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Eastbourne: Andrea Gada Funeral Takes Place
The life of a "little princess" was celebrated today by mourners wearing pink and white.
Around 200 people gathered at Kings Church in Eastbourne, East Sussex, for the funeral of five-year-old Andrea Gada who was killed when she was hit by a car in December last year.
Andrea's pink coffin, which was decorated with stars, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage and entered and left the church to song from family and friends, including her parents Wellington, 38, and Charity, 32.
Her family had postponed the service while they battled for their Zimbabwean relatives to gain visas to attend but began planning their daughter's funeral after learning earlier this month that the UK Government would allow her maternal grandparents and aunt to travel over from Africa.
Mrs Gada described their daughter as a "beautiful and intelligent girl who was full of energy".
She said: "My life has become so empty. Always remember that mummy is there for you any time when you want to come and talk to mummy."
Mr Gada said he was saying goodbye to his "beautiful princess" and "caring, loving and cheerful" daughter a day after his birthday. He said: "She declared every Sunday that we had to have breakfast as a family and there were no excuses allowed."
He added that he "only hoped one day we will meet again".
Eastbourne Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd, who said he would act as a guarantor to ensure that the relatives returned to Zimbabwe after the funeral, paid tribute to Andrea and her family and said they had acted with "dignity" throughout a "long and upsetting battle".
He said: "I feel very sad because there is nothing worse than I could possibly comprehend than for a parent to lose a child, but then on top of that we had the difficult, upsetting situation where it took quite a while for all of us to persuade the authorities for Andrea's grandparents and aunt to come here.
"But we did manage to persuade them. But, to me, what comes out of this so strongly is the dignity of the family.
"I was struck just by how stoic, how forgiving, how loving, how patient they have been throughout what has been, quite frankly, a terrible experience.
"So I want to pay tribute to them, because I think they have been an inspiration to the many tens of thousands of people who have supported them."
Andrea's 16-year-old brother Takura said his sister was his "inspiration and motivation to succeed".
He said: "I know she will not get to grow old but I will always be grateful for the years I had with her from day one, and I hope we get to meet again one day."
Theresa Buttery, headteacher of Shinewater Primary School in Eastbourne, said that Andrea had wanted to be a nurse, like her mother, when she grew up, and that she would often worry about other children and forget about herself.
She said Andrea would talk a lot about her eight-year-old brother Victor, who was her "hero" and that she would be "remembered for her pink coats, twinkly shoes and permanent smile".
She added: "Like glitter, she will twinkle everywhere and it will be impossible to forget her."
Andrea's grandmother Grace Bwanya said the five-year-old was "ahead of time" and that "she wanted me to have memories of her so I had something to talk about as I am doing here now".
Following the service, the family went to Langney Cemetery where Andrea was buried.
The family's plight became headline news following the decision by the Home Office to refuse Andrea's maternal grandparents, retired street trader Stanley Bwanya, 65, and Grace, 57, and aunt, Monalisa Faith, 21, access to the UK amid fears they might abscond.
Prime Minister David Cameron intervened in the case, personally writing to the girl's parents to say he had asked Home Secretary Theresa May to look into the issue.
The decision was later upheld, despite the family offering to wear electronic tags and report to the local police station, and prompted an e-petition signed by more than 120,000 people calling for the visas to be granted.
Mrs Gada also pleaded for her relatives to be allowed in to the UK, and said: "Losing a child is one of the hardest things a person can experience, and at this time myself and my husband are both longing for the support of our family."
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said the family were eventually granted visas after providing new information and assurances in fresh applications to enable approval to be given.
Mrs Gada, who claimed her relatives posed no risk to the UK and simply wanted to travel over to support them and grieve for Andrea, said the support her family had received locally had been fantastic.
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