While Central Washington University graduate Tyler Belan was in college, going downtown and drinking every weekend didn’t interest him, he said.
“I decided instead of doing that, I would do more productive things,” said Belan, 23.
The public relations major and nonprofit minor raised $11,000 for a five-month trip around the world doing global mission work with the Christian nonprofit Youth With a Mission.
After seven months of fundraising and preparations, the trip started Jan. 1. He is beginning his travels on the big island of Hawaii for eight weeks of theological study and training at the University of the Nations. From there he will embark on a 12-week trip aboard a 75-foot ship equipped with medical supplies, other mission students and staff.
The ship will travel to under-developed islands in Micronesia, he said. While they will bring medical supplies, Belan said he’s most excited to bring hope to the islands’ residents.
“There’s hope in the world and people do love them,” he said. “All my power is through a higher power, and that’s God. I have a lot of faith and without that faith I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
While his travels will take him far from his Marysville home, he said he will hold the Ellensburg community, Ellensburg’s Mercer Creek Church and his education at Central close.
Part of what makes his dream trip a reality are the supportive mentors and community he found in Ellensburg, he said. During his courses at Central, Belan said he made sure to take the extra step to apply his education. He served as public relations director fall quarter 2013 on the Central Communication Agency, a student-run operational communication agency.
“(I wasn’t) just going through the motions, but also doing things that challenged me,” he said. “Getting out there and shaking a few hands, smiling, and getting into the community.”
Cesar Garcia, communications department chairman at Central, taught Belan in public relations strategies fall quarter 2013 and said many college students don’t always know what they want. With Belan, it’s obvious he does.
“He’s a person with initiative,” Garcia said. “I’ve found that that’s going to help him a lot.”
Garcia said he is excited to see the outcomes of Belan’s work during his trip and in the future.
Help from community
Belan was also involved with Mercer Creek Church’s Kids Club, an after school opportunity for elementary children throughout the Kittitas Valley with crafts, games, Bible study and more.
The community was also supportive financially, Belan said. He raised money through writing mission letters, taking donations on a website he created, using crowd sourcing and sharing his story with anyone who would listen. He received online donations from people he didn’t even know, he said.
Raising money wasn’t the only thing that motivated Belan. His passion for mission trips started at age 15, when he went on his first mission trip to Costa Rica. He continued to go on trips throughout his high school years to Costa Rica, Mississippi and Mexico.
Since then, Belan has continued to pursue his dreams of mission work, and will use his Central education in his future, he said.
Belan said he thinks many people “get lost” in college, but he chose to pursue his goals and make the trip a possibility.
“(Raising) $11,000 in seven months — I never thought that was possible,” he said. “This is just one example of someone reaching out to their goals and following their dreams. Anyone can do that.”