She’s got your back
Melissa Histon is the Founder and CEO of Newcastle-based charity Got Your Back Sista (GYBS), which for the past three years has provided relief and support to hundreds of women and children across the region. While that has meant countless hours of work and stress for Melissa, the positive outcomes she sees first-hand make it all worthwhile. “When I see the women change, start to glow and find joy again it is wonderful,” Melissa reflects. “It can be difficult, hard work, and emotional at times but I do find it rewarding. Especially when our ladies, part of the GYBS community, drop in for a cuppa and say ‘thank you so much’, ‘this is changing my life’, or ‘I feel so much stronger now.’”
It’s fair to say Melissa’s life has changed significantly in the past few years. She started The Sista Code in 2014 when her work as a professional photographer took her to Nepal. It was there she witnessed first hand sex trafficking and abuse of women and she returned home feeling disillusioned about the treatment of women and children. Melissa set up The Sista Code, a digital platform for women to uplift, support, inspire and share the love with other women, locally and internationally. She became more aware of the prevalence of domestic violence through the Sista Code and in 2016 formed the registered charity, Got Your Back Sista.
GYBS offers relief and support to vulnerable women and children escaping domestic violence, helping them to reestablish themselves and live independently. “The first year I ran GYBS from home and our house became a storage shed,” laughs Melissa. This being the home she shares with her four children and husband Craig Browning, owner of OAS Computers. “I’d be up until midnight doing all the bits and pieces required to run a charity,” she adds.
However, as the charity’s profile grew so did the need for its services, and now GYBS has a permanent home in the former Tighes Hill School Of Arts in Elizabeth Street. Along with a drop-in centre, the charity also provides self-defence courses, workshops and other activities from its base.
Read more in issue 93 of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle
Story: Frances O’Shea
Photography: Courtesy of Melissa Histon