Week 19 – Genevieve Nelson

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Introducing Dr Genevieve Nelson and the Kokoda Track Foundation

A note from Kerrie – it’s an honour to introduce you to Genevieve, as she’s become part of a significant journey for me and my family. We met in PNG last year and I saw evidence of her work in Kokoda and nearby villages. Her generosity, passion and commitment is truly inspiring.

Genevieve Nelson

Genevieve Nelson

Dr Genevieve Nelson is the executive director and one of the founding directors of the Kokoda Track Foundation. She holds a doctorate in cross-cultural and educational psychology from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) and is an expert in education in Papua New Guinea. Genevieve is also an Adjunct Research Fellow with UWS as well as a psychologist. She has walked the Kokoda Track 18 times and spends at least 2 months of every year in the remote communities implementing and monitoring the Foundation’s aid programs. Genevieve was a finalist in the 2012 Telstra Business Women’s Awards in the Marie Claire Young Business Woman category and won the 2012 Silver Stevie Award in the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in the US. Genevieve lives in Sydney with her husband James who travels regularly to PNG with her.

How do you love to explain The Kokoda Track Foundation?

The Kokoda Track Foundation is changing lives… literally! I am so proud to be involved with such an innovative organisation, filled with the most passionate and dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters that is really making a difference where it counts in PNG. Our work in education, health, community development and microbusiness across more than 40 communities is changing and improving the lives and futures of the descendants of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels…. who were there for us during our darkest hours.

Genevieve Nelson at Pawa Givim Meri

Genevieve Nelson at Pawa Givim Meri

What makes your business story unique?

My business story is also a very personal one. It is about how walking the Kokoda Track and visiting our nearest neighbour 13 years ago steered my life onto a new trajectory and literally changed everything about who I was and what I would become. Knowing that of all nearest neighbours in the world, PNG and Australia have the greatest disparity of poverty and wealth, simply did not sit well with me. And putting this in the context of what the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels did for the Australian Diggers 71 years ago on that treacherous track – we have a debt that is now owed to their descendants. My story is one of passion, commitment, love, and frustration; and it is also a career path, a livelihood, and a pathway that will carry on throughout the rest of my life.

Who are your greatest supporters?

I am overwhelmed every day of my life by the generosity and support of Australians and Papua New Guineans who make our work possible. We receive no government funding from either the PNG or Australian governments and all of our work is supported by corporates, philanthropists, trusts and foundations, and the general public. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of people and how what we call the “Spirit of Kokoda” is well and truly alive and at work today. It makes me want to be the most generous and compassionate person that I can be and spurs me on in those moments when working in international development can seem all too hard.

As a Founding Director of the Kokoda Track Foundation…

Kokoda PNGWhat was your biggest sacrifice in getting the Kokoda Track Foundation up and running?

Only occasionally do I look at it as a ‘sacrifice’ – it is more often just the exciting journey that my life ended up taking – but it is the involvement of all people and components of my life in the Foundation and more generally in PNG-related projects. I don’t think there is a single person that I know that I haven’t involved in one way or another in the work of the Kokoda Track Foundation. Growing an organisation from its tiny beginnings to the thriving organisation that it is today came only as a result of an enormous amount of voluntary contribution from hundreds, if not thousands of people. My family and friends are all deeply involved in the Foundation and will most likely continue to be for many years to come.

Genevieve crossing riverWhat does success mean to you personally?

Success for me is about making a contribution.  It’s about leaving something behind and helping those less fortunate. I’ve been lucky throughout my relatively short career to have achieved the highest level of education as well as high-level career milestones; however for me that all pales into insignificance if you don’t make a contribution. Success is about having a vision and leaving a legacy and I hope that I can leave even the tiniest legacy behind twenty years from now with where I hope to take the Foundation in the years to come.

Contact
Genevieve Nelson
Executive Director – Kokoda Track Foundation
Level 2, 189 Kent Street, Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9252 2992
+61 412 869 210
Website – Kokoda Track Foundation
Facebook – www.facebook.com/KokodaTrackFoundation
Twitter – www.twitter.com/KokodaTrackFdn

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