On Dec. 17, 2010, ABC News aired a special edition of "20/20" called "Be the Change: Save a Life," hosted by World News anchor Diane Sawyer and senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. The special focused on the health conditions endured by the poorest of the poor in nine countries, and some of the innovations designed to help them.
The response from viewers was overwhelming. In the first week after the special aired, nearly 10,000 people donated more than $500,000 to organizations working on problems highlighted in "Be the Change: Save a Life" (Click here to watch the special).
In these tough economic times, this outpouring of support is astounding. The donations are coming in from far and wide, including seven countries and all 50 U.S. states, with individuals donating anywhere from $10 to $7,500.
Throughout the year, ABC News will document where these donations go, with help from Global Giving on SaveOne.net, the site that provided the online platform for donations.
Dr. Richard Besser highlighted a slum village in Bangladesh that had no clean water supply. The nonprofit organization CARE said it could provide a clean water source for $2,500. That amount was raised as the special aired. Since then, viewers have donated 12 times that -- all of which will be used to fund water projects in Bangladesh.
Christiane Amanpour reported on malnutrition among the indigenous Maya in the highlands of Guatemala, where in some villages up to 85 percent of children are malnourished. Viewers were so moved by the story that they have donated more than $133,000 -- enough for the featured nonprofit organization Wuqu' Kawoq to feed more than 2,200 children for a year. Director Peter Rohloff was excited about the donations raised: "This has been a great project for us," he said.
Elizabeth Vargas went to India, where nearly 2 million children die before the age of 5 each year, many of them before the first month of life. The Embrace Infant Warmer, an inexpensive, miniature sleeping bag that keeps newborns at a healthy body temperature, received more than 1,800 donations, supplementing the cost of more than 600 Embrace Infant Warmers. "We are touched by the outpour of responses and donations received, thank you Embrace supporters!" Embrace texted its Twitter followers during the special.
We know that these solutions are not always easy, and there may be difficulties along the way, but we will document those too if they occur. By the end of the year, we will be able to show how these donations have been put into action, and the lives they've touched.
This story is part of ABC News' "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative, a year-long series of broadcasts and digital coverage that focuses on global health problems. For complete coverage and information on how you can make a difference, go to SaveOne.net.
People donated for different reasons. Many honored friends or family with donations made as tributes or gifts (see some of the messages below). Others donated to projects dealing with issues affecting their own lives, such as HIV/AIDS or premature births. Some people chose to give a recurring monthly donation, providing a long-term commitment to a project they felt was worthy.
What people had to say about why they gave:
"My older cousin, who I am really close to, had premature twins in July of 2009. They were both kept in the hospital, in incubators for about two weeks. I can't imagine what our family would have done if not for those incubators. ... Thanks to the Embrace, now we can help give those babies a chance to grow and live life. I can't imagine our family without "The Twins." I just had to help give that same joy to another family. Babies of the world are the future, so it's our job to protect their future and make sure we help get these babies to a good start to life." -- Chicago, Ill.
"We shared the '20/20' report with our five grandsons, and each chose to donate to a specific fund. We are encouraging them to save their own money next year and make a similar donation." -- Ferndale, Wash.
"We watched the '20/20' show as a family, and then our parents let us pick a project to give for their Christmas present. This was an easy but meaningful way to give to something more important than a gift from the mall. I'm almost 16 and this is cool!" -- Brea, Calif.
A few of the tribute cards written for friends and family:
"Mommy, since you make our lives so special every day, we thought that we would try to help another boy or girl feel as special as we do."
"Your 98 years on this earth will bring water to five people in Ethiopia for 20 years, saving those lives for generations to come. Thank you for being my Mother."
"Even though we love you tonnes, we've decided to give your gift to someone else. You now own a GOAT, however, a family in Guatemala will be taking care of it:"
"You helped keep a baby warm! It's like shipping hugs overseas."
"As you are enjoying Christmas dinner, a family will eat for an entire month because of your gift."
Stay tuned throughout the year to SaveOne.net for more ways to get involved with global health initiatives around the world.
The "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative is supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.