TIME’s Kid of the Year Is an 11-Year-Old ‘Ambassador for Kindness’

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TIME’s Kid of the Year for 2021 is 11 year-old Orion Jean, who from his home during the pandemic launched humanitarian missions that have fed 100,000 meals to food insecure families across the country, placed 500,000 books into the hands of kids living in “book deserts” and written a book.

While some of us were stress eating, Jean was serving as an ambassador for kindness. In a recent interview by humanitarian and actress Angelina Jolie, Jean spills the beans on how—and why—he began his remarkable journey.

Jean’s Race to Kindness project started with an online speech contest and led to a movement—which has rapidly grown to have an enormous positive impact on his community and the world. “If you see a problem, fix it.” Jean said of his simple philosophy on kindness. After seeing news reports of people losing their jobs, their homes and their health during the pandemic, he knew he wanted to help.

“Kindness sometimes can just be as easy as not being mean to someone. Not talking about someone behind their back or posting that mean comment on social media. That’s what kindness can be, it can just be as simple as not being cruel to someone,” he told Jolie. “Kindness is a choice and while we can’t force others to be kind, we can be kind ourselves and hope to inspire other people.”

And inspire them he has. Jean began with a toy drive, with a goal of collecting 500 toys for needy children in a month. “I think that when I reached my first goal and surpassed it by over 100 toys, then I knew that there truly is hope because people—all people—have the ability to be kind,” he said in a Little Kids, Big Hearts podcast. “Sometimes it just takes one person to bring it out of them.”

Since his initial toy drive, Jean has set—and exceeded—new goals to address hunger and literacy In underserved communities. And he discusses ways kids can have an impact on their communities by taking it one problem—and one solution—at a time. “It’s not about me, I’m just a vessel to spread kindness and to help others spread kindness in their communities as well.”

—Shelley Massey

Featured image Orion Jean/ Instagram

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