Orion Jean Is TIME’s 2021 Kid of the Year

“In the event you see an issue, repair it.” That’s the simplicity with which humanitarian Orion Jean speaks about his work with actor and humanitarian Angelina Jolie, over Zoom, from his house in Fort Price, Tex. Simply 11 years previous, Jean has been chosen from a subject of hundreds of nominees as TIME’s Child of the Yr for 2021. Jean sees himself as an envoy for kindness—he jumps in wherever he sees a necessity, whether or not it’s amassing and donating 100,000 meals to meals insecure households throughout the nation, or getting 500,000 books to children with none at house. At a time when isolation and division are rampant, Jean sees the world because it could possibly be if extra individuals introduced their communities collectively to assist their neediest members.

Jolie, a TIME contributing editor, is an Academy Award–profitable actor and particular envoy of the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees. She just lately co-authored the e-book Know Your Rights and Declare Them, a information to human rights for younger individuals, with Amnesty Worldwide.

ANGELINA JOLIE: I’ve met many various leaders around the globe, and one of many issues that most individuals overlook is methods to clarify a easy fact about what issues. That’s why I’m so impressed with you. You rang a bell in my memory of that.

ORION JEAN: Thanks. Which means rather a lot coming from you.

AJ: Will you clarify the main target of your work and the way it took place?

OJ: I’ve all the time been in a position to, once I get house college, simply watch the information with my mother and father and discover out what’s occurring on the planet. And when the pandemic started, I noticed quite a lot of issues had been taking place, individuals had been shedding their jobs and shedding entry to meals and houses and all of those important issues. And I knew proper then that I wished to do one thing to assist, however the alternative really got here round when my instructor prompt that I enter right into a speech contest. And if I gained the prize cash that got here with the competition, which means I may begin a kindness initiative to assist these individuals.

AJ: What’s a kindness initiative?

OJ: Properly, to me, it may be plenty of issues. And the one which I began was the race to kindness. The race to kindness is not only a sequence of occasions, but in addition a name to motion. It’s a solution to get individuals concerned in the neighborhood, , and after they see one thing taking place now they will exit and do one thing about it.

AJ: You wrote that kindness is a few alternative, which I feel is so necessary. It’s one thing that’s attainable, that everyone can select to do proper now. How would you recommend somebody do this?

OJ: Properly, you’re completely proper, kindness is a alternative and whereas we will’t drive others to be sort, we could be sort ourselves and hope to encourage different individuals. So many individuals have nice concepts, however by no means act on them. I feel it’s all about actually caring concerning the points that you just’re seeing. Somebody informed me that you must discover one thing that breaks your coronary heart so that you can actually get on the market and make a distinction in that space. And I need others to know that they will begin in the present day. If there’s a difficulty or downside or one thing that they see that they wish to clear up, all it takes is de facto simply realizing deep down inside that it’s one thing you care about, and you may exit and get began.

AJ: I actually love that. And also you’re proper about what breaks your coronary heart. I feel if you’re a caring individual, you understand there’s a lot taking place on the planet, and then you definitely don’t know the place to start out or what to do. I feel, on the middle for me was working with refugees, and that was what broke my coronary heart. So I feel you’re precisely proper, individuals can actually take note of what strikes them.

What do your mates take into consideration all of this? Do they be a part of you?

OJ: Properly, quite a lot of them don’t actually know a lot about what I’ve achieved, however I hope that in the event that they see one thing on the information and are like, ‘Hey, I do know him!’ hopefully that evokes them to know that, hey, a child like me can exit and actually make an influence. It’s not about me, I’m only a vessel to unfold kindness and to assist others unfold kindness of their communities as effectively.

AJ: It feels very good to be in your presence. You actually do have a present of sharing this heat and this kindness. Do you ever really feel generally overwhelmed or unhappy when individuals are unkind otherwise you see cruelty?

OJ: Completely. I feel that one of many issues about being sort is that you just perk up if you hear different individuals being unkind or if you hear about people who aren’t doing the proper factor. And it makes you unhappy inside. And like I mentioned, kindness is a alternative, you possibly can’t drive anybody else to be sort. You hope that by inspiring different individuals to unfold kindness that they’ll someway see it and, , change their methods and be extra sort sooner or later.

AJ: It feels higher to be sort, doesn’t it? It’s only a nicer means of speaking with one another.

OJ: Yeah, I feel that kindness generally can simply be as straightforward as not being imply to somebody. Not speaking about somebody behind their again or posting that imply touch upon social media. That’s what kindness could be, it may well simply be so simple as not being merciless to somebody.

AJ: That’s nice recommendation. So I do know additionally you’re a reader, and that you just additionally began an initiative round books. Inform me that story.

OJ: Properly, I’ve beloved books ever since I can keep in mind. I’ve all the time had a e-book in my hand waking up, going to mattress. And I knew that after the race to 100,000 meals, which was one other initiative that I’d achieved, I knew that I wished to have the ability to do one thing greater that might attain extra individuals. I’ve all the time been attempting to get my buddies to love, , ‘Learn this e-book with me!’ or, ‘We’re gonna do like a mini e-book membership,’ or one thing. However now that I’ve the platform, I wished to have the ability to attain extra individuals, and to me literacy is one thing that may get you off the bottom. It will probably help you ultimately get that good job or out of that neighborhood. Or possibly it’s only a means so that you can escape out of your on a regular basis life, and to learn a brand new story a few new tradition or a brand new individual, and discover out one thing that you just didn’t know earlier than.

Some children don’t have entry to any books, actually. I imply, they dwell in areas that we name e-book deserts. And I wished to—possibly not eradicate them, however—make these areas smaller, or no less than get books out to these areas. I wished to have the ability to accomplice with organizations in these communities.

I didn’t do that on my own, it took an entire staff behind me: my mother and father, my household, the entire beneficiant company donors and organizations that we partnered with and strangers that I’ve by no means even met. They’re all donating as a result of they really feel compelled to assist these of their group.

AJ: Did you meet the beneficiaries of the e-book drive?

OJ: Sadly, that’s one of many components of the pandemic that was robust. We did need to distribute the books, and a pair instances I’ve been in a position to see children pick their very own books, and that actually put a smile on my face simply to see these books put a smile on theirs.

AJ: A variety of adults are sitting round today considering, I want there was higher management. I do know you’ve even written a e-book on management. Do acknowledge that you just is perhaps a frontrunner at some point? You already are, at 11. However do you consider your future and what you may wish to be?

OJ: I hope that no matter I do, I can be a frontrunner. However one of many causes I used to be so excited to jot down that e-book is as a result of, from a younger age, I informed you, I’ve beloved studying. And I’ve all the time wished to jot down my very own tales and be an creator once I develop up. However simply realizing that, with all that I’ve been in a position to study, possibly at some point I would turn out to be a rustic or world or state chief in no matter profession that I’ll take. I hope that proper now I’m in a position to be a frontrunner and encourage so many different children to turn out to be leaders as effectively.

AJ: No matter you select to be sooner or later, I’ve little question you’ll accomplish many issues. Do you do something foolish?

OJ: I’m an enormous studying individual. I attempted to get into some musical devices—drums and piano—and , enjoying video video games with my buddies and simply being a child. Studying to have that stability between the entire efforts that I’ve achieved and in addition simply taking time to calm down and be 11.

AJ: I feel quite a lot of younger people who find themselves turning into extra energetic and attempting to make change can burn out. And it appears like your loved ones is aware of very effectively how necessary the stability is.

OJ: Self-care is simply as necessary. You realize, you must follow what you preach. In order for you different individuals to have the ability to care for themselves and have all these requirements, then you must take time for your self as effectively, and simply from time to time know when to take a break and step again.

AJ: I really feel like I’m taking a category from you. You appear so grounded in such an understanding of what’s necessary in life. And it’s actually simply an honor to fulfill you.

OJ: The pleasure, consider me, is all mine. I’ve beloved your humanitarian work and your film work. When did you begin your humanitarian efforts?

AJ: Oh, effectively, I used to be raised by a mother who was conscious of issues taking place on the planet and would discuss to me. She was extraordinarily sort, my mother. Once I began touring—I used to be in a movie and it took me to Cambodia the place I discovered about refugees and landmines—I began to understand how a lot I didn’t know. I noticed that there was an enormous piece of my training that I used to be going to need to fill in myself. I requested to enter the sphere with the UN Refugee Company and begin to bear witness to what was taking place on the planet, after which determined it was an important factor I may do with my life.

OJ: Wow. I imply, you’re proper, simply the thought that not everybody has the identical privileges or alternatives that generally I’ve taken with no consideration. It actually struck me simply realizing that there are individuals on the market who actually do need assistance, they usually don’t have the sources to be dwelling in an enormous house or with books or toys, or possibly even a meal. One thing so simple as a meal could possibly be, , not one thing that’s assured.

AJ: I’ll say additionally that, talking of kindness, the kindest individuals I’ve met are refugees—individuals who don’t have something. I’ve discovered rather a lot about kindness from these people who in all probability have quite a lot of causes to be indignant, however they discovered their grace.

OJ: Completely. It’s a lot simpler to be sort when your focus is just on attempting to get by, not consumed by all of those different issues.

AJ: I feel you’re proper. Whenever you’re stripped of every little thing, what issues. Perhaps at some point we’ll go into the sphere collectively. I’d actually love to affix your race to kindness.

OJ: Thanks. I feel you might be undoubtedly part of the race. You might have been doing it for for much longer than I’ve.

AJ: You’re very sort to say that. Thanks a lot for this interview. And congratulations on being named TIME Child of the Yr. You deserve it.

Examine how we picked the Child of the Yr right here.

Examine extra of the 2021 TIME Child of the Yr finalists right here.

Cowl picture: Styling: Ornella Suad; Flannel Shirt: OshKosh B’gosh; Pants: OshKosh B’gosh. Set manufacturing by Kristen Dempsey and Michele Knafo.

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