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Meet Grand Finalist Thea Kurukulasuriya Fernando

13 Nov 2021

In 2020 Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! Grand Final took to the airwaves – for the first time ever we broadcast around the world from a London film studio via YouTube. All but a handful of last year’s finalists shared their messages at digital events rather than live on stage. But things have changed and we are thrilled that this year the Grand Final will return to its home in the heart of London’s West End, the Cambridge Theatre on Monday 29th November. The count down is on!

More than 20,000 year 10 students from state schools in London and Essex took part in the “Speak Out” Challenge! this academic year, just fifteen students have become 2021 Grand Finalists.

All of this year’s finalists are Digital Champions whose pre-recorded speeches were broadcast as Zoom webinars to an audience of friends, families, teachers, the finalists themselves and of course, a panel of esteemed judges.

Last but by no means least, meet the final Grand Finalist of 2021, Thea Kurukulasuriya Fernando!

Thea’s speech ‘Why Organ Donation Should be Compulsory’ earned her and her school, St Mark’s Catholic School, first place in her Digital Final in September. Thea uses her “Speak Out” opportunity to talk about a sensitive, often private but extraordinarily important topic.

We asked Thea, if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be and why? 

Pasta, nothing can beat carbs! Honestly, it’s just so delicious and there is so many different combinations that gets better every time!

You could have made a speech anything in the world. Why did you speak about this one subject?

I spoke about this one particular subject because it’s not mentioned anywhere. It’s such a rare yet important subject to talk about. We already hear everything from mental health, sexism, ethnic minorities and even social media but when have you ever heard anything about organ donation? I believe I am very passionate about this subject as it is a raising issue that demands attention. I know for a fact that when I die, I would want to donate my organs to someone that truly needs it!

And finally, how would you like people to think / act differently from hearing your story?

I want people to be inspired to donate their organs once they die. It doesn’t always sound pleasing to know that once you die your organs will be placed into a complete stranger’s body, however I believe that sometime we just need to grow out of that fear and hesitation and act upon the clear issue in front of us. So many people die because they have to wait, and that includes everyone from children, adults, the elderly, men, women and the list just goes on… I think by making organ donation compulsory we can make a huge difference and save so many lives.

Watch Thea’s winning speech.