The Unforgettable Ellen Joan Nelson: Hero of Bamiyan and New Zealand

The Unforgettable Ellen Joan Nelson: Hero Of Bamiyan And New Zealand
Ellen Joan Nelson’s journey from a small village in New Zealand to becoming a celebrated humanitarian and military leader is nothing short of extraordinary. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and strict regulations, Ellen’s unwavering commitment helped 563 Afghans find refuge in New Zealand. Her story highlights her military achievements, including significant projects in Afghanistan, and her innovative campaigns promoting work-life balance. Ellen’s dedication to breaking gender barriers and her relentless humanitarian efforts have earned her the title of “Hero of the Year” for 2023.

A Hero Amidst Crisis

During the pandemic, with strict rules and no New Zealand representative in Bamiyan, Ellen Joan Nelson couldn’t abandon her old colleagues. Her relentless efforts resulted in 563 Afghans finding refuge in New Zealand. This selfless act exemplifies her bravery and compassion, earning her the title of “Hero of the Year” for 2023.

Breaking Barriers

Throughout history, men have kept women away from dangerous jobs, making them feel inferior. But women have proved their capabilities, excelling in all fields. Dr. Ellen Joan Nelson shattered these barriers in the military. Her country recognized her outstanding bravery and humanitarian service by honoring her.

Early Life and Inspiration

Ellen was born around 40 years ago in Colyton, New Zealand. Her mother taught drama, and her father was a real estate agent who later entered politics and is now a Deputy Mayor. Despite financial hardships, Ellen’s childhood was filled with dreams. At nine, an army recruitment drive at her school ignited her desire to join the military, a dream she never let go of.

Achieving the Dream

Ellen joined the Australian Defense Force Academy for military training and, in 2003, was appointed to the New Zealand Army’s Engineering Department. Her role involved overseeing construction projects, which she executed with excellence. Her superiors noticed her skills, leading to international assignments, including the challenging region of Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Making a Difference in Bamiyan

In Bamiyan, Ellen faced the challenge of engaging locals for construction projects amidst Taliban fear. Her perseverance won their trust, leading to the successful completion of vital infrastructure like powerhouses and schools. Ellen’s empathy and dedication endeared her to the Afghan people, creating lasting bonds.

Transition to a New Role

While still in the military, Ellen completed her MBA and began considering new opportunities. In 2013, she retired from the army and returned to her village. Her transition to corporate life was supported by old friends. Ellen’s passion for learning brought her back to university, where she pursued a PhD on women’s status in the military. Her research addressed the challenges faced by female soldiers and led to significant changes in the New Zealand Army.

Innovative Campaigns

Inspired by her experiences, Ellen launched the “Work School Hours” initiative. This campaign encourages employers to focus on results rather than hours worked, allowing working parents to balance their careers and family life without guilt. Her visionary approach has impressed many employers in New Zealand, promoting a healthier work-life balance.

Humanitarian Efforts

Ellen’s commitment to humanity shone brightly when the Taliban returned to power in 2021. Former allies in Bamiyan, fearing for their lives, sought her help for asylum in New Zealand. Despite the pandemic’s strict regulations and no New Zealand representative in Bamiyan, Ellen worked tirelessly for nearly a year. She applied for emergency visas, convinced the government, raised media awareness, and secured millions in aid from generous New Zealanders. Thanks to her efforts, 563 people now live safely in New Zealand.


Ellen Joan Nelson’s story is awe-inspiring and a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and compassion. From her childhood dream to her remarkable military career, her dedication to improving lives continues to make a significant impact. Her journey teaches us the importance of breaking barriers, giving back, and striving for a better world. Ellen’s legacy will undoubtedly inspire generations to come.

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