country, and also, the men are disengaged, complacent you might say. There are less involved. I have seen men who make the wives their cash cows. I once tried to help this couple, the wife was pregnant and she was my employee, the husband didn’t have a job. The wife asked me if I could help them start a business. It was going to be a chicken business. He wanted two chickens to start with, I told them, to start a chicken business, you need more than two chickens, you need over one hundred; two chickens - that's a hobby. I think that was just an excuse so that it can’t be said that he didn’t have a job while the wife would take care of the babies she was going to give birth to.
LL: What are other areas where you are involved in?
RGM: Coming here to help was always part of what I had done. I would always do youth camps here in the past, I would have youth camps at first for the kids of the parents who worked in the US Embassy. I would do week to week lessons, I wanted them to realize what influence they could bring having the privileges that they had. I have scholarships, right now I have thirty seven who are in college, there are in Tacloban, Guian, Cebu, Ormoc, Samar, Manila and Mindanao. My approach is what I call “Life-ology.” There is a saying that goes, “The eyes of the blind are watching you.” There should be no motive when you help.
LL: You have given me a lot for this interview already but please allow me to divert to this default question I have and this one is: given an opportunity to resolve one global issue or conflict happening in the world right now, which one would you take a gander at?
RGM: What I really wish in reality is the best thing that we could do is to have a better education system. That we would teach people how to learn, not just how to take a test, teach critical learning skills to disseminate information better, but because we are taught in a theocratic way…
LL: Like spoon-feeding?
RGM: Yes, like that and the way where the teacher is the only source of learning, kids don’t learn much; and you don’t have much of a window to do this, if the kids don’t learn things from ages five to thirteen, if they haven’t been taught what’s important by then, then it’s finished and this creates a vacuum. We need to make leaders.
It is obvious that Randy has been ensconced here with us for decades now, he and his humanitarian work. He is involved in our community in a very personal sense and he gives a lot to people. Of a certain thing, many people who have been recipients of his efforts are singing kudos songs to his “life-ology.”
LL: Randy, thanks for this and thanks for all your work here in our community.
RGM: My pleasure.