A RETIRED police officer who had never travelled further than France took a brave step into the unknown to volunteer at an Indian orphanage.

After six years of talking to orphanage founder Sarah Rebbavarapu online, 63-year-old Dave Benfield, of Stourport, felt urged to book a plane ticket to volunteer at Sarah's Covenant Homes, a Christian orphanage based in Hyderabad in India for abandoned children with special needs.

Mr Benfield had met orphanage founder Sarah Rebbavarapu on facebook and after years of talking online and donating what he could, he finally went over to offer a helping hand.

Mr Benfield said: "The orphanage itself is not funded by anybody. They take in abandoned babies with special needs who are orphans. Sometimes kids are just dumped on them, other times they are taken from Government organisations.

"Just to give you an example, there was a baby found in a skip and his nose had been eaten by maggots. Sarah treats them like she'd want her own children to be treated."

While he was in India, Mr Benfield set up a Skype session with school children from St Ambrose's Catholic Primary School in Kidderminster with the help of his friend Polly Montague, a year five teacher at the school.

Mrs Montague, said: "It is a huge privilege for the children and I to be able to communicate via Skype with the children in Hyderabad.

"It has been a very humbling experience for the children to be able to see for themselves first hand, the challenges which the children face on a daily basis.

"We have grown fond of the children and look forward to regular updates on their progress."

Mr Benfield, who blogged online about his trip, said the highlight was the people he met, particularly two young women who were foster mothers to eight children.

He added: "They are 19 and 25 years old respectively, they are there for the whole journey for their children and they exude real motherly love for the eight children who they live with and adore."

The former police officer, who worked for West Midlands, West Mercia and the Metropolitan police services, helped the orphanage staff with building work and decorating and said the experience had given him more confidence.

"I never really had a huge desire to go abroad", he added. "I was in the police for thirty years and I was based in places like Smethwick and was always interested in the cultural differences.

"I got to see India from a different perspective. I'm glad I did, I got to know the people."

For more information on the orphanage visit schindia.com or to read more about Mr Benfield's trip visit geriatricabroad.blogspot.in