FIRST, a very happy new year to you all.

It certainly promises to be an interesting one.

An eternal optimist at heart, I see no reason why our great country should not continue to climb out of one of the worst recessions for a generation, although there is still a long way to go.

Closer to heart, I would like to thank the countless volunteer organisations in south Dorset who do such sterling work to help others.

It never ceases to amaze me how much of our country relies on charity – take the RNLI, for example.

Many acts of kindness and courage are barely recognised, so professionally are they executed.

Our police, firefighters, doctors, nurses and other health workers continue to keep us safe and well, often in trying circumstances.

And let’s not forget all those who work in local government, at whatever level and whichever authority.

Their advice guides our many councillors who, from all parties, do their level best to help the communities they represent.

Internationally, the picture often looks bleak.

The Ebola outbreak in west Africa has killed many thousands.

But, with tragedy, comes hope, and NHS volunteers, our armed forces and many others are risking their own lives to battle this epidemic.

And who can ever forget the sight of those bullet-riddled desks, overturned in haste, as seven Taliban gunmen slaughtered more than 130 children in north-west Pakistan last month?

Sometimes, we seem to have little control over events as the world order faces new challenges.

But none are insurmountable, which is why it’s so important to hang on to what we do believe in and not to buckle.

As a country we’ve faced huge odds before, and won through.

I have no doubt we will continue to do so in 2015.