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Vancouver Community Library hosts Save the Children exhibit

When Claudia Franson closes her eyes, she can hear the gunshots exchanged during the Salvadoran Civil War.

“My mind still hears the bullets going next to my ears,” said Franson, who arrived in California with her family as a refugee in the early 1990s.

Franson, who now lives in Vancouver, is a volunteer with the Save the Children Action Network, the political arm of the international nonprofit promoting access to early childhood education and aid to children in war-torn countries. The organization Wednesday brought a series of photos featuring refugee children to the Vancouver Community Library as part of its Stop the War on Children Week of Action.

Organizers say they hope the photos and stories attached to them provide a window to the public and lawmakers about the conditions in war-torn countries. The organization is also pushing lawmakers to support House Resolution 277, which calls on the United States to commit to protecting children in conflict areas.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, signed onto the bill as a co-sponsor after The Columbian asked her office for a comment on the resolution.

“In the U.S., we’re fortunate that most children have access to an education,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement to The Columbian. “Tragically, this is not the reality for so many children around the world, particularly those who live in nations afflicted by war and conflict.”

Herrera Beutler joins fellow Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, in co-sponsoring the resolution. There are 34 co-sponsors in all for the resolution, which does not have any money or specific policy directive attached to it.

Still, Jessica Galvez, Washington manager of the Save the Children Action Network, said it’s an important step toward prioritizing the needs of children across the globe who are affected by war.

“Children are not a partisan issue,” Galvez said.

The photos featured will remain on display at the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Vancouver, until Oct. 23. In them, children from countries including Myanmar, Syria and Yemen stare out from refugee camps or the new countries they’ve resettled in. According to a 2019 report from the organization, 420 million children worldwide live in conflict zones. Of those, 142 million children are in areas with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year.

For volunteers like Franson, this work is personal. Looking around at the photos, she said she sees herself in these faces.

“I’ve been there,” she said. “Some of these kids won’t have that choice.”

But, Franson said, she intends to keep working to make sure more children have the opportunities she had.

“We are beacons, and I’m not going to let that light shut down,” Franson said.


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