BabySteps team

From left to right: Fardeen Khan, Alisha Karmali, Shafaq Zakir and Katerina Szkolka. Not pictured: Osama Sidat

A UWaterloo startup is on their way to winning a million-dollar prize one step at a time with the support of the UWaterloo community.

BabySteps Academy is a startup created in response to President Bill Clinton’s Hult Prize Challenge 2015, focusing on early childhood development in the slums around the world. First prize: $1,000,000.

The two-month-old BabySteps program was created by five UWaterloo undergraduate students, including Alisha Karmali as team captain. The startup pitched their idea at the first round of the Hult Prize on November 14 and will now be competing in the spring to become finalists for the prize. The team hopes that by providing quality early childhood education to youth in underdeveloped urban areas, it will also create more job opportunities for women.  

Three of our team members have grown up in third world countries where they witnessed children growing up in the slums first hand. I recently visited Nairobi, Kenya and was touched by the amount of poverty I witnessed. We are motivated to make a difference and the Hult Challenge provided us a platform to make a change on a global scale.
–Alisha Karmali

St. Paul’s GreenHouse has provided BabySteps with support during this development stage, but the team is in need of support from the greater UWaterloo community to finance the research they need to move forward. Much of the competition for the million-dollar prize reside in third world countries and have direct access to slums to test their ideas.

The team consists of five UWaterloo students, including Alisha (Business and Psychology), Fardeen Khan (Nanotechnology Engineering), Katerina Szkolka (Psychology), Shafaq Zakir (Economics and Finance) and Osama Sidat (Computer Science). BabySteps hopes to raise enough funds to travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh during reading week 2015 to gather evidence and raise awareness.

After graduation, Alisha plans to attend law school while working on BabySteps as a side project. She expressed her passion for the project by saying, "I truly believe in our idea and I am set on making a difference."

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