Friday, February 23, 2018

The Duncan sisters


Kathryn Duncan, centre, and sisters Elspeth, left, and Vanessa relax at their home in St Augustine. Photos Anisto Alves

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COURTING lovers fell more in love because of them, wars were triggered through them and emotional wounds were healed by them. Throughout the ages, letter writing has inspired everyone from the young man penning sonnets to the object of his desire to disgruntled politicians wishing to stir the masses to revolt. But letter writing and 'snail mail' has fast become a novelty, almost an endangered form of communication, thanks to email and text messaging. While technology has made communication easier and a lot faster, nothing beats the feeling of opening your mailbox and finding a handwritten letter from a loved one. That letter which was written in a familiar handwriting and travelled distances carries more value and sentiment than any well meaning text message ever could.

The Duncan sisters; Vanessa, Kathryn and Elspeth are trying to bring back that old-school communication tool which they hope will reestablish the bond between sender and receiver. And they've come up with an ingenious idea a calendar, complete with detachable postcards for every month of the year.

"Everybody needs a calendar, one, and two, we just think that in this day and age, people need to reach out to others and in a more tangible way. Everything is email and texting. People don't take the time to sit down and write anything. You could know someone for 10 years and not know what their handwriting looks like, "says Elspeth Duncan as she relaxes with her siblings at their family home.

So this is a way of connecting people on a different level with something tangible, something special, something beautiful, something from Trinidad and Tobago."

What makes the calendar fittingly titled 'The Gift' extra special is that it is 100 per cent local. All 12 stunning photographs were taken by Elspeth and features nature and wildlife in Trinidad and in Tobago. Don't expect to see the usual 'touristy' shots that are plastered on postcards today, all the photos are intended to promote the beauty of these islands that goes unnoticed. "Christmas time is probably the only time people send greeting cards and the cards always have a snowman or snow featured on them, nothing that we here in Trinidad can relate to. So it will be really nice to open your mailbox at any time of the year and see a lovely postcard from someone you love," says Kathryn.

The Duncan sisters have the good fortune of working well as a team. Last year they put their heads together and came up with the concept of doing a calendar with detachable postcards. But it was in March of this year that the idea took off and materialised. The sisters got input from their relatives and came up with the idea of assigning motivational themes for every month of the year, such as perseverance, love, freedom and hope. A photo of a hand gently clutching the feet of a young dove represents a gift of trust while a lone egret, perched on a rock as waves crash behind it represents the gift of patience.

"People would very rarely go out and buy postcards to send and even if they do, its postcards of Pigeon Point or of some Poui or Tamarind tree. So with this calendar, they have the postcards right there. It's only $3.25 to send a postcard anywhere in the world from Trinidad, all they have to do is go to the post office. So this calendar is just making it more convenient for them to reach out," says Elspeth.

"Usually when you get a calendar from the bank or from Hi-Lo, people may tear off a page they like and frame it. That's how we came up with this idea. We thought, what kind of calendar can we do that will make people want to buy it and which will also be useful? And we came up with the idea for the postcards. So you're getting two things in one," adds Kathryn.

The sisters have several innovative ideas up their sleeves for upcoming projects, which like the calender, will be completely local.

"We are not forcing people to go back to sending postcards," explains Vanessa. "It's to encourage and remind people that of course emails and texting has its purpose, but just once in a while, once in a blue moon surprise someone with a postcard. Even if you're not really into writing, one of the great things about postcards is that you just have to jot down a small note. These postcards are a great way to start. We want to encourage people to go back to 'real' communication."

The feedback Vanessa, Elspeth and Kathryn have received so far has been positive. Most people have purchased the calendar to send as a gift to Trinbagonians and friends living abroad.

"That little 'Trinidad and Tobago, W.I' on the back of the calendar says a lot. When you think of all the things we buy that has the stamp 'Made in China', it would be nice for someone out there that gets something that says 'Made in Trinidad and Tobago'. It would be nice for people to associate these islands with something other than Carnival and steelpan. And for those who have been following what's going on in Trinidad with crime, we hope that in some significant way, these postcards can associate empowering themes like love and hope with Trinidad and Tobago," says Elspeth.

'The Gift' 2013 calendar complete with detachable postcards can be found at Sapodilla Gift Shop in Trincity Mall and at the Paper Based BookShop at the Normandie Hotel. The calendars are also available at the Kariwak Hotel, Shore Things and Things Natural in Tobago. Those interested in owning a copy can contact the Duncan sisters at or by logging onto their website