Jane High – environmentalist and humanitarian

Jane High making a presentation to orphaned and vulnerable young people in Chimanimani who she assists

By Norma Tsopo

Jane High is a passionate environmentalist and expert hotelier – making her role as secretary for Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA) a perfect fit.

But there is something more about her – she’s a Pitbull. Threaten anything that is dear to her and she would come at you unrelentingly.

Jane High making a presentation to orphaned and vulnerable young people in Chimanimani who she assists

Illegal mining rings that were plundering Chimanimani mountains and the local authority that tried to settle people in an arboretum as well as a local mining company that tried to establish a compound in a low density area on the buffer zone of Eland Sanctuary Park – a strategic birding hot spot, would testify what it is like to be in her crosshairs.

Her frank approach has often made bureaucrats in the small community very paranoid as she is not afraid to tell them to their face to spruce up their professional conduct or resign if they are unable. They have often responded by pointing fingers at her accusing her of either being a racist or a political activist.

Her selfless personality has also seen her working with local vulnerable children from a poor village in the area – Matsetso.

A top athlete in her youth – playing hockey at national team level, she officially wound up her sporting career as an elite athlete coach albeit in another sporting discipline, swimming.

She had to quit her position as Zimbabwe Aquatic Union national coach in the late 1980s but producing elite swimmers from among poor neighborhoods for a sport that is so cruel you would need to stay in water for up to six hours a day and needed to be swimming for up to five years before one’s talent is clearly identifiable she resigned in frustration.

That is when she began her pursuit of her interests in tourism. Interestingly she never abandoned her craving to produce top athletes – only this time it’s on her own terms and for sports she believes she would help locals achieve success, golf and football.

She is currently fixed on producing professional golfers from a pool of around 24 young boys and girls.

Taking advantage of the existence of a golf course in the valley between Greenmount and Matsetso at Chimanimani Country Club she has been grooming athletes who may compete at the highest level in years to come.

These young players serve as caddies when golfers come around to play on the course as part of their exposure and learning. They all now dream of being the next Tiger Woods.

Jane and her partner Dee Schafer are Trustees of The Peza Trust which sources equipment, funds and people to place disadvantaged children on educational courses, training and outings which help them to fulfil their talents and potential.

Frog and Fern Cottages also donates two dollars from every bed night paid by guests to this initiative.

Matsetso Stars football club is one of the projects supported by this trust. “Some of the boys used to drink and engage in violent activities – totally lost. They have a purpose now. That’s what sport can do,” High says.