Microfinance and development organisation Opportunity International Australia are holding hot and spicy fundraiser - the Great Australian Curry campaign - to help address the issue of poverty around the world over the next couple of months. Here, some of the more high profile participants talk about why they're taking part...

Cook off 1

The competitors in this year's curry cook-off to launch Opportunity International Australia's Great Australian Curry fundraiser - Michael Kasprowicz and Valerie Ferdinands, and Stephanie Rice and Courtney Ferdinands. ALL PICTURES: Opportunity International Australia.

Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, entrepreneur and businesswoman Stephanie Rice, among competitors in a 'curry cook-off' last month to launch this year's Great Australian Curry fundraiser, nominates a vegan pumpkin, coconut and chick pea curry as her favourite. 

“I love the way my one-time donation of $70 to Opportunity, over the course of my lifetime, may be used for 10 or 12 business loans to families in India,” she says. "By contributing to The Great Australia Curry campaign, you can cook up a curry, share it with family and friends at home and ask your guests to donate to Opportunity. This donation can help families in India build their own businesses so they can provide for their families too!"

Ms Rice says that among the best aspects of Great Australian Curry is that it "brings friends and families together to help give families in India a better chance at life". As well as competing in the curry cook-off, I’m planning a vegan curry night at home with my sister and our friends. I hope Aussies will be inspired to participate with me and share their curries via social media."


Cook off 2

Stephanie Rice and Courtney Ferdinands in action in the kitchen.

Former Australian Test cricketer Michael Kasprowicz - who along with Valerie Ferdinands, among competitors on this year's edition of Australian TV show My Kitchen Rules, won this year's curry cook-off against Ms Rice and Ms Ferdinand's daughter (and fellow MKR competitor) Courtney - says his favourites are southern Indian-style prawn curries and any vegetarian dish containing eggplant. 

“Children in India often go hungry and may not go to school because their parents can’t afford the fees," says Kasprowicz, who is now an Opportunity International Australia council member. "As a parent wanting the best for my children, I’m particularly committed to sharing opportunities with parents in India. Like me, they want their children to have a secure future and they are willing to work hard to achieve this.”

Kasprowicz says he'd love to see Aussie cricket fans "cook up a curry this October or November, share it with friends and raise funds to help families in India receive small loans from Opportunity".

"I’ve seen myself how families in India use the income from their tiny businesses for the basic necessities of life – clean water, nutritious food, safe shelter and education for their children," he says. “The Great Australian Curry will increase awareness amongst Aussies of India’s poverty and the way Opportunity is working with families in India to free themselves from poverty, with hope, dignity and purpose.”


Cook off 3

Winning team Michael Kasprowicz and Courtney Ferdinands.

Valerie Ferdinands, who, along with her daughter Courtney, came runners-up in this year's MKR, says she has many favourite curries including a chicken curry with coconut rice - "my Dad’s specialty, it was like our version of the Sunday roast" - as well as an extra hot goat curry. 

“The Great Australian Curry is a powerful way of getting the message out to people about Opportunity and the way it helps families to break the cycle of poverty. Too many people in India live in poverty and struggle to feed their kids – we want to help!”

Her daughter Courtney Ferdinands says she prefers hot and spicy Anglo-Indian curries.

“From a very early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of giving back to the community and less fortunate, so sharing a delicious spicy curry with friends and family, while at the same time giving back to families and women living in poverty, is a wonderful thing to do, and all for a great cause.”

The Great Australian Curry will help raise funds so families in India can receive small loans to build businesses, earn regular incomes, put food on the table and send their children to school. For more information on how you can get involved in the Great Australian Curry initiative, head to www.greataustraliancurry.org.au.