Puma’s Story: Resilience and Transformation

by Daynie Paul, Development Director at Recovery Café Medford

Puma’s journey is one of resilience and transformation, marked by a determination to break free from the cycle of addiction and create positive change in his life and community. Growing up in Coachella Valley, California, Puma faced the harsh realities of abuse, addiction, and gang violence within his own family, and found himself serving time in federal prison.

Despite these challenges, he harbored a deep desire for change. As a young adult, Puma made the bold decision to leave behind familiar roads and seek a fresh start in Southern Oregon. Once in Medford, he discovered Recovery Café Medford; ever since, the Café has been an important part of his community of support.

Two years ago, Puma became one of the inaugural members of El Camino Seguro, a Spanish-only program founded at the Café to encourage and support the Latinx community.

Puma, right, with Brandon Orr (Manager of the Medford Café)

Giving Back

Puma found success as a landscaper and worked his way up to company manager. As his own life stabilized and flourished, he felt a calling to give back to others who were struggling with challenges similar to those he faced.

Driven by his own transformative experiences, he pursued a peer support certification and began working as a peer mentor with OnTrack, a treatment organization dedicated to helping individuals on their path to recovery.

Puma’s commitment to making a difference extended beyond his professional endeavors. He actively participated in outreach events with El Camino Seguro, sharing his story and offering support to those in need. Drawing from his own experiences of overcoming adversity, Puma also became involved in anti-gang prevention efforts, leveraging his past experiences with gang violence to help steer youth away from similar paths. 

As a single father, Puma recognized the importance of honing his parenting skills and enrolled in a DHS-certified parenting class at Recovery Café Medford. He embraced leadership roles within the Café, serving as a Circle Leader and participating in Next Level, a Café program aimed at empowering individuals to reach their full potential. 

Puma with Medford’s Executive Director Stephanie Mendenhall

Puma’s impact extended to the realm of advocacy, where he became a vocal advocate for addiction recovery and community engagement. He actively participated in the Local Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee and the Latino Interagency Committee, using his bilingual skills to bridge cultural divides and amplify voices that often go unheard. 

Known around the Café for his infectious energy and genuine warmth, Puma has a knack for making everyone feel welcome and valued. His journey serves as inspiration for all of us at Recovery Café Medford.


Thank you to Puma and Daynie Paul for sharing this story with us! Learn more about Recovery Café Medford. And, watch a five-minute video featuring Puma here!