His beginnings were humble though as he was born into a farming family in south central Rwanda in 1954. He entered the Seventh Day Adventist College of Gate, a missionary school, in 1962 and stayed there for 13 years. In 1975, he entered the Faculty of Theology in Cameroon, graduating in 1978. Later he undertook further studies in hotel management and completed his final studies in September 1984 in Switzerland. Nine years later he was promoted to general manager of the Diplomat Hotel (also in Kigali).

Rusesabagina’s journey from hotel manager to humanitarian has been life-changing one as he now owns a trucking firm and founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation that provides support, care and assistance to more than 500,000 orphaned children. 

With a staggering 70 percent of Rwandan women suffering from HIV or AIDS, the foundation aims to provide emotional and physical help for women who survived systematic abuse during the genocide. Displaced from their homes, the majority of these women live in desperate poverty.

The HRRF’s other main aims are to eliminate the conditions and climate that results in hatred and genocide and provide assistance to other African countries in conflict.


Lauded by many, Rusesabagina has received various esteemed awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded him by US President George Bush, the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award, and the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.