A refugee mother was reduced to tears by a random act of kindness during her grocery shop.

The Syrian woman was shopping at Pak'nSave in Dunedin with her three school-aged children when a stranger paid for her groceries.

The woman, who had only recently moved to New Zealand with her family, was unfamiliar with the cost of items here and wasn't sure if she could afford everything in her trolley.

Red Cross volunteer Ngaire Young, who was helping the family with their shop last month, told the checkout operator there might be a problem with money.

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The woman then began to go through each item and prioritise what she needed from the trolley - but was interrupted by the checkout operator who said "that guy back there has paid for it".

The stranger, believed to be in his late 20s, paid $170 for the items, which included bread, milk, fruit and vegetables, even though the woman ended up having enough money to cover the bill.

Young said she turned to the man, who was standing with a friend, and a trolley of groceries.

"One of them quickly looked away. I went and asked if it was true that he had paid for the groceries and he said 'yes'."

Young said the woman and her children didn't initially understand what was happening.

They were "absolutely delighted" once they did and hugged the man - who didn't want to make a big deal about his generosity.

"They couldn't believe the level of kindness that someone would do something like that for a perfect stranger."

Photo / 123RF
Photo / 123RF

He wasn't the only one being nice to the new family.

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Young said the mother's headscarf attracted plenty of attention in the supermarket - all from other customers saying things like "welcome to New Zealand" and "welcome to Dunedin".

Although Young described the local community as generous she was still "gobsmacked" at the act of kindness, which reminded her "there are still good people and good young people".

"Both the mother of the family and I sat in my car with tears running down our cheeks."

Young said there is often a lot of negativity about immigration in the media so it was nice to share something so positive.

Unity and tolerance have been at the forefront of people's minds since the Christchurch mosque shootings in March when 51 people were killed during Friday prayers. Another 49 were injured.

"We cannot all pay for the groceries of others at the checkout but we can all say 'hello' and 'welcome'. Small acts of kindness given can be huge to those receiving them."

No one was available to comment from Pak'nSave.