Refugee families pose with photos of loved ones left behind for new book

A Kitchener-based photographer has been taking family portraits of refugees living in Waterloo region for the past year — photos that will soon be published in a book.

Brian Limoyo photographs newcomers to Waterloo Region

Doli Doli fled violence in Myanmar. In Limoyo's book, she says she hopes to be with family in Canada. In this picture, she is showing a picture of her sister and children. (Brian Limoyo)

For the past year, Kitchener photographer Brian Limoyo has been taking family portraits of refugees living in Waterloo region - photos that will soon be published in a book. 

"This project is really driven by love — trying to show how families all around the world, the love is the same," Limoyo told CBC News.

"After all this trauma, after everything that's happened, after we hear their story, when you see the photos of them with their family, they're just families." 

Yang Deng Bouh came to Canada from South Sudan. In Limoyo's book, he says the hardest thing he had to leave behind was his wife. (Brian Limoyo)

Limoyo has been working with staff at Reception House of Waterloo Region on The Great Canadian Portrait Project for over a year. 

He said that when he approached them with his idea, they were quick to jump on board. 

Since the project launched, Limoyo estimates he has taken photos of at least 20 refugee families. 

Some of their stories and photos will soon be published in a book, due out in late August or early September. 

The Al Mohammad family's home in Aleppo, Syria, was bombed "to pieces," according to Limoyo's book. They say transitioning to life in Canada was not easy but that changed when a group of volunteers from Parkminster United Church welcomed them into their lives. (Brian Limoyo)

In interviewing the families for the book, Limoyo made a point of asking what each family had to leave behind in their country of origin. He also photographed families holding a photo of someone they had to leave behind.

"I really wanted to remind people that there's still conflicts that are still happening and families are still not together, and families belong together," he said.

Limoyo said he hopes this book will be the first of many and intends to continue giving the free family portrait sessions for as long as they are wanted. 

When it is finished, the book will be available for order through Reception House.

According to Limoyo, all proceeds will go to the agency, and toward The Great Canadian Portrait Project.


Melanie Ferrier is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in Kitchener, Ont. You can email her at