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Kilpisjärvi school repeatedly tried to deposit cash that burned in school fire

Nordea Bank has come forward to help fund a field trip for students of Kilpisjärvi school, which was razed by a fire last Sunday. Despite the best efforts of school officials, they were unable to deposit cash raised from the students' fundraising efforts in a bank, so the money which was stored on the premises, went up in smoke with the school.

Kilpisjärven monitoimitalo, jossa toimi myös koulu, tuhoutui täysin tulipalossa Enontekiöllä, 3. toukokuuta 2015. Palo sai alkunsa rakennuksen viereen pysäköidystä asuntoautosta.
The school at Kilpisjärvi was completely destroyed by fire last Sunday. Image: Tea Karvinen / Lehtikuva

Not only did Kilpisjärvi school children lose their school building on Sunday – the product of their fundraising efforts also went up in flames. By volunteering for odd jobs over several years, children managed to raise thousands of euros towards a school field trip.

In a cruel twist of fate, the hard-won cash was destroyed in a fire last Sunday – the school’s staff had been unable to deposit it safely in the bank. According to school teacher Sirpa Keskitalo, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Keskitalo described the staff’s troubles in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning that has since gone viral. By Tuesday afternoon Keskitalo’s post had been shared more than 17,000 times.

Nordea has in recent years closed many branches on northern Finland, the teacher writes. This means that, after incremental increases to the round trip as more and more local branches closed, at present a visit to the nearest bank telling service entails an 880km roundtrip for Kilpisjärvi residents.

According to Keskitalo, over the years numerous unsuccessful attempts had been made to deposit the ever thickening wad of notes at the bank. Various forms of red tape and tighter restrictions on cash transactions meant that even after the long journey, the  bank refused to receive the cash.

She says that the well-traveled envelope of cash had, in its lifetime, traversed over 1,760 kilometres in Finnish Lapland as weary staff members endeavoured to deposit it securely.

Series of banking misfortunes

The school opened an account for the students’ fundraising proceeds at a Nordea branch in Muonio, a distance of about 200 kilometres from Kilpisjärvi.

However the Muonio branch was later closed down, meaning that the next nearest branch was then in Kittilä, some 280 kilometres away. However helpful parents pitched in to transport the growing fund to Kittilä.

As luck would have it, Nordea also decided that its Kittilä branch would no longer accept cash deposits, requiring the school to make an even longer trek to Rovaniemi, some 440 kilometres away, to make the cash transaction.

The school authorities attempted to courier the cash to Rovaniemi twice, however the fund manager and a teacher were told on both occasions that the bank could not accept cash deposits at that time.

A bank official explained on Tuesday that the Rovaniemi branch has strict hours for taking cash deposits - until 1.00 pm. He speculated that the teachers were unable to deposit the funds because they arrived after the one o'clock deadline. He added that tellers cannot make exceptions to the bank's service hours.

No one expected that the school would later be burned to the ground, but that was the case last Sunday. The school has since decided to stick to its plan to take students on a field trip to Rovaniemi, even if some of the funds required for the outing have gone up in smoke.

Guilty conscience?

Nordea Bank has since announced online that it would offer a contribution of 4,000 euros towards the lost field trip money.

"The touching story of the Kilpisjärvi students has been shared on Facebook. We are sorry for the students’ misfortune and we have decided to assist the school trip to the tune of 4,000 euros. We wish them happy school camp days in Rovaniemi," the bank said on its website.

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