When nine Mozambican youth arrived at the Whitehorse airport last month, we were basking in temperatures barely below zero. But for the group of Africans leaving their plus 30°C homeland, they were stepping onto frozen ground, they had never seen snow, never seen their breath freeze in the air, never worn a parka…

Now armed with winter gear and 3 weeks of Yukon living, they are ready to put on a party and welcome us to look into their world through a taste of Mozambican food, music, traditional songs, dance and artwork.

On Nov. 16 they are hosting a dinner party and fundraiser at the Association franco-yukonnaise (l’AFY) at 5:30 p.m. and all are welcome, but there’s only room for 60 people.

The youth, aged 18 to 25, are on an exchange program with nine Canadians through Canada World Youth. This summer the Canadians met up with the nine Mozambicans and the whole group went to a small village to live. They spent two and a half months there and are now completing the exchange by spending the same amount of time in Whitehorse. In both countries, the youth develop leadership skills through volunteering in work placements and community development projects and experiencing a life foreign to their own.

On Friday, the dinner will be prepared by the youth, they’ll sing traditional songs and perform a traditional dance in their native dress. They will also present a slideshow of their lives in Mozambique and offer a silent auction of traditional artwork.

Tanilzia Chiconela is one of the Mozambicans who will be cooking dinner, singing and dancing at the event. She said dinner will be chicken, beans, lentils and rice with vegetables, but Mozambican style. The cuisine is flavourful, using a base of coconut milk, garlic and lemon, but it’s not spicy.

“I don’t know how to explain to you how delicious it is, but it’s really good,” says Chiconela.

Her experience here has made a big impact on her, from new Canadian recipes, to the friendliness of Yukon people, to the craziness of experiencing such a cold climate.

“Something interesting is that here when you go inside it’s warm, but when you go outside, it’s super cold,” she says. “In Mozambique, when it’s hot, it’s hot inside and outside. And when it’s cold, it’s cold inside and outside.”

When she talks about cold weather, she’s talking about 15°C. Not the kind of cold that brings snow, which tripped the Mozambicans out the first time they got close to it.

“The first thing I did was touch it and put it in my mouth to see how it tastes,” says Chiconela. “And we made snow balls and threw them at each other and it was really funny.”

The group will be taking home stories of life in the Yukon, new skills and a new vision of community development, but they have also set a goal of raising $500 to send back to Mozambique for a community project.

Canada World Youth project supervisor Simon Schnachner says a Mozambican youth who participated in the exchange program last year is spearheading a community health project, building much needed latrines and planting indigenous fruit trees. The funds raised at the dinner will help get that project off the ground.

“We want projects to be originating from local communities, from the local young people,” says Schnachner. “Often, a big barrier to making a difference is not having the money to do a project.”

Once grocery costs for the dinner are covered, the rest of the ticket revenue will fund the nursery project.

The Taste of Mozambique dinner is part of the Cafe Rencontres dinner series at l’AFY. It takes place Friday, Nov. 16th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at l’AFY, located in Whitehorse at 302 Strickland St. Space is limited. Tickets are $10 to $20 (sliding scale) per person and can be reserved at l’AFY, call 668-2663.