A young woman who has been struggling financially wants to say an emotional thank you after being anonymously gifted £100 on a train – a gesture that moved her to tears.

Ella Johannessen travelled on a Virgin East Coast service from London King's Cross to Leeds on Saturday (27 January), getting on at Peterborough at 2.52pm. She found a seat and phoned her mother to talk about her financial situation, as she explained in a Facebook post that has since been shared more than 2,000 times.

Johannessen, who graduated last year after studying fine art at Leeds Beckett University, wrote: "I was rather stressed and upset over my financial situation and was trying to locate what had happened to £35 that had been sent to me over a bank transfer. I spoke to her about how little money I had, how worried I was about my finances and I got upset.

"After speaking to my mum I hung up the phone and went to sleep, I woke up about half hour later and noticed a napkin on my lap. Under the napkin was £100. I started to cry – this is because I was incredibly thankful for your kindness to someone you don't even know.

"After a terrible 18 months where I lost my father and both of his parents it showed me that there is kindness and good people in the world."

Johannessen wrote the Facebook post, asking people to share it, hoping that the anonymous donor might one day see it and see how their actions helped her. She also vowed to pass the kindness on.

Others also shared their appreciation of the gesture. One Facebook user wrote: "That's such a lovely gesture. I've been in a shitty financial situation a good few years ago now – I was living on 10p noodles because that's all I could afford I promise that it does get better xx"

Another user wrote that the post restored their faith in humanity, and others hoped that the mystery stranger will receive good karma in return for their actions.

The good samaritan's gesture was similar to another kindhearted stranger's gesture last month, when a Cambridge University hopeful was given a letter telling him to "live his dream" along with £10, also on a train in the UK.