According to a survey by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, as much as one-third of school children between the ages of 7 and 12 experience bullying, and one-fifth of children between the ages of 13 and 15. Some 6% experience bullying every week. Bullying has wide-reaching consequences, and the fear of bullying alone can impact a child’s school attendance.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. The retailers of Finland’s biggest neighbourhood store chain decided to lend their helping hand.
“K-Market stores are an active part of their local communities, and therefore it is logical they would act as anti-bullying zones. We want to make all neighbourhoods a better place to live, and our extensive network of local neighbourhood stores enables us do this,” says Jesper Åberg, who heads the K-Market store chain.
Many K-Market stores are located close to a school, and for many kids, K-Market retailers represent grownups who they know and trust. K-Market stores now form a 780 location strong network where children can always find a responsible adult to turn to if they are being bullied.
K-Market Tervapata sets the example
Ville Kestilä is the retailer of K-Market Tervapata in the village of Tervakoski. Last autumn he witnessed a few occasions of children bullying other children in front of his store.
“Once a child ran in, shaking with fear and pleading for help, while a bunch of bigger kids followed in their heels. Our staff acted brilliantly, making sure the kid was able to exit the store safely through the backdoor,” explains Kestilä.
After that, Kestilä and his staff decided to officially declare the store an anti-bullying zone. Kestilä also challenged his retailer colleagues via Facebook to do the same.
“All grownups, including K-store staff, can put a stop to a bullying situation. We also need help from professionals to resolve the issue,” says Kestilä.
Teaming up with the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare
All grownups have a responsibility to address bullying, also outside school and homes. However, this might not always be easy. K-Market stores have teamed up with the Mannerheim League of Child Welfare, an association that has long worked towards bullying prevention and support for bullied children.
The League offers the stores information and tools for handling bullying situations. The stores also distribute information to customers on ways to support anti-bullying work.