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Turquoise Mountain

Founded in 2006 by writer and British politician Rory Stewart at the request of the Prince of Wales and Afghan president Hamid Karzi, Turquoise Mountain is a non¬profit focused on regenerating urban areas and stimulating the ongoing renaissance of the traditional craft industry in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia. By doing so it revives traditional skills, creates jobs and business development opportunities for artisans and engenders a renewed sense of pride.

In addition to the work it does inside the countries where it operates, Turquoise Mountain builds awareness—and markets, for the work of the artisans it supports through partnerships with international designers brands and exhibitions ranging from the Smithsonian in Washington to the Venice Biennale.

In 2006, Turquoise Mountain established the Turquoise Mountain Institute, comprising schools of woodworking, calligraphy & painting, ceramics, jewelry and gem cutting. The objective is to graduate students who are not only master craft workers in their own right, but well situated to become entrepreneurs.  Students are given lessons in English, computer literacy, graphic design and business. This ensures Afghanistan’s new generation of craftswomen and men are highly skilled, confident and engaged with the wider world.

Another major early project was the regeneration of the historic Kabul neighborhood Murad Khane was comprehensive. When they began their work­, much of the area was buried under several meters of accumulated garbage—piled so high in some areas that families were only able to live on the second floor of buildings.  As they dug, beautiful houses started to emerge, and residents were hired to help restore historic wood and plaster work.

Turquoise Mountain then worked to create further community development initiatives, a free school for 130 children and a health clinic that receives over 20,000 patients every year—two thirds of which are women and children.

Overall, Turquoise Mountain represents a thoughtful paradigm in how designers and activists can collaborate, even in the presence of ongoing conflict, to uplift communities and leverage a peaceful tradition into a peaceful future.