The Youngest Victims: Impact of crime on children in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - From shootings to gangs, the crime problem in Savannah is on the minds of many.

Some of the people impacted most by this violence are those who live in neighborhoods where it happens all too often, especially children.

Zadonna Slay, executive director of the YMCA on Broad Street, finds it extremely troubling how much crime children are exposed to in our area.

"Before it was something you saw on TV, in the movies, video games. But now it's happening when they wake up there's yellow tape," she said.

Lorenzo McDonald, founder and president of Savannah Lives Matter, spends much of his time on the streets in the community talking with these children.

"They're used to what goes on around them. They don't run when they see violence because they've become used to it. It's unfortunate," he said.

Molly Liberman, like McDonald and Slay, is one person who is forced to have those difficult conversations. The founder of Loop it Up Savannah, a community art program, said she recently spoke with a child who described a shooting near his home. He described it as something that "just happens."

Liberman said this is extremely hard to grasp, but instead of explaining that is not what "just happens," she said she vows to make sure children see there is good things that happen in life more than the bad.

"The best thing is to make it so good things just happen as consistently as the crime and bad things."

Liberman and the other volunteers with her organization take arts and crafts to crime-ridden neighborhoods to give the children a distraction from what might be happening around them.

"Time for them to express themselves in a way they might not regularly be able to," she explained.

In addition to this, events like the Fall Festival at the YMCA provide a safe haven for children.

"It's about hope, knowing there's another alternative, you can make it, there's people who want you to make it," McDonald said.

Also at the YMCA, Slay and her staff offer activities like yoga and poetry to provide children with a way to share their feelings.

McDonald said efforts like this from the community are crucial for the future.

"Let's secure the future for our children. Our children matter, their lives matter."

For more information on Loop it Up Savannah, click here.

For program information at the Broad Street YMCA, click here.

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