In tribute to the nation that welcomed and resettled him and his siblings, Trung created busts of 10 famous Canadians, including then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and environmental advocate David Suzuki.

“When you die you are buried,” says Trung. “But the soul – the spirit – is still alive. I want to make sculptures that we can look at, so people can remember any day, any time. It lasts forever.”

Trung Pham has spent years as an artist in Canada and much of his work has received accolades.  © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Inside the exposed pine ribs of Trung’s studio, a dusty haze of plaster settles over the large busts congregated around his table. The diversity of his subjects is testament to his passion and vision – a former Canadian prime minister rests opposite Vietnamese generals. On the far edge of one row, Trung’s late mother watches over his work.

The City of Mississauga, near Toronto, is currently working with Trung to cast a large statue in commemoration of the many Vietnamese residents now living in the area.

“Younger Canadians don’t understand why our people came to Canada,” says Trung. “But now, this figure – this statue – will show them the boat that carried the Vietnamese to freedom.”

He hopes his work conveys the tragedy, as well as the dreams of those who fled Viet Nam.

“Artists, they have their special soul,” says John. “His expression is through art – sculpting and painting. That’s his life. And he will continue to do that until his last days.”