The Flywheel

Next Meeting: November 19th

Karl Diekman

District Governor Karl Diekman

A visit from the District Governor is an opportunity to see our Club's activities in the context of both a regional and international picture. Karl Diekman will sketch out that picture and answer our questions.


Last Meeting: November 12th

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

At the Hilltop Courtyard by Marriott, President Alan Baer called the meeting to order. Since a standard-issue USA flag was not available, David Brown stood holding his flag pin aloft while everyone pledged allegiance to him (well, not exactly). Stoney asked for a moment of silence for freedom, peace, and justice on earth.

Rotarians with Guests

Bob Dabney’s guest was his wife, Cheryl.
Jim Young’s guest was his wife, Linda.
Jan Brown’s guest was her husband, Byron.
Henry Kelman’s guest was his brother, Joseph.


  • President Alan encouraged final contributions to the Dictionaries for Africa program ($7 per dictionary). This is a project with special emphasis by Rotary District Governor, Karl Diekman, who will be visiting and speaking to Richmond Rotary on November 19 at the Club’s normal Mira Vista meeting location. There will also be a special award presented to Larry Lewis for all of his great work with the Richmond Police Activities League (PAL).
  • Bob Dabney reminded those who signed up for serving dinner at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) site that the next serving date will be Wednesday, November 24. Not sure what date(s) you signed up for? Here's your answer.
  • Sid Chauvin asked everyone to consider signing up for the Reno train trip, January 21-22, 2011. There will be a Buddy Holly night at the El Dorado Hotel on arrival night, Friday, January 21. There are several Clubs in the bay area that have not yet signed anyone up for the trip so tell your friends in other Clubs to check it out.


Jim Beaver recognized Don Lau who had a birthday on Monday. But Don’s special joy was for his father whose 94th birthday was on the day of our meeting.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Herb Cole had some happy dollars for the Mira Vista lunch menu. He’s also happy about his upcoming trip to be with his mother in Beaumont, TX, for her 93rd birthday.
  • Josh Genser was happy about his recent trip to China with others on a great-bargain package deal arranged by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Josh was also quite happy about the great season that the Stanford football team is having.
  • Rhonda Harris offered some happy dollars and expressed appreciation to all those who supported her in her recent campaign for Richmond City Council. She said it was an interesting journey and a great experience.
  • John Nicol was happy about President Alan Baer’s gracious bar-tab contribution before the meeting.
  • Alan Blavins had some happy dollars for his recent enjoyable trip to Thailand.
  • Rafael Cartegena was happy to be back at the Club after a long absence while taking care of business.
  • Jim Young was happy because of all his fellow flexible and easily adaptable Rotarians who went along with the change of venue for this meeting and showed up with smiles on their faces.
  • David Brown was very happy because he will see his new grandson, who was born in Japan on October 3, several weeks sooner than expected (like November 21).
  • Jim Beaver offered what seemed like genuine happy dollars about the great World Series (even though a certain SoCal team being in the series would have made him even happier).

Norm’s Nonsense

More ponderisms...

 - If the cops arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

 - Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot them?

  -When it rains, why don't sheep shrink?

 - I would rather have a part of a bottle in front of me than a partial frontal lobotomy.


Illiteracy and Poverty

Cheering boy at computer

Nick Despota introduced the program speaker, John Bernardin of El Sobrante Rotary.

John took us on a whirlwind slide tour around the world and highlighted some startling literacy facts.

  • In Vietnam, less than 50% of kids don’t continue past primary school (and only half even get into primary school).
  • In Cambodia, 50% of young girls in rural areas are laborers instead of students.
  • In Laos, most kids don’t have access to schools, libraries, or books.
  • In Bangladesh, 53% of children don’t complete primary school.
  • In Sri Lanka, literacy rates for girls fall behind boys by 19%.
  • India has 35% of the entire world’s illiterate population. Although English is the language of law and commerce, there are over 125 different local language dialects with Hindi being the most prevalent.
  • In Zambia (the former Northern Rhodesia in Africa), 90% of the population has low literacy and lives below the poverty line.
  • In our own Richmond, 50% of students live below the poverty line and are eligible for the free lunch program in schools.

Acting on the belief that improving reading and math literacy improves chances of reducing poverty, John has taken on a leadership role in literacy projects for Rotary District 5160. While attending a Rotary convention in Chicago several years ago, he discovered AutoSkill, a game-like computer program intended to help young people (primarily age 5-14) improve reading and math literacy.

The widely acclaimed AutoSkill software program is a product of an Ottawa Canada-based firm and its use is supported by various Rotary Clubs around the USA and the world. According to John, the rule of thumb is that 11-12 hours of cumulative AutoSkill use can help raise a student’s proficiency by one grade level.

Richmond Rotary has joined with El Sobrante Rotary in helping to pay an annual license fee for using AutoSkill at three sites in West Contra Costa County, including the El Sobrante Boys and Girls Club, the Nevin Center, and Nystrom elementary.

Joan Davis added that, during her Richmond Community Foundation involvement at Nystrom, she’s witnessed very positive AutoSkill impact on English language learners with some students increasing proficiency by two or more grade levels over a period of time.

Cheryl Maier, Executive Director of Opportunity West, the non-profit organization that works out of the Nevin Center, also mentioned plans to formalize a Rotary AutoSkill Club for her regular program participants.

John Bernardin talked about a couple of international service projects involving AutoSkill.

John flew to India last February and interacted with the South City Rotary Club of Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) to put the finishing touches on a small computer center dedicated to hosting the AutoSkill Academy of Reading software program. There have been 58 students using AutoSkill in India so far and 7 of them have successfully completed an entire course.

In Vietnam, Rotary has secured an agreement with the National Library of Vietnam to jointly sponsor a literacy project using AutoSkill. John provided a flyer with information for those interested to join him on a working vacation to Vietnam in March 2011 to help move this project along.

As John concluded his remarks, Nick encouraged members to consider joining a small volunteer cadre of Richmond Rotarians that already go into the Nevin Center on Saturday mornings (typically one day a month on a rotating schedule) to help facilitate student use of the AutoSkill program. It’s a fun and rewarding time. Y’all come!

- Rotating Scribe, Tom Waller