Camryn Bynum first visited the Philippines during the summer of 2021.
In the less than two years since, the Southeast Asian country has become his second home.
As a biracial young man growing up in California, Bynum appreciated and valued both pieces of his African American-Filipino heritage. He and his family lived in Corona, California, where most of his father's family lived, and during school breaks and summer months they'd drive up to the Bay Area to spend time with his mother's Filipino family.
"It's always been important to me," Bynum said. "And once I got to visit the Philippines after my rookie season, it grew. It's like, 'Wow, this is really where all of my people are from, where I'm from, and this is why we are the way we are.'
"It puts the whole puzzle together when you're able to go back home," he added.
But Bynum was struck during his visit by those living in poverty or facing unique challenges related to weather and climate. According to the Asian Disaster Reduction Center, the Philippines are hit by an average of 20 typhoons per year, making it one of the most frequently and severely affected countries worldwide.
"I saw there's a different level of help that some communities there need," Bynum said. "There are areas in the Philippines that experience real struggle. Whether it's typhoons, other natural disasters or poverty, it's a different level of pain they're going through.
"They don't get a lot of light shed on what's going on there," he added. "We often don't hear about it in the States."
So when Bynum decided to launch a nonprofit, he knew providing support in the Philippines would be a main focal point of the charity.
With the help of his mother, Jennifer, Bynum established the Bynum Faith Foundation, which officially became a 501c3 last spring. The foundation's mission is to provide aid and holistic relief to underprivileged communities across the U.S. and the Philippines by means of food distribution and psychological first aid to disaster victims, helping rebuild homes, distributing educational supplies, and inspiring youth in athletic activities like American football camps.
In early March 2023, the Bynum Faith Foundation traveled for the second time to Leyte, the eighth-largest island in the Philippines, to help provide disaster relief.
"I think it's more life-changing if you go there and spend time in person, instead of just tossing money to people. Really put a name with the face and really say, 'OK, they see us and they're here to help us.' Then it's even more impactful going back multiple times," said Bynum, who noted they revisit communities to establish a relationship of trust. "We don't want it to be just a one-time thing."
"We were able to see [the Leyte community in 2022], when they were fresh out of the typhoon, when they were living in the evacuation center still. Then when we came back in 2023 they had their new homes in an evacuation community – they built little homes for them – so we were able to help there," Bynum continued. "Then we came back later in the summer for another outreach. … To see them really get back on their feet, that's probably the most impactful. I love being able to see the same people multiple times and watch them grow. And build real relationships."
Bynum is honored this season to represent the Bynum Faith Foundation through the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats initiative.
He'll wear the custom-painted kicks this weekend, when the Vikings take on the Raiders in Las Vegas, and hopes they will inspire fans to join the Bynum Faith Foundation in making a difference.
"I hope they will be willing to help. There are a lot of people in need, and the NFL does a great job letting us help and shed light on the cause we're in love with," Bynum said. "Whether they look at my cleats or somebody else's, it's really exciting to be able to put that on a world stage with so many watching.
"The more people who see [the cause], the more who can actually help," he added. "Whether it's prayers, whether it's donations, whether it's people who want to travel out to the Philippines with us and help out, any way would be grateful. Using the platform for that reason is a big positive."
Bynum is honored that his wife Lalaine will be able to see his cleats in-person Sunday.
Over the past several weeks, NFL fans and others across the country became familiar with the story of Bynum and Lalaine, who had been unable to travel to the U.S. due to two denials of tourist visa requests.
Thanks in large part to MN8, Bynum's legal team, and political leaders, Lalaine was able to obtain a tourist visa and arrived in the States on Nov. 5. One week later, she attended the Vikings game against the Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium, for the first time watching her husband play NFL football.
Though Bynum and Lalaine actually met in Dubai (that's a story for another time), her home is the island of Leyte.
"It's really a whole big family thing. I feel like it's really put the puzzle together," Bynum said with a smile. "It helps me learn more about the culture, and it makes our heart to serve out there even stronger.
"We started doing everything through her church. So really, since the beginning, it's been both of us serving with each other," he added. "It helps so much being able to do that with her and help her community – and now my community, as well."