No Mountain Too High

Village Development in Nepal

Non-Fiction - Travel
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 01/20/2023
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Author Biography

Rod and his wife Deborah live in Brisbane, Australia and they are both authors to many wonderful books.
They have been involved with Nepal Australia Friendship Association (NAFA) since 2000. Rod has been President of NAFA since 2007 and Deborah is NAFA's Research and Evaluation Officer.
Both Rod and Deb have travelled to Nepal each year for the past 20 years (with the exception of 2021 due to COVID-19 travelling restrictions), at their own expense, to work with Nepalese partners of NAFA-funded projects.
Rob and Deb were awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honors List in recognition of their service to the Nepalese people.
After living and working as an accountant/administration trainer in Numbulwar, an Aboriginal community in Northern Australia, Rod returned to the University of Queensland to complete his Master's degree in Social Welfare, Administration and Planning.
Rod worked for the peak community-based Queensland Council of Social Services before joining the Queensland Public Service. His career there spanned more than 20 years, working in policy, funding and management training relating to community-based services, including homelessness, childcare, neighborhood centers, domestic violence and Indigenous-managed NGOs.
Since both Rod and Deb have retired from paid work, they have continued to volunteer with NAFA, a role that became even busier after the devastating earthquakes in 2015. Their other joy is sharing time with family and friends, and they are grateful that their two daughters (Kim and Angela), granddaughter (Heidi) and son-in-law (Scott) also live in Brisbane.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

No Mountain Too High: Village Development in Nepal by Rod Setterlund is an inspiring travel memoir that recollects the triumphs and dedication that went into helping a whole community develop over a span of 20 years. In 1999, Setterlund met Chandra while on a trek, and that was the beginning of his love affair with a small village named Tawal on the hilly edge of Kathmandu. The more he visited the area, the more he realized how bad living conditions were in Tawal. Political tension, pressure from the Maoist rebellion and the Nepalese Army, and the lack of clean water were just the tip of the iceberg. Even with AusAID to support the projects, Setterlund had a hard time introducing modern medicine, creating opportunities for the locals, and convincing them to accept development. However, Setterlund and the other people who believed in the project did everything they could to help the little village of Tawal.

It was hard to imagine people living in such conditions. As someone born and raised in a big city, I had only heard of such issues faced by people who lived far away from cities and modern life. Reading this story inspired me. The narrative had a simple, cohesive, and direct approach. Rod Setterlund went right to the point and shared his 20 years of hard work integrating himself into a foreign community to help improve their lives. He showed how hard it was to help Tawal and its people; the last chapter is a handbook for readers who want to make a difference in the world. It reminded me of Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson in the best way possible. I highly recommend this book because it deserves just as many awards, if not more.

Luwi Nyakansaila

No Mountain Too High by Rod Setterlund is an inspirational story about the Nepal village development program in Tawal, a land occupied by the Tamang people. The Tamang developed with assistance from volunteers like Rod and Deborah Setterlund, the Nepal Australia Friendship Association (NAFA), Chandra, a passionate resident, and many more. The development projects included: schools; health posts; a mini-hydro power station; the introduction of agricultural cooperatives; and improved cooking stoves. Despite the language, religious and cultural barriers between the volunteers and the Tamang, the program succeeded. Unfortunately, the area faced a civil war, social class discrimination, a lack of local government assistance, and an earthquake that destroyed most of their progress. Despite these calamities, the Tamang people were even more determined to continue developing their community.

The story of the Tawal development is heartwarming and an emotional tale of determination and survival. A village in Nepal striving amid affliction and disaster shows the power of togetherness, humanity, and love. Rod Setterlund describes the people of Tawal with so much love and respect. He acknowledges their shortcomings, treats them as equals, listens to their suggestions, and does not impose his desires on them. I loved how the community members discussed every decision and always worked together to achieve their goals. They were considerate of each others' limitations and made room for all those who could not meet the required standards. One example is the decisions community members made to accommodate those who could not afford the electricity connection fees. No Mountain Too High took me on a life-changing adventure to Nepal and made me fall in love with the scenery, culture, food, and the Tamang people. Read this book today, and I promise you will enjoy the journey.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

“I started to dream. I must change my village and area by educating people there.” These were Chandra’s words, reflecting his commitment to helping his home community in the hilly Tawal area of Nepal, just northwest of Kathmandu. In No Mountain Too High: Village Development in Nepal, Rod Setterlund records how, with the help of devoted volunteers from Brisbane, Australia - the Nepal Australia Friendship Association (NAFA) - Chandra began a twenty-year journey that followed his vision and determination. Nothing would stand in the way of his dream of educating his people so they could have a better life, including the 2015 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated the infrastructure that Chandra and his people had built. Even the 2020 global pandemic, political unrest, and social discrimination would dampen neither his spirit nor his resolve.

Rod Setterlund’s book No Mountain Too High follows Chandra’s dream and the commitment of NAFA and other dedicated volunteers. This is a personal story, one that began on a tourist trek in 1999 when the author first visited Nepal. Part memoir, part travel story, the author leads the reader through his journey of discovery and care, along with many others who dedicated their lives to helping people in this remote area. With in-depth coverage of the plans made and executed, setbacks confronted and new friends encountered with each step of the way, this story will open the hearts of people from around the world to the much-needed work being done in this region. Photographs and snapshot stories add a personal element to the narration. The author is a gifted storyteller and this is an engaging and informative read.

Meenakshi Bhatt

No Mountain Too High by Rod Setterlund is the story of the development of a remote area in Nepal. The hilly area around Tawal is home to villagers belonging to the Tamang ethnic group. Setterlund describes how a small volunteer organization and a determined group of villagers slowly and steadily improved this community. It details how natural disasters, language barriers, a pandemic, and several logistic hurdles were overcome. When they made progress, new problems arose that undid some or most of the achieved work. For example, a massive earthquake and its aftermath destroyed much of the painstakingly built infrastructure. The volunteer team and villagers persevered, rebuilding the area to even higher standards.

No Mountain Too High offers a master class in providing foreign aid. Rod Setterlund and his colleagues made regular and frequent visits to the Tawal region of Nepal to understand the prevailing conditions and to keep track of progress. The informed support provided was gleaned from frequent meetings with the villagers. Setterlund’s writing displays great respect for the opinions and contributions of the people of the Tawal region. Progress brought about by foreign aid was meticulously measured. Every effort improved systems that worked and removed those that didn’t. No Mountain Too High demonstrates a unique blend of kindness, perseverance, and pragmatism necessary to make a real difference in the life of a community.

Asher Syed

No Mountain Too High: Village Development in Nepal by Rod Setterlund is a non-fiction memoir in which the author details the life of himself and his wife Deb, working alongside the residents of a remote Nepalese village called Tawal. The Tamang people had for 300 years sustained life in the village through traditional and cultural rites, growing in the most recent generations by introducing schools and sending some children outside the village for higher education. Later and in partnership with the organization Nepal Australia Friendship Association, better known as NAFA, Setterlund introduces the prior work in the village before his involvement and the focus on clean water and health initiatives. As the Setterlunds begin working themselves in the village, the people and welfare of the village become a lifelong mission in whose development they share, and in turn, has changed their own lives in intangible ways.

I am always extremely cautious in how I approach books written about those who live in third-world countries by those who were raised in the first world, are not of the same ethnicity, and return home after a couple of weeks per year to their cozy lives in first-world comfort. I was born and raised in a third-world country and so No Mountain Too High was a memoir I passed over multiple times. I'm glad I decided to read it because what has transpired in Tawal is incredible. Rod Setterlund is the author and this is a story of the Setterlunds' experiences, but this is really a story of collaboration with the Tamang people and how they are the ones who are doing the heavy lifting within their own village. From a literary standpoint, the writing is clean and straightforward, and I think those with a very specific interest in transformative work in rural Nepal will enjoy it. That said, there is no question in my mind that this memoir will be a treasured piece of family history for generations of Setterlunds to come. Recommended.