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CAMH employee and team vow to push ahead with Talking Stickers project

It was a bittersweet result, but a fresh start for CAMH’s Lak Chinta and his colleagues from the University of Toronto’s Team Attollo.

The team had earned their spot among six finalist teams for the prestigious Hult Prize for global social enterprise in New York City on Saturday. This year’s challenge was to tackle early childhood education in the urban slum. First place and the $1 million prize went to the team from National Chengchi University in Taipei for their PlayCares concept.

But Lak and his team are determined to press on with their Talking Stickers concept, which has gained attention and commitment from some heavy-hitting global organizations.

“We gave our best on stage in New York,” said Lak. “We were not the winning team but we won many hearts with an innovative solution.”Lak Chinta and colleagues
Lak Chinta of CAMH’s Finance Department (at left) with U of T Team Attollo’s Aisha Bukhari and Peter Cinat. The U of T team won the regional finals held in Dubai earlier this year. Photo: Nick Cooper, Seven Media.

Lak says his team has secured letters of intent for pre-orders of 200,000 units from the Aga Khan Foundation, Pratham India and Right to Play organizations. In addition, the team has connected with organizations ranging from DataWind to UNICEF to the Centre for Global Child Health to move forward to implement Talking Stickers on a global scale.

“We’re humbled by the response from our committed partnerships to introduce our solution.  The next step is to raise initial funds to develop a rugged reader device for the stickers. We plan to seek crowd sourcing, philanthropic donations and grants, and social investors who can provide us with the initial funds to get Talking Stickers to marginalized children around the world.”

Underprivileged children as a group are exposed to 30 million fewer words than privileged children by age three, Lak notes. This “Word Gap” limits children’s preparation for primary school. Talking Stickers can mobilize millions of parents to close the Word Gap. To see Talking Stickers in action, check out the video on the Attollo web site. (Attollo is Latin for “elevate”).

Talking stickers use a small device to scan the sticker and speak to the child.

This year’s Hult Prize-winning team from Taipei, IMPCT, developed “PlayCares,” a daycare concept that is franchised to a local entrepreneur – typically a woman with children.  The daycare features a classroom, teaching system and support for about 20 families and their children. To fund the PlayCares, Impct is looking to individual “micro-equity” investors who will receive a small return in exchange for funding the new daycares.

“I’m so proud of the innovation Lak and his team have developed to address a pivotal global socio-economic problem,” said CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn. She joined CAMH VP Finance Hilary Rodrigues in New York to represent CAMH in its support for Team Attollo.

“Lak – congratulations on Talking Stickers and your team’s journey to transform early education. We wish you the best in the next phase of the project!”

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