Shelley was born and grew up in Kenya. Married to a British diplomat, she has been posted with him to Yemen, Syria, South Africa, USA, and Egypt. She has three children, and has worked throughout as a teacher. In Pretoria, South Africa, Shelley joined forces with her embassy colleagues to help street children back into shelters and schools. In Cairo she supported small business cooperatives for women, and a charity helping farmers care for their working animals (donkeys and horses). As the British Ambassador's wife at the UN in New York, Shelley campaigned to help those women and children of Democratic Republic of Congo suffering brutal sexual violence and murder as part of the war. Since being back in London Shelley works as a bereavement supporter.