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A graduate of the famous Victoria College, Palakkad, Kerala, William was trained in leprosy rehabilitation work from Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation, Wardha, Maharashtra. He joined an anti-leprosy project in Chilakkalapally (in then Andhra Pradesh) as a field supervisor, where he witnessed the sufferings of those affected by leprosy. Most of the affected were destitute, with no awareness or understanding of their condition. The disease caused physical deformity, making them financially dependent as well as community outcasts because of the social stigma.

In 1964, William moved to Germany to work as a volunteer at a physical disability care centre. He met Mr. Herman Kober, the then President of German Leprosy Relief Association (DAHW, Germany). In Mr. Kober he found a champion for the cause of leprosy, and William made a representation to DAHW to initiate anti-leprosy work in India. Mr. Kober not only considered the possibility but also used his journalistic prowess to bring the dreaded disease to the attention of the world.