SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Students and faculty gathered last week at Southern Maine Community College's (SMCC) Jewett Auditorium to hear from people unlike them.
The panel and discussion, called Experiencing Difference, was created by Chomba Kaluba. Kaluba came to Maine from Zambia with the help of two Peace Corps workers. He knows first-hand what it's like to encounter people unlike himself.
"When people are different sometimes people have the discomfort, sometimes people have fear but I look at the positive aspect of that," Kaluba said. "How can we look at the positives in each one of us? How can we look at the good in each one of us?"
Kaluba graduated from Bates College in 2010, the same year he started traveling the world to share his story. The activist still travels to impoverished places like Cambodia, Kenya and his home country of Zambia. Sharing how he experiences differences, the same way panelists did at SMCC.
"To be open to just sharing and be open to difference and recognizing that it is challenging and the conversations can be confusing and difficult, but to kind of sit back, actively listen and not take things too personally," said SMCC administrator Anna Medina.
Whether it's listening to the panelists, Kaluba, or those sitting in the audience at Experiencing Difference, the hope is that those listening come away with a bigger understanding of their own differences, than that of others.
"They realize that no matter who they are, no matter how they were born, how they live, no matter what they go through every single day they are unique, they are beautiful and they are powerful," Kaluba said.
Kaluba used to teach a course at SMCC called The Power of Positive and Creative Thinking. He now works for The Life is Good Kids Foundation in Boston.